Tips to Lower Your Material Handling Costs

Reducing your costs means increasing your profits and increasing your profits has never been more challenging than in recent years.  Our experience with hundreds of various types of operations, utilizing hundreds of pieces of equipment in more than a thousand ways, has exposed us to thousands of variations in facilities, equipment, and applications. In working with these diverse clients, we have recognized commonalities that, when implemented, resulted in lower total operating costs for materials handling most of the time. Following are five that we highly recommend:

Choose Application-Specific Equipment – In other words, “buy the right equipment for the job at hand.” We often see equipment being used in applications for which they were not designed. That results in accelerated wear, increased damage and ultimately, increased costs. Working with professionals who can survey your applications and recommend the right equipment for each job is one of the most important things you can do to decrease overall costs.  Using the proper equipment with the right specifications means efficient, productive results.

Planned Maintenance – Your fleet equipment works hard. And hard-working equipment needs proper maintenance.  Working with a professional and reputable fleet service provider that serves you at appropriate intervals is the key to catching small maintenance issues, before they become larger and much more expensive. In addition, well-maintained equipment operates more efficiently, experiences more up-time and results in improved operator morale.

Invest in a Robust Training Program – Operator safety training is required by OSHA, and a daily inspection of equipment is one of OSHA’s requirements. Most companies train their operators regarding safe operation, but more often than not, the training stops there. Clients that invest in training employees to perform daily inspections, and to know what to look for, see results. If you install a process for equipment that will eventually need repair, you can ensure that unsafe equipment stays off the operating floor, and small repairs can be handled before they blossom into colossal nightmares.

Work With Single-Source Dealerships When Possible – The more work you can assign to a qualified and reliable supplier, the fewer calls you have to make. In turn, the supplier becomes more familiar with your equipment, facility and applications. This leads to greater efficiencies for you. It also allows your supplier to better understand your operation and thus make logical suggestions that can reduce your costs, increase your efficiency and productivity, and ultimately improve your bottom line.

Fleet Management – Whether you do it yourself or assign responsibility to your materials handling partner, fleet management is a key part of knowing the useful economic lifespan of your equipment. And economic lifespan may vary by application within your operation. If you keep a finger on the pulse of your maintenance expenses and know when it’s time to trade in or re-lease, that process will more than pay for itself in the long run.

There are hundreds of other things you can do to minimize the total operating costs of your facility. We have addressed some of them in previous feature articles. We hope that you have found these Top Five useful.  If we can assist you further, or provide you with more information, please contact us at 888-322-LIFT.

Advertisements

Forklift Cooling System Tips

Getting hot under the collar is about as good for your forklifts as it is for you.  Heat results in increased engine wear, part failure and lift truck maintenance expenses. Like most other facets of your operation, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and keeping your engine operating at recommended manufacturer temperatures will improve your productivity and bottom line.

If your lift trucks are inspected as part of a regular planned maintenance program with inspections being performed by trained lift truck professionals, it is likely that these elements of your cooling system are being inspected and abnormal wear is being brought to your attention. However, one oversight and the end result could be a repair bill mounting into the thousands.

Keeping your cool includes:

Replacing engine coolant with coolant, not water – Water in your coolant system can be a very short-term patch, but can result in long-term damage to your engine and early failure. Water has a lower boiling temperature than coolant and will cause your engine to run at a higher temperature, resulting in oil viscosity breakdown and undue engine wear.

Replacing hoses before you see damage – Hoses wear over time, often from the inside out. Inspect for leaks on a regular basis and replace hoses at manufacturers recommended intervals. Leaks can result in loss of coolant over time, increase engine temperature and lower performance. Hose failure and the resulting spill can produce a hazardous situation for everyone in the vicinity.

Keeping the pressure on – The coolant system is pressurized to raise the boiling point of the coolant. Radiator caps maintain the pressure in the system. When the cap is not functioning properly, coolant can boil out onto the floor at near normal operating temperatures, causing operators or technicians to incorrectly believe that the engine is overheating.  Pressure testing the radiator cap is the only sure way to maintain proper coolant system pressure.

Keeping Your Engine Properly Belted – An engine’s fan belt creates air flow over the engine, removing external surface heat.  It also drives the circulation of the engine’s coolant through the engine, keeping the internal temperature at normal operating limits. Worn belts can reduce the flow of coolant, increasing the temperature and creating a long-term problem for your engine. Belt failure can result in immediate overheating, engine damage and an expensive repair. Have your belts inspected for wear and replace them at factory suggested intervals to ensure proper coolant flow inside and out.

Inspecting your engine’s greatest fan – Driven by the fan belt to perform, a properly operating engine fan allows for the normal conduction of heat from the inside of the engine to the surface where the fan whisks away the excess heat. A cracked or damaged fan can reduce the effectiveness of the fan and increase engine temperature. Be sure to inspect the fan for wear and damage and replace it with a manufacturer’s suggested replacement. Heavy steel fans can produce undue wear on the engine and reduce the fan’s capacity to remove heat, or even create its own heat by increased demand for energy by a heavier fan.

Regular Coolant Fluid Replacement – Like oil, cooling system fluid has a recommended maximum useful life, and that can vary widely depending upon how your system was serviced and the type of coolant used to replace your current fluid.  Every engine and application is different so don’t solely rely on factory recommended intervals for a flush and refill. Consult with us about an application survey and we can assist you in setting a schedule for regular coolant replacement that makes sense for YOUR operation.

