Lift truck tips: Reducing fleet costs
Information can be a fleet manager's best weapon against operational inefficiencies.
Tom Andel, Columnist -- Modern Materials Handling, 1/1/2010
Many of today's higher-end lift trucks are a video-gamer's fantasy. Instead of aiming a laser shooter at an outerspace alien, today's lift truck operators can use information to destroy their enemy. That enemy is downtime. With displays alerting the operator that something on their lift truck may be going wrong, downtime doesn't stand much of a chance. Operators can now be equipped to see downtime coming before losing an engine or a transmission.
Where does that leave a fleet manager? He used to be the hero who analyzed lift truck performance and kept downtime at bay. With operators and technology teaming up to destroy downtime, is the fleet manager's role as important as it used to be?
It's more important. Today's fleet manager has a new nemesis to deal with: his organization's bottom-line mentality. In this recession, many CFOs have been waving the bottom line as a weapon, even aiming it at fleet managers to freeze them in their tracks as they approach with a justification to invest in new lift truck technology.
This weapon renders fleet managers helpless by depriving them of their own weapons: lift truck usage reports, productivity data and energy savings figures. Ken MacDonald sees his share of paralyzed fleet managers. As president of M&G Materials Handling Co., a lift truck dealer in East Providence, R.I., he consults with clients about how the newer information technology tools available with today's lift trucks can give companies the data they need to reduce fleet costs.
"These fleet managers are being held accountable for the budget, but they're not given the authority to make the changes that will help them reduce costs," MacDonald told me. "Many CFOs look at quarterly returns and don't care what things will look like in five years. By then they'll have their bonus and they'll either be elsewhere in the company or outside it. In this recession year, we've seen those bad practices come back thanks to a lack of capital."
So while the bean counters absolve themselves from accountability for high operating costs and poor fleet utilization, they're depriving their company of the opportunity to right-size their fleets and remove inefficient lift trucks. It is those old, obsolete, past-their-prime monstrosities that are proving to be the real enemies of today's fleet managers as they devour precious capital and destroy productivity.