By TJ Shelters
The nation is facing a debilitating supply chain crunch, and aging forklift and power equipment can’t keep up with the growing demands of most manufacturing and distribution facilities. This is creating a serious problem for facilities managers and operations leaders as they wait in line – for months or even years – to get access to the replacement equipment they desperately need.
More forklift chassis were ordered in 2021 than in any other year in history. This equipment is essential to the services our industry provides – it literally keeps our facilities, and America’s supply chain – running.
But when you combine the rising demand for forklifts with our current shortages in the supply chain – that adds up to a lengthy, headache-inducing wait time for new or refurbished equipment. Current lead times range anywhere from six to 24 months for forklifts and other critical equipment.
And as facility managers wait in line for what they need, they contend with increasing maintenance spend, rental spend, and declining productivity. This is the unfortunate reality we’re facing today in our industry.
However, the news isn’t all bad. I see one big opportunity rising out of this tumultuous waiting game. For facility managers willing and able to take back and see the bigger picture, there’s a way to capitalize on the possibilities afforded here.
For those willing to look at the situation through the lens of power management, there is an obvious workaround to this problem of long equipment lead times.
What most facility leaders don’t realize is that productivity and efficiency in operations, including effective equipment maintenance and management, is always 100% beholden to the ways in which we manage – or fail to manage – our power supply.
Specifically, the life and efficiency of the power we provide to the chassis of our lift trucks directly determines whether our operations stay up and running, and to what extent.
The power-first viewpoint and lens is what facility managers and leaders should be taking to their operations – yet too few are able to step back and see this 30,000 foot view of their facilities. It’s easy, and understandable, to be bogged down in the reactive mindset of dealing with problems as they arise, clinging to old processes for equipment maintenance, and generally hoping for the best. The current demand on our productivity is greater than ever before, and who could blame a facility manager for simply doing their best to keep their head above water?
But when we fail to step back and see the big picture through the lens of a power-first mindset, we miss the whole point.
Without effective, reliable and long-lasting power as the foundation of our equipment, operations and productivity – we don’t have anything at all.
By contrast, those facility managers who are adopting a power-first view of their operations are successfully building resilience and flexibility into their material handling operations. In most cases, they’re not falling prey to endless, protracted wait times – they’re not waiting in line because they never had to get in line in the first place. Their forklifts operate more effectively and smoothly for longer periods because their battery power systems don’t malfunction or require replacement. The battery power-first approach prevents that conundrum from unexpectedly popping up, because they had a plan and a system in place to get out ahead of it.
These facilities are asking themselves critical yet revealing questions like:
- Is our power system working?
- Do we have any forklift operator challenges?
- Does our battery room look ugly?
- Do we get less life later in our equipment life cycle?
- How long do our batteries last?
- Do we have updated charging equipment that is efficient and saving us money?
- Is our organization flexible to peak power demands?
- Does our power equipment last the lifecycle of our forklift equipment?
- Do our operators ever begin their shift on a dead truck?
The answers to these simple and straight forward questions will shed light on power management issues that likely weren’t previously considered but reveal where immediate improvements can be made.
If you’re being asked to wait in line, don’t. Take on a new approach and build a new action plan centered on fortifying and extending your power supply instead. Your operations can’t afford to wait.
TJ Shelters is National Vice President of Sales for Concentric, a provider of DC power management for the material handling and critical power industries. He has spent the last decade helping manufacturers and distributors transform their operations to deliver safer, more sustainable and higher throughput material handling solutions.