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Effectively managing a fleet of lift trucks and their operators can mean the difference between improving uptime and return on investment

Material Handling Improving with fleet efficiency & telematics

Aug 13, 2018

To develop, we first need to measure. To monitor maintenance, reduce energy cost and maximise operator productivity, material handling operations can realise a substantially lower total cost of ownership by implementing fleet management tools and telematics. The resultant data from these tools is the full operational view. The article sifts the role telematics play in material handling operations and how fleet managers can better uptime and cut the overall expenses on operations.

Effectively managing a fleet of lift trucks and their operators can mean the difference between improving uptime and return on investment, or potentially overlooking critical equipment and workforce needs. These needs, if left unnoticed or undiagnosed, may lead to equipment downtime, performance setbacks and operational and safety violations.

For many operations, an active fleet of lift trucks represents a substantial investment that cannot be compromised by abuse, neglect or unauthorised operation. Furthermore, beyond simple reporting on vehicle usage and performance information, many fleet managers are increasingly responsible for delivering actionable data on workforce productivity, efficiency and regulatory compliance.

The pressures of balancing fleet efficiency and operator performance can be mitigated by having access to the right data. Understanding an organisation’s total cost of operation, including contract costs, maintenance, acquisition, labour, shift utilisation and more, allows fleet managers to optimise fleet size and structure for maximum productivity. To effectively monitor and analyse these key data points and trends over time, lift truck fleets must be equipped with comprehensive telemetry systems.

Telemetry 101 – The basics

Telemetry is the process of remotely capturing specific measurements and other meaningful data in its given application. It most often uses wireless data transfer via the internet, Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. Similarly, telemetry is a related, interdisciplinary field that not only tracks, records and reports data, but also allows end-users to remotely command or otherwise exert control over the equipped machinery.

How telemetry fits into material handling equation

A recent survey indicates that while 80 per cent of companies track lift truck fleet data in some way, only 25 per cent track equipment and utilisation by specific drivers. These days, it is imperative to keep detailed records of lift truck fleet usage, service and maintenance schedules as well as impact incidents in order to remain accountable and compliant with business leadership and industry regulations. Modern telemetry systems have evolved to enable effortless access to immediate and actionable data and have quickly become integral to the efficiency of material handling operations around the globe.

Designed to evaluate fleet utilisation, impacts, idle time and maintenance, lift truck telemetry systems offer fleet managers the ability to make quick and informed decisions about fleet size, composition and use. Features such as, fault code tracking, impact sensing and preventative maintenance allow customers to get the most out of their existing assets, lengthen the life of their fleet and run their trucks longer between repairs, reducing downtime and overall cost of operations. Fleet managers also benefit from having a comprehensive view of hour metre and usage tracking, and cost of operations in order to maintain a right-sized fleet composed of equipment tailored to meet their specific operational challenges.

The following telemetry system features are key to achieving the full operational view.

Fleet maintenance

Fault code tracking

The fault code tracking logs fault code events identified by affected vehicles and allows fleet managers to discern severity of faults and respond accordingly. It can also be configured to send real-time email alerts for immediate attention and can also store alerts for follow-up action during routine maintenance.

Preventive maintenance tracker

The preventive maintenance tracker tracks maintenance based on custom parameters and proves to be valuable for diverse lift truck fleets with unique maintenance intervals and service requirements. Over time, its service history and maintenance forecast can be utilised to determine both fleet and individual truck needs.

Impact sensing

Impact sensing tracks and measures instances where impacts exceed a pre-set impact force benchmark. Plus, it sends real-time email alerts with impact details, including time of impact, direction and force, vehicle ID, serial number, and operator ID (if set). It also allows fleet managers to assess vehicle damage and surrounding structures for quick response.

Fleet management

Hour metre and usage tracking

The hour metre and usage tracking reports utilisation of individual lift trucks and aggregate data. It compares fleet vehicles based on hour metre to clock vehicle usage over a user-specified time interval (intervals can be based on shifts, days or other time periods). Additionally, it allows fleet managers to compare utilisation and efficiency between shifts and jobs, or seasons, enabling optimum workforce planning and operational consistency.

Cost of operations

Cost of operations determines operational reports per truck, fleet and location. It has the ability to analyse total cost of ownership in measurements of cost per hour, day, week, month or year, as defined by user-specified date ranges. Its comprehensive reporting allows fleet managers to respond rapidly at the first indication of operational inefficiency.

Facility management

Automatic shutdown

Automatic shutdown monitors truck activity, observes operator presence and triggers shutdown when pre-set parameters of inactivity are met. Moreover, it prevents hours of unnecessary idling, records delineating vehicle use and enhances energy conservation initiatives.

GPS integration

GPS integration identifies the location of lift trucks, monitors travel patterns and provides data on areas prone to congestion and locations where previous impacts have occurred. It allows fleet managers to analyse trends over time and update traffic patterns as needed to maximise workflow efficiency and safety.

Workforce management

Access control

Access control prevents unauthorised lift truck access by requiring operator authentication, before allowing the vehicle to become operable. Furthermore, it increases operator accountability and can improve driving behaviours and reduce damage or repairs.

OSHA operator checklists

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all forklifts be examined at least once daily before being placed into operation. Typically, operators work from pre-set checklists, examining the equipment components, fluids and functionality before use.

With a telemetry system, these checklists can be programmed into an equipped tracking unit and provide immediate, remote visibility into compliance practices and trends. Integrating this process into a fleet’s telemetry reporting system, streamlines the checklist process for operators and encourages greater discipline for completing comprehensive equipment inspections.

Integrating telemetry practices

Plant operations are complicated, requiring nearly limitless number of moving parts to work together seamlessly. Especially in large fleets, fleet managers do not have the ability to oversee each operational detail for each individual truck. Even when functioning properly, inefficiency in a single component, process or piece of equipment can have a major impact on the overall uptime and output of the business. Furthermore, operator compliance with various health and safety regulations is critical for organisational success, avoidance of injuries and costly fines.

These businesses should seek out lift truck manufacturers that can evaluate and assess existing assets and processes, and provide telemetry solutions that will drive fleet efficiency, improve operator performance and lower overall total cost of ownership. Integrating a telemetry system into a lift truck fleet, large or small, can be done easily by working with a lift truck manufacturer to assess, according to the unique needs of the individual operation.

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  • Lift truck telemetry systems offer fleet managers the ability to make quick and informed decisions about fleet size, composition and use

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