Many material handling organizations are using technology, including forklift-based features, to improve warehouse productivity and efficiency. For instance, leveraging data from the forklift is one way companies can realize measurable improvements in warehouse management.
The forklift has become a connected, mobile information technology hub that collects and processes data from products, operators, and other material handling systems and provides managers needed information to make smart, fast, fact-based decisions that support strategic initiatives.
The most common applications for forklift connectivity is fleet and operator management systems with maintenance and operations components. The maintenance component collects information from service events to manage costs, standardize processes and extend forklift life. The operations component collects forklift and operator data to improve safety, utilization and productivity.
Through our experience with forklift fleet and operator management implementations, Crown has identified four keys to realizing value from the connected forklift.
1. Clear Goals
A forklift fleet management system’s versatility and depth of data is part of its attraction. But, lacking clear goals before implementation can hinder an organization. Establishing clear goals, such as reducing impacts or costs, increasing equipment utilization, or streamlining compliance, can help guarantee success.
Of course, forklift fleet management is not a single-issue solution; multiple benefits can be derived from the system. Utilizing a scorecard helps benchmark the current state, ensure continuous improvement and document results. Once progress has been made on initial goals, new goals can be defined.
2. Relevant, Timely Data
Goal achievement can be compromised without the right data at the right time (e.g., information about impacts, energy usage, travel and lift times and utilization).
The right system presents data to managers in a way that makes for efficient use and better decision-making. The system includes timely information, appropriate context, and interactive features to communicate and record results.
It should deliver information in three ways:
- Alerts delivered to managers via email, text message or a dashboard that immediately notify managers of important events.
- Management Dashboard gives managers a visual overview of warehouse operating trends and allows managers to quickly act before critical levels trigger an alert.
- Detailed Reports offer a depth of data that enables managers to quickly and accurately isolate root causes, such as low productivity related to specific operators, and solve isolated problems.
3. Consistent Management Commitment
Forklift fleet and operator management systems put the impetus for success on management. The data to drive change is available, but if supervisors don’t hold operators accountable, behavior won’t change. If management doesn’t stay engaged with the system, use data to evaluate performance and ensure support and collaboration there is little chance for sustainable change. Engagement with the system should grow post-implementation.
4. Site Preparation
Inadequate site preparation can cause implementation problems and discourage technology adoption and support. All stakeholders should be involved in planning. Early participation by IT can identify potential issues, ensure proper infrastructure, and help determine if data should reside on-site or be cloud-based.
Data-sharing processes should be defined and documented early so the right information is shared with the right departments at the right time. The processes may evolve post-implementation, but early establishment increases the likelihood that departments use and benefit from the technology.
Forklift connectivity and fleet management systems have shown to deliver insight into truck utilization, compliance, safety, performance and productivity. There is sufficient experience with the technology to ensure implementation issues are quickly resolved and clear goals achieved. Organizations that directly address issues will benefit from forklift connectivity in the short term while positioning themselves to build on the technology foundation in the long term.