October 28, 2017 /

How Forklift Safety Technology Can Save You Hard Dollars

By Scott Walker, I.D. Systems Director, Product Management

Manufacturing and distribution facilities often don’t—or can’t—track the true cost of accidents caused by forklifts and other industrial trucks. But everyone knows it’s a big problem. Trucks are damaged. Racking and bollards are bent out of shape. Product is destroyed. People are hurt.

Many organizations tackle this problem with forklift management technology, like I.D. Systems’ industry-leading PowerFleet® telematics system. Everyone agrees that core features like vehicle access control, safety checklists, and impact sensing will make the workplace safer and reduce the risk of accidents.

But safety is typically a soft cost, hard to quantify.

Here are some of the ways that I.D. Systems’ customers—including many of the world’s leading manufacturing and distribution operations—have actually saved hard dollars with the safety functions of PowerFleet®.

REDUCING FORKLIFT ACCIDENT COSTS

Our customers’ studies have shown that a typical lift truck causes an average of more than $2,000 in damage per year. It’s easy to see why:

  • The cost to repair racking can exceed $1,000 per incident (not even including the time spent emptying the racks, managing the repairs, and reloading the racks).
  • Similarly, repairing a safety bollard can cost more than $1,300 (also not including time spent in the accident investigation and repair processes).
  • Fixing the lift truck itself sometimes costs more than repairing the object it hits!
  • Plus, if there’s an injury involved, costs increase exponentially—due to down time, medical expenses, and legal fees. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that workers’ compensation alone costs U.S. employers $1 billion per week.

At an average annual cost of $2,000 per vehicle, a manufacturing/distribution network of 15 sites with 30-40 vehicles per site can easily incur forklift-related damage costs of over $1 million every year.

But PowerFleet® has proven it can reduce forklift impacts more than 90%.

How?

  1. Automated access control.

PowerFleet® requires employees to log in to industrial trucks electronically. This ensures only trained operators can start and drive specific vehicles. The system can also limit operators to trucks in a specific, assigned area—like shipping and receiving.

Access control enforces safety training policies—and instills a culture of safety accountability. It also makes it easy for management to gain detailed insight into individual operator behavior on the job. No more anonymous damage caused by industrial trucks. In fact, some customers don’t even have to investigate accidents to assign responsibility—they have achieved 100% voluntary reporting by the operators involved

  1. Automated impact sensing and responses.

There are a lot of forklift impact sensors out there, but they are NOT created equal. PowerFleet® has a number of unique and patented capabilities (read the white paper), including:

  • Automatic self-configuration for simple installation
  • Intelligent, dynamic self-adjustments to minimize false alarms—without anyone needing to touch the vehicle or tweak any software settings
  • Real-time impact notifications to management
  • Location tracking to identify where impacts occurred
  • 5 impact severity levels with automatic, configurable responses to each (such as “self-supervising” checklists triggered by “medium” impacts)

These self-supervising checklists force drivers to acknowledge medium impacts and inspect the vehicle—without involving a manager or disrupting productivity.

Many customers find that medium impacts are a key performance indicator (KPI). These types of impacts reflect harsh but avoidable driving behaviors, like speeding over dock plates in shipping/receiving, braking harshly at high speed, or bumping too hard into pallets, racks and equipment. With PowerFleet®, training can be targeted at specific problem drivers and reinforced by the self-supervising checklists.

(Note: other impact sensing systems often fail, in practice, because they need constant manual adjustments and they can only react to an impact—of any severity—by shutting vehicles down. PowerFleet® can also shut vehicles down—on severe impacts only—if the customer wishes.)

With the power of access control and impact management, PowerFleet® customers have been able to:

    • Reduce industrial truck impact events by more than 90%.
    • Reduce the cost of forklift damage by more than 80%
    • Reduce the cost of rack and bollard damage by more than 65%.
    • Reduce the number of forklift-related injuries by changing the safety culture and eliminating complacent, careless driving behaviors.

REDUCING FORKLIFT CHECKLIST COSTS  

Another way the PowerFleet® forklift telematics system saves money is through electronic safety checklists. They make paper checklists obsolete. Which eliminates the cost of paper, printing, and all the labor required to distribute, collect, review, organize and file the paperwork—as well as retrieve records to investigate accidents.

Our customers have pegged the total cost of paper checklists as high as $2.00 per vehicle inspection. For a fleet of 80 industrial trucks at a single site operating two shifts, that translates into over $100,000 in annual cost savings.

Larger fleets running three shifts have saved over $300,000 per year.

REDUCING FORKLIFT MAINTENANCE COSTS

Electronic checklists improve forklift fleet maintenance, too. The PowerFleet® checklist system can notify mechanics (in-house or contracted) to any “critical” or “warning” issues in real time. This enables management to automatically lock out unsafe equipment and ensure emerging problems are fixed quickly—before they cause unplanned breakdowns and vehicle down-time.

 

The flexibility of the PowerFleet® checklist system allows customers to customize questions based on specific issues. For example, one customer experienced a slip-and-fall incident due to a worn-out forklift step. To minimize the chances of a repeat incident, the customer simply added a question to its pre-op checklist that prompted operators inspect the step before climbing into the cab.

PowerFleet® also tracks true vehicle motion time, so preventive maintenance (PM) schedules can be based on activity, not key or calendar time. This eliminates unnecessary PMs on low-use equipment, typically resulting in significantly fewer PMs—and correspondingly lower maintenance costs—for the fleet overall.

In addition, customers can tailor PM schedules with PowerFleet® to address specific recurring maintenance problems. For example, one customer found that hydraulic hoses tended to fail at a higher frequency after 500 hours of vehicle activity. Accordingly, the customer configured PowerFleet® to schedule hose inspections for vehicles approaching that threshold.

Finally, PowerFleet® can ensure PM schedules are met by remotely locking out equipment that is overdue for PM. And the system makes maintenance labor more efficient by identifying the location of equipment on a facility map, so it can be retrieved quickly for required maintenance.

These tools have helped customers reduce overall industrial truck maintenance costs by 2-5% per site.

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