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Guest Post: Top 5 Steps to any Equipment Maintenance Program

Today’s post is courtesy of Megan R. Nichols

Material handling equipment is an investment. Industrial companies purchase more than 150,000 forklifts each year, but the upfront price is only part of their overall cost. Ongoing maintenance to extend the life and increase the efficiency of your production is also an essential investment.

The longevity of your material handling equipment depends on how well you execute your maintenance plan. Breakdowns and unexpected expenses lower your productivity and decrease return on investment. To help keep your operations running smoothly, here five ways to extend the life of your material handling equipment.

1. Invest in Workforce Training

By hiring a top-quality workforce and training your employees adequately, you’ll be better prepared to maintain and extend your equipment’s useful life.

This process starts by verifying and recording any training and certifications. Improper use will lead to unnecessary wear and tear and a quicker end-of-life for the equipment. Further, as 42% of forklift-related fatalities are the result of tipping vehicles, workplace training is essential to proper use and employee safety. Even if inadequate training or maintenance doesn’t result in injury, it will lead to unnecessary equipment wear. Ensure your employees are vetted and trained by supervisors when working with heavy equipment.

To train your employees on your machinery and any changes to operation protocol, you should provide simple, regular updates concerning operations and safety. Plan to talk to your workers about equipment operations on a schedule, such as every month or every quarter.

Then, managers should supervise equipment operators daily to ensure they follow best practices as defined during training. Address any improper use immediately and provide easily accessible manuals for all equipment operators. Well-trained and managed employees are less likely to abuse the equipment.

2. Conduct Equipment Inspections

The more you know about the many forms of wear on your equipment, the sooner you can respond to issues and establish a smart maintenance schedule. Ensure your employees and supervisors are familiar with manufacturer specifications, and report anything out of the ordinary during a regular equipment inspection.

Early identification of problems, such as signs of wear or age, will allow you to repair or replace a part before it causes an avoidable delay. To do so, visually inspect your material handling equipment before, during and after use. Have regular operators record changes in performance. Check for vibrating belts and gears, high temperatures from poor lubrication or loose bolts. Repair or replace any parts issue that arises before it affects efficiency. Recognizing symptoms early will avoid costly emergency repairs.

3. Understand Your Equipment

By knowing the specifications of your equipment — such as model, brand and machine specifications — you can predict future maintenance needs.

Understanding how your equipment operates is vital to achieving a long service life. Each brand and model may have different instructions and maintenance requirements. Incorporate the specifics from your original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The specifications they provide will ensure you are following the appropriate schedules.

Further, consult your OEM manual or equipment expert to ensure you have the correct parts when making repairs. Depending on the specific machine and part, you may need to follow detailed instructions to avoid harming your equipment. A small inaccuracy can be the cause of a costly failure. Keeping track of parts in regular need of maintenance or replacement will also help you keep track of when maintenance or a replacement is due.

4. Keep Accurate Records

Plan for efficiency by recording data about your material handling equipment. Accurate records will give you a plethora of information so you can respond to needs immediately and effectively.

One of the most useful types of data is the data you collect from your inspection routine. Categorize what needs to be done immediately and what you can defer to the future. Information can include hours of operation, type of work being completed and details about ongoing repairs. This data will help you develop a preventative maintenance schedule.

You also have access to information from employees, supervisors, the OEM and experts in equipment maintenance. Record this information in a clear, easy-to-follow way to develop your plan of action.

5. Develop an Effective Maintenance Schedule

Create a system for your material handling equipment’s maintenance. Planning for preventative and predictive maintenance will extend your machines’ useful life.

Scheduling regular downtown for your equipment will increase the value it provides over the long term, so ongoing inspections and service is crucial. Depending on factors such as truck type, the volume of work and the work conditions, you may plan for service intervals as frequent as every 90 days. You can plan this maintenance during non-peak production times by using a preventative schedule.

It may also be beneficial to consult an expert on specific equipment, since professionals are particularly trained to handle maintenance and repairs for your machine model and parts.

