Intelligent data the key to manage fleet costs

Wireless real-time data acquisition enables managers to track maintenance and associated costs on lift truck fleets,

08/03/2009


Warehouse and facility managers face ongoing pressure to reduce maintenance costs - and these pressures are even greater in challenging economic environments. Wireless real-time data acquisition enables managers to track maintenance and associated costs on lift truck fleets, whether in a single warehouse or multiple facilities nationwide.
The ability to continuously review this data helps managers analyze the effectiveness of lift truck fleets and even determine the root cause of maintenance needs, facilitating a quick response to reduce future maintenance expenses.

Gathering the right data
A comprehensive fleet optimization program can include a wireless system that integrates real-time data from the lift truck's vehicle manager, operator and fleet maintenance program into a single reporting system. Some robust fleet management systems today also offer a Web portal that allows maintenance personnel to enter and upload all work orders, service requests, parts and related costs for maintaining and repairing trucks in a fleet.
In a system that enables tracking of maintenance needs, the person performing the maintenance - either the lift truck dealer or a company's in-house staff - can enter the work order number, lift truck identification information, date, number of labor hours for maintenance, details on what issue the maintenance addressed, and whether the activity was preventive maintenance or in response to lift truck damage or abuse. In addition, the hourly labor rate, all parts that were used and the cost of those parts can be entered.
With this information, it is possible to track the maintenance history of each lift truck in a fleet and evaluate the cost per hour to run the truck.
In addition to tracking lift truck maintenance details, fleet optimization systems can track operator input. Daily operator checklists are required by OSHA prior to lift truck operation. The wireless fleet optimization system requires completion of an electronic checklist before the lift truck will start.
If the operator indicates any lift truck issues, the system sends a wireless alert immediately to the facility manager, notifying him or her of any preventive maintenance that may be required to prevent a larger problem from occurring. This enables the manager to schedule maintenance when it is convenient, parts are available and the driver is scheduled on another truck thus reducing unplanned downtime and lost productivity.
Turn data into intelligence
In-depth reports generated by using a fleet optimization system's reporting capabilities can facilitate intelligent, strategic management decisions based upon the cumulative information gathered from the vehicle manager, operator and maintenance history. Custom reports compare the various trucks within a fleet at one or multiple facilities to demonstrate costs per lift truck or per location, making it easy to understand the cost per hour to run and maintain each truck or an entire fleet of trucks. Further analysis can help the facility manager determine which replacement parts offer the best value over the life of a lift truck.
For example, the facility may currently purchase inexpensive load wheels and find they require frequent replacement. By analyzing the costs and testing various load wheels, it may be possible that a slightly more expensive load wheel actually lasts nine times longer, justifying the investment because the lift truck can be more productive and require less downtime to change wheels.
The analysis may uncover uneven flooring in the warehouse that causes premature damage to tires. Fixing the floor may reduce damage to lift truck wheels, thus lowering replacement costs and reducing downtime. This analysis turns the data from the fleet optimization system into actionable intelligence.
Optimizing costs
Today's managers are under pressure to reduce costs, increase productivity and manage their company's assets. Facility managers can analyze lift truck data on-site if they have the human resources available to do it. Lift truck manufacturers and their dealers may offer consultative services to regularly review and analyze the data and help facility managers develop action plans to reduce maintenance costs.
It isn't until a facility applies a real-time optimization and asset management strategy that costs associated with lift truck operations can be fully realized. For instance, damaged racks are a common occurrence in warehouses and distribution centers. However, the total cost of the damage is not often considered. The total cost may include not only the price to replace or repair the rack, but also lift truck maintenance after an impact, lost truck and operator productivity while the lift truck is repaired, and damaged product.
A robust fleet optimization system helps to identify the totality of related costs and provides managers with access to information that allows them to make informed, intelligent business decisions as they develop cost reduction strategies.
Alan Marder is director of technology solutions, The Raymond Corporation





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