Jungheinrich asks, are you getting value from your forklift supplier?
Article supplied by Jungheinrich forklifts UK
With the global economic outlook still far from certain, companies across all industry sectors are focused on delivering efficiency gains across their supply chains.
This means that today’s forklift trucks – for so long the workhorse of any well executed logistics operation – are expected to work harder for longer and with minimal downtime.
Most trucks on the market nowadays are perceived as sophisticated products featuring complex electronic and hydraulic systems and an attention to ergonomic design that ensures high productivity, safety and operator comfort are achieved.
So, in many cases what differentiates one forklift supplier from another is the added value benefits that the company can bring to its client’s business.
So how can you be sure that you are getting the best value from your forklift supplier?
Jonathan Morris, Sales Director of Jungheinrigh UK Ltd, said: “Any company that operates a forklift truck fleet should ensure that its truck provider fully understands its needs and has the structure and processes in place within its own organisation to respond to the user’s issues as they arise,” said.
He added: “The truck supplier should be able to work with its client to develop clear customer-led strategies. To this end it is vitally important from the outset of the supplier-user relationship that the user is confident that his preferred supplier has the culture, style and values to deliver the kind of results he is looking for.
“For example, every forklift company can talk a good fleet management proposal, but few have the capability and the appropriate data in a format from which effective management decisions can be taken that improve operational and delivery efficiency.
“Users will only be able to derive maximum cost and efficiency gains with measurable values from fleet management systems if they have an effective communication strategy with their truck supplier and then users need to be sure that their truck supplier actually has the desire to deliver results that might appear counter-productive to their profit stream. By this I mean, a truck audit will often recommend reducing the fleet size which, on the face of it, is not in the supplier’s best interests.”
One of the most important aspects of any forklift contract is the supplier’s ability to ensure that truck downtime is kept to a minimum
“Users should look to source forklift truck fleets from organisations that are not only capable of supplying a full line-up of products – from counterbalance to warehouse machines – but who can also demonstrate that they have the infrastructure in place to be able to guarantee the highest levels of service,” said Morris.
“There is little point in any manufacturer pretending that trucks do not break down because, from time to time, they do. The things that differentiate a good supplier from the others are, firstly, the frequency between technical problems and then the ability of the supplier to have an engineer on site in the shortest possible time to put faults right when they do occur.”
No matter how technically advanced a truck might be, the interface between the forklift and the operator remains key to maximizing efficiency. Properly trained operators are therefore essential if a forklift is to deliver ultimate throughput benefits.
“There are so many benefits to employing forklift truck drivers who are professionally trained,” said Morris. “For example, turnaround is quicker and smoother, and accidental damage - to both the truck and the product being stored – is reduced. A sympathetically driven machine also enhances truck reliability and, needless to say, improves general safety throughout the facility where the truck is operational.
“Most truck operators have realised the significant cost benefits that are achieved by choosing a forklift truck supplier with the service and maintenance credentials and infrastructure required to ensure that truck downtime is kept to a minimum, However, many truck users – both the bigger fleet operators and the smaller one-off buyers – sometimes fail to see the substantial performance benefits that professionally trained operators can bring to their business.
“Of course, no one should be allowed to operate a truck without first receiving training but even experienced employees can benefit from refresher training. Refresher training may be required if, for example, the operator is involved in an accident or a near-miss incident or if he or she has been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
“It should also be considered if there have been changes to the workplace that could impact on the safe operation of the truck or, perhaps, if the operator is assigned to use a different type of machine – say a new high lift reach truck when before they had operated low lift technology trucks.”
In addition to proper and regular training, any technology that reduces the pressure on a forklift operator by making his or her day to day operational procedures more straightforward can only bring efficiency, productivity and safety benefits and warehouse management systems, on-truck data capture systems, RFID-based warehouse navigation systems and forklift truck personnel protection systems are just some of the technologies that are being used to deliver lift truck operational efficiencies.
However, Morris believes that, going forward, truck manufacturers will have to take on the role of ‘system suppliers’ if the potential benefits of these integrated solutions are to be fully realised.
Jonathan Morris comments: “There are clear benefits to be gained by developing these technologies as part of the truck but it is essential that the integration of the technology is carefully carried out and is a robust solution delivered by the actual truck manufacturer. Simply ‘bolting’ on lots of additional equipment will not guarantee the overall benefits and improved efficiencies that the technology can bring.
“It is also important to identify a clear chain of responsibility for the after sales support and maintenance of both the truck and any sub-systems that are part of it. Where a number of suppliers simply bolt sub-systems on to a forklift truck disputes can arise over the responsibility for the ongoing management of the critical interfaces. That’s why it is important that users choose a truck manufacturer that can provide the trucks and the sub-systems – be it RDT’s, scanners or warehouse management systems.”
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.