Service strategies to give the business a lift

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Forklift service and maintenance is essential for safe operation, but it can also improve the efficiency of the operation.

Taking on a forklift truck also means taking on a responsibility to ensure that it is safe, fit for purpose and reliable. An effective service and maintenance regime is essential. “A lack of maintenance can lead to serious accidents and can lead to equipment breakdowns and unscheduled stoppages to the work process,” says Peter Harvey, chief executive of the Fork Lift Truck Association. “With so much at risk, it’s easy to understand why keeping your forklift in good working order is required by Law. Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98) sets out general requirements for ensuring that work equipment is kept in a suitable condition. It focuses on three terms: ‘an efficient state’; ‘in efficient working order’; ‘in good repair’. Harvey points out that it’s not enough to put things right when they fail or break down; a number of things need to be done to minimise the possibility of such incidents occurring in the first place. The correct approach to maintenance involves looking at all aspects of the equipment – not just those you consider ‘critical parts’. Routine maintenance and planned preventative maintenance are necessary to help you achieve this. Harvey points out that an important consideration for employers is that most lift trucks are maintained on an ‘hours run’ regime. “The time interval between the various services and inspections will vary according to the intensity of use and the working environment.” Paul Hardill, operations manager north at Rushlift, point out that a truck breaking down can have a huge impact on a business, perhaps hitting the ability to take delivery of goods, leading to a loss of production, or maybe stopping the loading of finished product for delivery to an end user – nobody wants downtime and a good maintenance regime can help prevent that.” And Russell Baker, territory manager UK & Ireland at Hyster Europe, says: “Maintenance according to the manufacturer’s recommendation is always important to sustain peak performance and spot any signs of early life component failure, which may occur in exceptional circumstances.” “Regular service intervals help to maintain the equipment and minimise the likelihood of a breakdown. Access to key components is crucial to help minimise service and maintenance downtime for busy operations.” Of course, it is possible to handle service and maintenance in house, but both Hardill and Baker argue that outsourcing is the better options. “There are dangers with doing it in house, as you are probably not going to have a dedicated fully trained forklift truck engineer available, and there are risks from not using the right parts, as this can lead to warranty issues,” says Hardill. “It’s important to choose the right service provider as you want to ensure that your materials handling equipment is being looked after by professionals that are well-trained, skilled and know what they are doing.” Baker says: “By working directly with Hyster Europe, dealers and their customers benefit from quick decision making and fast spare parts supply, so they can benefit from an all-round service, which is second to none. Fast response times and weekend working are a matter of course for the service staff.” There can be a temptation to try to save money by skimping on servicing, but is this a false economy? Hardill says: “A comprehensive service and maintenance schedule goes a long way to helping minimise unforeseen, potentially expensive, repair bills. It also helps ensure that uptime and utilisation of the truck is near to 100 per cent, reducing the impact on the business through lack of availability.” “One of the mistakes that users can make when it comes to a service and maintenance agreements is that the cheapest provider does not necessarily provide the best service.” “A user may put a service off if business is busy but pushing it back can ultimately result in a major breakdown, involving big costs and may impact the performance of the business.” “Of course, there are important engineering design features which help to keep maintenance to a minimum. A nice unique standard feature on Doosan counterbalance trucks is their oil-cooled disc brake system. As they are manufactured as completely sealed units the system is protected against outside elements, such as water, dust, dirt, shrink wrap and metal banding, and this really cuts out the high maintenance requirements of traditional brakes,” says Hardill. Russell Baker points that industrial solid tyres are often replaced too soon. To reduce spend, increase uptime and help maintain a low cost of ownership on Hyster forklift trucks, most are factory fitted with the Pit Stop Line tyres from Trelleborg to enable better tyre planning.” And, he says: “As demand grows in a materials handling operation and loads become more varied, the risk of damage to trucks, loads and infrastructure can increase, resulting in extra costs, additional maintenance and more downtime. Lift truck operators need to be trained to operate accurately and efficiently, but purchasers also need to specify suitable lift trucks for their application.”

Time for a Thorough Examination
Central to ensuring safe operation is the Thorough Examination. Since 2004, Consolidated Fork Truck Services, which was created by BITA and the FLTA in consultation with the Health and Safety Executive, has set a single national standard for the Thorough Examination of vehicles in the UK fork lift truck industry. Geoff Martin, chairman of CFTS, says: “Every fork lift truck must have a Thorough Examination at least once a year. However, LOLER 98 makes it clear that it could be more frequent than this, depending on a number of factors. “There are some truck types which require Thorough Examination more frequently than this. Medium or high level order pickers, for example, are designed for elevating persons… making it very likely your truck will need to be examined at intervals of at least once every six months. “The intensity of your forklift’s work is another deciding factor. If your truck is working more than 40 hours per week, then, understandably, it’s prone to higher levels of wear. As such, it will need to undergo Thorough Examination more often. A lift truck working double or triple shift (80 hrs+), for example, will require a Thorough Examination at least once every four months. “You will also need to look at the environment your truck is working in as it could encourage the truck to deteriorate more quickly. Lift trucks working in corrosive or marine environments undergo greater wear than their counterparts in warehouses. As such, they’ll require Thorough Examination at a maximum interval of four months. “On the CFTS website (, there’s an interactive form which offers general guidance on how frequently your trucks will need a Thorough Examination.” Walker works with CAM to manage fleet
Managers at George Walker Transport’s Leeds logistics centre have been working with engineers at Sheffield-based CAM Forklift Trucks developing new techniques to improve the role forklifts play in the materials handling operation as part of a productivity and £500,000 cost reduction programme. Plans to up-date the forklift fleet began back in 2016 with 20 replaced forklifts and 20 or so powered pallet trucks that comprise the core of the company’s materials handling taskforce. The business is now scheduling delivery of its next 13 TCM gas-fuelled trucks. These have 2.0-ton lift capacity and are much beefier trucks with heavy duty brakes and rugged construction designed to take on the intense but mixed range of duties. But the company also wanted to take a different approach to the inevitable forklift and product damage, which is an issue in every storage and logistics facility. According to Paul Freeman of CAM, previously tried tracking and monitoring software had a limited effect. “It can show false positives, triggering incidents that were actually not damage.” Instead, co-operation between drivers, warehouse staff, managers and their forklift partner – CAM, provided the on-site network to resolve issues and provide a collective grip on the way the overall forklift operation performed. Regular visits and a proactive approach by CAM’s engineers and service team highlighted opportunities for incremental improvements that would collectively lead to greater overall truck performance and their productivity. There is also a significant amount of science and measurement involved, as both truck selection and their subsequent operation in contributing to higher productivity and cost reduction went through rigorous testing and comparison. “Top of our list was driver acceptance,” says Chris Burley, George Walker Transport’s Leeds storage facility manager. “This meant truck ergonomics as well as safety and drive-ability were key. We needed a truck up to the task of 80-odd hours of pretty intensive duty in an average week.” Walker moves around 4,500 pallets every 24 hours at the Leeds site. It aims for 20-minute delivery truck loading time, so forklift movements are measured in pallets per second and distance travelled. Routes are optimised to minimise travel distance and maximise productivity. But the twice daily peak load periods produce a theatre of concentrated activity. It’s an operating environment that could, without meticulous planning and the commitment of the forklift driver team, lead to damage, collisions and worse. The LPG TCM trucks are also delivering both lower emissions and lower fuel costs through a combination of more fuel-efficient engines and improved fuel procurement. Using VDI methodology planned savings over the five-year lease agreement confidently estimates a six-figure saving in fuel economy alone.

This feature first appeared in the November issue of Logistics Manager.

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