Mhlnews 525 Dsc2630resized01

How Lift Truck Fleet Management Helped a 3PL Improve Service

Jan. 11, 2012
As client needs expand and become more sophisticated, third-party logistics providers are investing in technologies to help them be more efficient information managers.

Today’s 3PLs offer bundled services to companies and serve as a resource for functions such as cross-docking, inventory management, transportation and warehousing. Such services require a heightened level of information management. With lift trucks being a key enabler of supply chain flow, their efficient operation and maintenance is vital.

For example, Romark Logistics ( ), a 3PL with headquarters in Westfield, N.J., uses a lift truck fleet optimization system that allows its facility managers to collect and analyze real-time data about its electric lift truck fleet.

Even before the term 3PL was widely used, Romark provided warehousing and logistics services to businesses in a wide range of industries, including confectionery, food, beverage and pharmaceutical. Established in 1957, Romark offers warehousing, packaging and transportation services from seven U.S. locations.

In addition to lift truck fleet management, Romark relies on warehouse and transportation management systems, lot and pallet ID tracking and Web access to shipment status to help it compete for business.

The fleet management system is Raymond’s iWarehouse, which Romark implemented in 2009 for the 53 lift trucks in its Hazle Township, Pa., warehouse. The systemgathers real-time data about the trucks to help Romark make management decisions and encourage operator accountability.

Making data actionable

Romark’s 522,000-square-foot facility is used to store and ship industrial products and consumer packaged products. During distribution peaks, Romark can load and unload as many as 170 tractor-trailers each day, and lift trucks play a key role in ensuring that inbound and outbound trailers remain on schedule.

Romark worked with Raymond of New Jersey, LLC, a Raymond Sales and Service Center with headquarters in Union, N.J., to select trucks for its fleet and install the fleet management system. Pengate Handling Systems Inc., a Raymond Sales and Service Center with headquarters in York, Pa., provides ongoing service and maintenance for the lift truck fleet.

The lift trucks in Romark’s fleet connect to the fleet managementsystem through the iPort, a single connector that enables the system to gather data directly from the lift trucks’ vehicle managers. Ryan Ziegler, director of facilities management for Romark, can access this information via a custom Web portal to generate reports and benchmark lift truck and operator productivity; diagnose potential lift truck issues remotely; monitor impacts; and optimize lift truck capital and maintenance costs. The systemalso helps Romark ensure it is using the right lift trucks for its applications.

“Having the capability to collect data is important, but using that data to be both efficient and cost-effective is very critical,” Ziegler says. “Previously, we would manually collect data from each of the trucks and then create a spreadsheet to use for further analysis. Today, the fleet management systemcollects all the real-time data wirelessly and then generates reports we can use to evaluate maintenance costs and analyze causes of unplanned maintenance.”

Romark works with Pengate for Comprehensive Service that combines preventive maintenance needs into a single monthly invoice to ensure routine maintenance is conducted regularly to keep the lift trucks in top operating condition. Under the program agreement, a service technician from Pengate is always on-site. The iAlert module of the system helps streamline both preventive and planned maintenance by notifying the technician when scheduled maintenance is due or when there may be an impending issue.

If necessary, the technician also can send a notification back to the monitor mounted on the truck, advising the operator if it is necessary to bring the machine in for service to correct an issue, thus minimizing cost and downtime.

“We can pull up reports with information that was not previously available to us when we were gathering data manually,” Ziegler explains. “Now we can see which lift trucks are being used and which are not, and whether trucks are being used effectively. We also can manage our recertification requirements for operators and be sure they are operating the trucks properly. All the information is accessible from any computer in the entire building.”

Ensuring Safety

The iVerify module requires operators to log in to trucks and complete the OSHA-mandated operator daily checklist before the lift truck will start. If operators report any issues when completing the checklist, a notification is sent to the service technician, and the truck can be prevented from operating until the issue is resolved.

By using fleet management systemto help complete operator checklists, Romark has reduced the time it takes for an operator to complete a pre-operation checklist by at least 5 minutes per operator, per shift. This means more trucks are able to get out on the floor faster, increasing productivity, instead of requiring inspection or maintenance before operation can begin.

In a typical Romark facility, with 20 operators and three shifts per day, this lead to a time savings of 5 hours per day. With that time, productivity can increase by up to 80 pallet moves a day.

The system also ensures the operator is certified and authorized to operate the truck on which he or she is logging in. If the operator’s certification is nearing expiration, a message can be sent to the shift manager or human resources.

Romark has used the iImpact module to help meet one of its key goals: continuously improving its safety record. The moduleencourages proper operation by notifying warehouse and service managers if there is an impact or other significant event while the truck is in motion. The system can be programmed to limit travel speeds based on the level of the impact and offers two levels of notification:

  • Warning — low-level impacts are indicated by a horn, buzzer or light but do not affect the operation of the truck. This acts as a tool to modify the behavior of the operator, reducing the possibility of damage to product, the facility or the operators themselves.
  • Alert — impact judged to cause damage to rack, product or lift truck. An alert is sent to the supervisor.

Romark saw an 89 percent decline in the number of impacts after using the system for three months. Since it was implemented three years ago, Romark’s incidents of alarm-level impacts have decreased by 12 percent.

The system also enables Romark to evaluate its service history, including costs and repair dates, to help determine if there are ways to improve costs by changing frequently repaired parts or examining whether an environmental issue may be causing repairs. Romark constantly reviews the fleet to find out how it can be made better, which has helped the company become proactive about lift truck fleet optimization—and be a better service provider.

Joe LaFergola is manager of business and information solutions for The Raymond Corporation(