If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
When it comes to forklifts and forklift batteries, most companies operate by this philosophy. But if you’re under pressure to not just maintain production capacity, but increase it (while also finding ways to decrease your cost structure), you may feel exasperated and at a loss, having already tapped out of easily implementable ideas to generate efficiencies.
We’ve got good news for you. Go out to your manufacturing and distribution floor and count each forklift used by your company. What may surprise you is that for more than 80 percent of users of forklifts, each lift can be like a little ATM machine for you, enabling you to lower your costs (by as much as 30 percent per year), while increasing production capacity and efficiency.
We get it. Most people don’t think about forklifts and forklift batteries beyond doing what they’ve always done to keep things running.
Here are five simple areas to examine that are commonly the cause of cost and capacity leakage:
1. Not keeping up with scheduled forklift maintenance
This seems obvious on the surface, but if you dig a little at your company, you’re likely to find that forklift maintenance is usually not performed in a timely fashion—and that costs you more money in the long run. If you complete maintenance on an as-needed basis, your forklifts—no small investments—will die much earlier. You need to establish a strict maintenance schedule for the forklift itself as well as its battery. You wouldn’t neglect your own car’s maintenance, so why would you neglect critical machinery that helps you make money?
2. Buying more forklift batteries than you really need
It’s a simple fact: most companies are spending more money than they need to on batteries. That’s because batteries—when sold the traditional way—are often a huge drain on cash flow in terms of initial outlay, storage, and maintenance.
Why? Most companies go to a salesperson working on commission who recommends that they buy two or three $5,000 two-ton batteries for each forklift “to be safe.” When the batteries get to the warehouse, they are typically thrown them in a room where they’re kept charging all the time. But storing that many forklift batteries requires quite a bit of valuable warehouse space, as well as extra machinery like cranes. Bigger companies even have staff dedicated to changing those batteries, another potential drain on your bottom line. (Let’s not even get into the liability issues.)
The key to savings is not throwing away money and space by correctly assessing how many batteries you actually need.
3. Not knowing how much power you use
So, how do you figure out how many batteries you need? And how can you discover whether you’re even using the right kind of power? You don’t have to guess. Many companies aren’t aware that a power study can determine your actual usage and—even better—craft a power maintenance solution that fits your needs, saving 25-40 percent of previous power costs in the long run.
4. Not being able to flex your power
If your production and/or distribution ebbs and flows, it’s important that your power solution is flexible. Nothing’s worse than added stress at peak times—unless it’s paying for equipment, batteries, and space that just sits around during slow times. It’s smarter and more economical to set up a scalable power system.
5. Consciously keeping more equipment than you need
If you buy your forklift batteries from someone who gets paid the traditional way, via number of batteries/assets sold, their overall goal is to sell larger quantities of batteries to ensure you “have enough” to cover you during peak demand. If they had a power engineering team backing them, they would know exactly how much extra capacity they need and build a power system accordingly—enabling you with higher quality technology and more money left over for other projects. We’ve never been on a floor where a forklift or AGV (automated vehicle) wasn’t a crucial element to the speed, predictability, and effectiveness of a supply chain. This is the equipment you rely on to make you money, but having the most efficient power system, not just extra batteries, will go a long way to reducing costs and ensuring a smooth, high-velocity manufacturing and distribution process.