Having your forklift’s cooling system regularly serviced ensures maximum engine performance and useful life. It reduces your maintenance expenses and improves your productivity. Forklifts on the floor, operating are far more essential to your bottom line than they are when they’re sitting in our shop.

If your lift trucks are not on a regularly scheduled Planned Maintenance program, they should be. Let us take the worry out of what and when to inspect, letting you tend to the business of what you do best.

Visit our forklift services page to learn more about how we can help you maximize productivity and minimize costs of your material handling operation.

What’s Reducing the Safe Lifting Capacity of Your Forklifts?

You just purchased a new forklift. Along with your purchase you made sure your forklift operators were trained properly.  Operators’ knowledge of safe lifting capacity equals a lower risk of property damage, injury or death.

Your forklift was shipped from the manufacturer with a data plate indicating lift capacities at various heights based on its equipment options, for example, side shifters, carton clamps or other attachments. Once you put the forklift into service, there are several factors that can, over time, dramatically reduce the safe lifting capacity of that forklift. Below we have highlighted the major factors effecting lift capacity.

Forks – The continual use of forklifts results in normal fork wear. The amount and rate at which they wear depends upon the weight of the loads handled, how they are handled (what type of substrate is coming in contact with the fork) and how often loads are handled (duty cycles). A 10% reduction in fork surface (wear) results in a 20% reduction in the safe lifting capacity of your forklift. A forklift rated to lift 5,000lbs is reduced to 4,000lb once the forks are 10% worn. At this point the forks must be replaced.

Daily Inspections are required by OSHA – While a daily measurement of fork wear is not required, it is good practice to conduct a fork wear inspection on a regular basis, based on previous “FORK” criteria previously mentioned. During daily inspections, forks should be visually inspected for cracks or bends. Both reduce the safe lifting capacity of your forklift and create a dangerous operating condition.

If the load you are carrying changes requiring a need to use longer forks, the load center changes. This results in a reduction of safe lifting capacity. It will be important that you work with the manufacturer to determine the new safe lifting capacity of your forklift with the new fork configuration.

Chains – Chains should be inspected as part of any normal Planned Maintenance Program. Your service technicians should be properly trained to measure chains to determine when they need to be replaced. When a 3% elongation results in a 15% reduction in safe lifting capacity the chains should be replaced. Never attempt repairs on chains that are worn. Replacing them with the proper chains per manufacturer’s specifications is recommended to ensure a safe working environment for your employees.

Load Center – The data plate on your forklift indicates safe load capacities at given fork load centers. Not every pallet received by your facility is loaded according to the forklift manufactures specifications. It is important for safe operation to recognize and adjust your lifting practices to ensure safe handling of materials. As a rule, for every inch beyond the manufacturers recommended fork load center, one hundred pounds of lifting capacity is lost at a lowered height of six to eight inches.

Upon replacing the following, verify:

  • Tires – Verify they meet manufacturer’s specifications. Especially if changing the type (cushion or pneumatic) or the size.
  • Batteries – Verify they meet manufacturer’s specifications. If you have purchased a used forklift this can be an issue. Seek assistance from a professional that you are equipping it with the proper battery.
  • Attachments – Anytime you add an attachment of any kind, regardless of how benign it may seem, work with a professional or the manufacturer to determine if the attachment affects safe lifting capacity – if so, how much.
  • Engines – You might never replace an engine. But if you do, be certain the replacement engine meets or exceeds the weight of the current engine and that the configuration of the replacement engine does not affect the center of gravity of the forklift. This is particularly important if you purchase used forklifts. Ask the seller if the engine has been replaced or altered in any dramatic fashion. If it has, be sure the forklift has been re-rated for safe lifting capacity.

There are sites on the Internet like www.lifttruckcapacitycalculator.com that can assist you in re-rating your forklifts after minor changes such as attachments or other alterations that may affect their safe lifting capacity.

Working with a partner like Cal-Lift to institute and manage a Planned Maintenance Program is the best way to guarantee that your forklift fleet is always operating safely and your employees are not in danger. Planned Maintenance Programs have also been proven to be the best way to maximize the productivity of your forklift fleet by reducing down-time. These programs will pay for themselves over and over again throughout the life of your forklifts.

OSHA Releases Top Ten Cited Categories for FY 2016

Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff. One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes.

Year after year, inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury. More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline. Consider this list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously. We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here.

Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse. Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial truck safety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment. Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known. Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive.

OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale.

To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces. We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs..

Well-maintained forklifts are more productive, safer and have a longer useful life. Find out more about how we can help you keep your forklift fleet operating at peak efficiency and safety at our forklift services page.

Contact us to learn more at 800-322-LIFT.

Daily Forklift Inspection Forms

Forklifts must be inspected daily, or prior to each shift if used in a multi-shift operation. This may seem like a burden and for some large companies, indeed it is. We believe though, that the inspections are a good routine to fall into. Forklifts can be very dangerous machines if something isn’t working right or is damaged. Cracked forks, chains, leaky hydraulics, damaged tires and many other items that are easy to miss, can present a very dangerous, even deadly situation.

We used OSHA guidelines to develop the following forms. One for electric forklifts, the other for internal combustion forklifts. Please feel free to copy and distribute as needed. Remember to keep copies of each inspection, either in a file, or scanned and store digitally.

If you find that your forklift needs to be repaired or service, be sure to use a lockout tag and contact our forklift service department as soon as possible to schedule repairs. Should you need a replacement, we have a large forklift rental fleet to fill your short-term forklift needs.

Any questions about forklift repairs or service, please contact us at 800-322-5438.