If you’re being asked to drive more uptime and operational productivity in your facility—and who isn’t feeling this pressure these days? — you’ll be happy to learn about some overlooked areas of improvement right under your nose. Just three manageable—but meaningful — changes to your fleet management program can supercharge your warehouse productivity.
Operations managers usually think a measurable difference means a big and expensive project, so they’re often surprised when their TFS representatives tell them to start smaller. Don’t misunderstand — TFS is all about continuous improvement, but facilities must first have a strong foundation in place. That means first tackling any low-hanging fruit before taking on more significant projects.
The secret to success? Knowing where to look for the strategic changes that make the most difference.
TFS representatives have worked with thousands of clients and facilities to improve their fleet management programs; here’s what we’ve seen pay off again and again:
1. Focus on battery power and charging: Forklift batteries and chargers are the prime productivity drivers within a fleet. That’s why one of the first and most important steps is critically examining their performance — assuming you have the necessary data to gain the complete picture.
“The health of your forklift’s battery and charger dictates how long your equipment will run and how reliable they’ll be,” said Tom Ryder, Chief Commercial Officer with TFS. “Often, the issue is that clients don’t have the data intelligence or subject matter expertise to diagnose those power systems and extract those insights in the first place.”
Ryder said that the first step is thoroughly assessing your fleet power elements through a power study conducted by subject matter experts. You can accomplish this by investing in in-house diagnostic capabilities or outsourcing to a power management specialist like TFS.
But whatever your approach, it’s crucial to have clean and actionable fleet management data. Examining that will allow you to see gaps in power management strategies or technology. After all, you want to make informed decisions about the real problems keeping your facility from reaching its full potential.
Putting a power management system in place is a relatively easy change, and the payback — improved uptime, efficiency, and forklift driver morale — is often astonishing.
2. Use a CMMS (and to its fullest potential): Material handling equipment produces a wealth of valuable data that can optimize fleet management strategies and expenses. Whether the data is collected directly through maintenance work orders and invoices or through a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), collecting and analyzing the data is the key.
In my experience, a CMMS is invaluable for collecting and managing that data, but merely having a CMMS in place isn’t enough. We’ve found that many clients aren’t fully utilizing their CMMSs. For example, the drivers may use the CMMS to log into their lift, but many other uses are flying under the radar.
“Utilizing maintenance data via CMMS helps support your fleet management findings and drive additional insights,” said Ryder. “For example, if the battery power is in really poor condition, you’ll see it play through the maintenance data with many electrical system failures. Without a CMMS in place, you might miss that insight.”
TFS always relies on CMMS data to lead operational transformations for its clients. Through it, representatives collect data from clients’ warehouse activities and analyze it to spot issues or opportunities related to forklift power management. They then leverage their findings to design more effective fleet management strategies and create roadmaps.
3. Implement telematics: As you probably know, telematics collects data from warehouse vehicles and equipment through remote telecommunications systems (e.g., sensors, GPS systems, onboard diagnostics, etc.). By combining that data—say, within a CMMS system—warehouse managers get a more in-depth view of their operations, enabling them to pursue any number of operational enhancements.
There is immense value in telematics, but misconceptions persist. For example, many believe that the technology is very expensive. This may have been true a decade ago when it was in its infancy, but costs have decreased considerably—and facilities see tremendous ROI after leveraging telematics data.
“Another perceived obstacle is that telematics requires a completely new skill set and manpower,” added Ryder. “This is true, but you can do that by bringing in telematics specialists who can do the heavy lifting to get you those same insights with less effort.” The key is that the telematics system needs to be actively monitored, managed and the insights must be applied to actions taken by the facility.
Now you know about the three foundational fleet management changes that can transform your facilities. If you’re already doing one or two of these things? Congratulations, you’re on your way! If you’re doing all three, you might be golden — if you don’t make the common mistake of viewing each system independently. A truly optimized fleet management solution must collectively consider all three.
Transformation requires buy-in
Let’s be honest: operational transformation can be challenging in many ways. Even the best technology is ineffective if warehouse teams don’t adopt it. That’s why utilization must be top of mind during every project phase.
“That change management piece is important, and the most effective way to do that is through a program offering incentives and support to people who explore new ways of working,” said Ryder.
One way to get buy-in is to promote the advantages of operational transformation. For example, you could demonstrate how telematics increase warehouse safety or how data-informed fleet management strategies will make warehouse workers hit their goals.
“If I’m an operator, I’m accountable for a certain number of picks per hour,” Ryder said. “So, if I can reduce the number of times I have to swap out equipment with a more optimized fleet power management plan, that directly and positively impacts my performance.”
Transformation is challenging for any operation. Nevertheless, it is a part of doing business in a time when new technologies, market shifts, and evolving customer expectations constantly change the rules of the game. And while true transformation costs time and resources, these steps will help navigate large-scale operational change and set your organization up to earn your investments back many times over.