Preventive Maintenance Pays

Oct. 1, 2010
Make sure the equipment that supports supply is ready and able to meet demand.

As businesses rebound, they'll continue to keep their inventories low and rely more and more on their supply chain management skills to service their business needs. Their supply and their logistics capabilities will have to be in sync so they can thrive under the new business model taking shape.

At the heart of their supply chain is the warehouse. It is central to any distribution model or strategy. The driving force of any warehouse is the lift truck. Productivity and operating efficiency depend on being able to move product through the warehouse. Lose a lift truck for a day and watch your operation bog down. You jeopardize meeting the requirements of your customers just as business is starting to return to normal.

To guarantee you won't miss any business opportunities you need to take care of what you have.

Do you have a preventive maintenance program for your lift truck(s) or do you have a repair program? A repair program fixes the truck when it breaks down. The breakdown is always unplanned. It happens at the worst possible time and almost always costs you overtime to overcome the problem. Unplanned repairs can affect your cash flow and reduce capital that could have bought more inventory.

A preventive maintenance (PM) program, on the other hand, schedules the downtime of the lift truck to coincide with a slow time in your operation. The first week of the month you are receiving inventory by the truckload and late in the month your outbound shipments increase. A planned mid-month PM inspection will minimize any business disruption.

The Technician

The service technicians arrive with the right tools and equipment to service the vehicle. As part of a good PM service call, the technician will do more than simply change the fluids and top off your battery. They will perform a detailed review of each system on a truck and recommend repairs to keep the truck running at peak efficiency. These suggested repairs can be planned to minimize downtime. Knowing what needs to be done and when you plan to perform the maintenance will allow you to plan for the expenditure and adjust your cash flow accordingly.

The Safety Components

A good PM program is also the start of a good safety program. The last thing any business needs is an accident. To minimize the possibility of an accident, you need to manage three areas: the lift truck, the operator, and the environment.

The PM program eliminates leaking fluids by replacing hoses, seals, and gaskets before they reach a failure point. This keeps your floor clean and eliminates opportunities for associates to slip and fall. The electrical system is reviewed and loose or bare wires that can burn a person or worse are replaced. The braking system is maintained to a high level. To be productive, lift truck operators push their machines. They accelerate hard and they brake hard. A good braking system eliminates the possibility of equipment impact or worse, hitting a person.

A good supplement to the PM program is the establishment and use of a daily checklist. This guides the operator through a review of the major systems of their truck and can highlight a possible problem so that it can be fixed before it can become a major problem.

The operator is key to a safe operation. All operators must undergo a certified training program. It teaches safe operating principles and the basics of lift truck handling. Studies have shown that an educated operator is less likely to have an accident. Remember, operator training isn't just a good idea, it's the law.

Good Housekeeping

Keeping the floor swept and clear of trash eliminates damage to tires and drive components. Clean up any spills or liquids before they become a hazard. The floor should be smooth and well maintained. Cracks and potholes are as big a problem in the warehouse as they are on our city streets. Painting the aisles sets boundaries for inventory and can keep it from migrating into a truck's path.

Aisles should be wide enough to allow the proper handling of a pallet and turning of the truck. Aisles should be kept clear of inventory. Operating and picking aisles should not be used to stage receipts or put-aways.

There's a lot more that can be said about the importance of the lift truck in your operation. The goal is to minimize downtime and maintenance expenses. If your lift trucks are well maintained, they can give you the security in knowing that they will be able to answer the call as your business continues to grow.

If you have a story to share with your peers about cost saving or getting ready for more business, please contact me at [email protected].

About the Author

Tom Andel | Editor-in-Chief

Tom Andel is an award-winning editorial content creator and manager with more than 35 years of industry experience. His writing spans several industrial disciplines, including power transmission, industrial controls, material handling & logistics, and supply chain management. 

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