Consulting experts knowledgeable on the make and model, as well as implementing any protocols recommended by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) will help you develop an effective system for planning inspections and predictive maintenance. With a predictive maintenance plan, you can calculate your equipment life and better retrofit machinery with the latest technology when most cost-effective.

Save Time and Money With Proper Equipment Care

Effective equipment management and maintenance is one of the most significant ways you can cut costs and increase your workforce’s productivity. By implementing a maintenance schedule, understanding your machines’ inner workings and following the other tips outlined above, you can stretch the usefulness of these costly machines to its fullest.

Megan R. Nichols is a technical writer who specializes in industrial and scientific topics. She regularly contributes to sites like American Machinist, Manufacturing Transformation and Industry Today. Megan also publishes weekly on her personal blog, Schooled By Science. Keep up with Megan by following her on Twitter or subscribing to her blog.

Warehouse Safety Infographic

Here’s a neat infographic about the inherent dangers of working in a warehouse.  This image will show you some stats on warehouse safety measures as well as:

  • Most Accident Prone Areas
  • Top Injuries
  • Forklift Safety Information
  • Pallet Rack Failure Facts
  • and more…

Warehouse Safety

How To Know When Your Forklift Tires Need Replacement

The life of the tire on a forklift is a difficult one. A forklift does not have suspension, so the tires alone are responsible for softening the ride for the cargo and the employee driving the vehicle. Forklift tires will have to traverse over some truly rough terrain at your factory or worksite and on average they will carry more than 9600 pounds at one time. In addition to all of the stopping, turning, reversing and accelerating that the forklift will do, the tires take quite a beating.

This is why it is important to keep a close eye on the tires of your forklift and to replace them when needed. Driving with damaged tires can cause a lot of issues, because the wear on the tires will not be even and will cause the vehicle to become unstable. Also, when the tires are low this means that you run the risk of hitting a dock plate or running into debris on the floor. Furthermore, the damaged tires will contribute to the greater vibration of the forklift, which results in increased driver fatigue and also wears out the forklift faster. The worn out tires will also be more likely to shake and jolt on harder surfaces, which can make the driver lose control or cause the load to become unstable.


Signs of Worn Out Forklift Tires

Driving a forklift with worn out tires is dangerous, so here are some signs to look for that will let you know that you should replace the tires as soon as possible.

  • Take a look at the 50% wear line that is marked just above the tire size. If the top of the tire now meets the wear line, it is time to replace the tires.
  • Examine the surface of the tire. Have pieces of rubber started to fall off? This can be caused by debris and litter on the floor or by the forklift driving over rough surfaces. If chunks of rubber have fallen off the tires, this can cause the forklift to rattle and become unstable when you are driving it.
  • You might also notice tears in the surface of the tires, which is caused by debris on the floor of your workspace or by running the forklift over sharp machinery edges. If you see these, you should also replace the tires.
  • Another sign to look out for are flat spots, which occur when the forklift tires are spun during acceleration or when it performs frequent sharp turns under heavy loads. This can cause the truck to start shaking when it moves.
  • You should also watch out for tires that are under inflated or over inflated, as this can compromise their stability or accelerate the wear. Over inflated tires are more difficult to stop and under inflated tires make it challenging to turn the vehicle.
  • Also, you should keep an eye on the wear of the tire tread. If the tires have started to become bald, this is a sign that they need to be replaced.

If you are concerned about the status of your tires, you can always consult the services of a forklift specialist to take a look at them. They will be able to give you advice on whether or not the tires of your forklift fleet need replacing. If the tires are worn or damaged in any way, they will likely recommend replacement so that the vehicle will not only function better, but also be much safer for you and your employees to drive while you are on the job.

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Aki Hashimoto is a writer who believes that businesses who use heavy machinery and vehicles such as forklift trucks should consider the safety of their staff constantly. By monitoring and replacing forklift tyres when necessary, you will help to improve the safety of your business environment.

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