Chain of Thought

Think “system” when thinking “lift truck”

How you think of a lift truck can determine the success or failure of other material handling technologies you apply in your plant or distribution center. If a lift truck is just a lift truck and a rack is just a rack, you may be in for trouble. You may purchase both of these material handling elements at different times, but their ultimate return on your investment depends on a constant “system” mindset.

Your lift trucks and rack are just as much a system as an automated storage and retrieval system. I hate to get all academic on you, but let's look at the definition of “system”:

“A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.”

One of the biggest mistakes buyers make when purchasing a lift truck is thinking only of their history with that equipment when matching it to their current needs. But what happens when you move to a new facility and after taking delivery of the new lift trucks you ordered for that event, productivity tanks? It might be because you failed to match the new lift truck's specs to those of your new facility—or at least to those of your new rack. Duncan Murphy, president of Riekes Equipment Company, a Yale dealer based in Omaha, Nebraska, says that even in this technology-savvy age, a simple mismatch of lift truck to rack opening still occurs.

“In drive-in rack applications, openings are quite often made too small or without considering the truck requirements,” he told me. “Just because something worked in another facility, decisions are made to replicate, but at the same time with another level in height or with slightly heavier product. Either change can require a wider wheel base for capacity/stability. When the truck wheel base width is changed from the preferred 6 inches, 3 on each side, and shrinks to 2 overall, the productivity is gone and rack/product damage goes way up.”

Let's go from academic to philosophical. Life's a system, and similar mismatches happen all the time to all of us. Why do you think the divorce rate is almost 50%? Keep that in mind the next time you're looking at lift trucks or racks—or employees, for that matter.

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