«An enterprise fleet management solution is giving lift truck owners tangible benefits in time savings, lower maintenance and operating costs, fewer ...»
The Tales Lift Trucks Tell
An enterprise fleet management solution is giving
lift truck owners tangible benefits in time savings,
lower maintenance and operating costs, fewer
vehicle impacts and more pallets moved per hour.
Joe LaFergola, manager of business and information solutions
The Raymond Corporation
©2012 The Raymond Corporation ITRG-1002
It’s easy to understand why lift truck fleets can be difficult to optimize. A large operation may have dozens of trucks serving multiple parts of a warehouse or distribution center, all of which may be driven by different operators on different shifts and possibly serviced by different technicians.
Traditionally, fleet owners had to rely on manual reports from operators and service personnel for data on fleet performance and costs.
Even when collected consistently and accurately — not easy in itself — that data was cumbersome to analyze for trends or clues to fleet improvement.
Today, managers can look to the lift trucks themselves for data on a variety of critical operating parameters. From their desktops, managers can use an electronic enterprise fleet management solution to assist in supervising their lift truck fleet and operators.
Lift trucks automatically and wirelessly send operating data to a central server, where the fleet manager can easily review and analyze.
Furthermore, the fleet manager can send instructions to the trucks, such as changes to travel speed and lift acceleration to suit the abilities of specific operators.
Through the iWarehouse® fleet optimization system from The Raymond Corporation, formally launched in the market in 2009, lift trucks are telling tales that help owners achieve real and measurable benefits in time savings, lower maintenance and operating costs,
incident prevention, and fleet rightsizing. Benefits documented by fleet owners in a variety of distribution industry sectors include:
Time savings of up to 15 minutes per truck, per shift, by electrically completing and storing preshift vehicle checklists.
Up to 88 percent reduction in vehicle impacts (such as with racking, walls or other trucks).
Annual maintenance cost savings exceeding 10 percent.
Savings of $90,000 in one year through reduction in peak-season truck rentals.
Straight to the source As warehouse management systems (WMS) began to tie warehousing operations together, lift trucks initially stood apart as a missing link. Even though their performance ultimately drove material throughput, they worked essentially as islands.
Of course, lift truck operators could carry electronic clipboards that feed orderpicking data to the WMS, but essential information about the trucks themselves — such as mechanical condition, hours of service, maintenance status and battery state of charge — remained locked away on-board.
The iWarehouse enterprise fleet optimization solution brought lift trucks into the electronic loop for the first time, creating new and powerful ways of using information to improve warehouse performance. In the hands of skilled managers, the data from iWarehouse
has helped fleet owners:
Diagnose potential service issues remotely, preventing costly failures and unplanned downtime.
Maintain a centralized view of all operations to ensure faster compliance with regulations; automating and digitally archiving OSHA-required operator checklists.
Benchmark and compare multiple sites’ performance and develop best practices.
Integrate the system easily with trucks from any manufacturer through an open architecture.
Simple evolution The seeds of the iWarehouse technology were planted with the advent of the on-board vehicle manager, an electronic “brain” that controls the various lift truck functions. This system constantly monitors multiple functions and issues alert codes that simplify diagnostics and repair. From there, it was a natural step to access the vehicle manager data remotely, so warehouse personnel would not have to physically collect it by going from truck to truck.
In the past, vehicle management systems extracted data from the truck by using a variety of wires and sensors, and the process was time-consuming and costly. Raymond addressed this challenge through its iPort® connection that enabled a communications device to be plugged directly into the vehicle manager to export the data wirelessly to a central databank. This elegant method of connectivity saves on average three hours of installation and provides a more rich set of data. The data travels on a third-party, open-standard, commercial communication network, which means there is no separate wireless infrastructure for the user to install, support or service.
Information is reliably accurate because it comes directly from the truck operating system. Data is transmitted at one-second intervals, essentially enabling real-time monitoring. The information is available not just to warehouse management, but also to anyone in the organization to whom it might have value. For example, maintenance technicians, service technicians and operators all can review the information when making fleet decisions. A service center dispatcher can use alert codes and lift truck data to help ensure that service is completed on the first call.
A regional warehouse manager can use fleet information to compare one facility with another for benchmarking, while a national organization can generate a fleet overview across multiple regions. The ability to monitor fleets regionally or nationally aids in decisions on truck replacement, fleet rightsizing, employee staffing and budgeting.
Suite of tools
The iWarehouse system consists of a suite of software modules, each with a specific set of functions:
iAlert® monitors fleet health and alerts technicians to equipment issues.
iMetrics® provides data for monitoring truck performance and optimizing the fleet.
iControl® adjusts truck performance to fit operators’ skill levels.
iVerify® ensures proper operator access and the completion of OSHA-required preshift inspections.
iImpact® immediately detects and reports lift truck incidents.
iBattery™ monitors indicators of battery condition and helps extend battery life.
Proof in performance A key benefit of the iWarehouse system is that it enables fleet managers to quantify improvements in performance. Here are just a few examples that show how the system delivers tangible benefits — immediate and long-term — to distribution center operators.
Streamlines checklist process The iVerify module speeds up the process of completing daily OSHA vehicle checklists. It also prevents unauthorized parties from operating trucks and acts as a “lockout/tagout” against using the truck if the inspection finds a critical deficiency.
One major big-box retailer did a time study with the module at a southeastern U.S. distribution center and found that the electronic checklist saved 15 minutes per truck. It took 17 minutes for operators to complete a paper-based checklist, carry it to the office and return to work, while the iVerify checklist took an average of two minutes, and the completed checklist was instantly and electronically filed.
Saving 15 minutes per truck has substantial value. Assuming that a truck moves 16 pallet loads per hour, an extra 15 minutes of production means four more loads moved per shift, or 12 more loads moved per day in a three-shift operation. If an eight-hour shift typically includes six deadman hours (time when the operator is actually on the truck), then an extra 15 minutes amounts to 4.2 percent more productive time per shift.
Helps supervisors reduce vehicle impacts
On lift truck incidents specifically, a household goods retail chain in the northeastern United States reported that lift truck impacts cost $6,000 per episode, even apart from any injury or damage to the truck, racking or product. This includes the costs of company-required post-incident drug and alcohol testing, transporting the employee to and from the testing site, and paying the employee while on leave pending test results.
The experience of Masters Gallery Foods, a supplier of cheese products in Plymouth, Wis., shows how the iImpact module can help minimize such impacts and associated damage. In 2009, the company increased its lift truck fleet from 12 to 19 lift trucks and enlarged its main warehouse from 40,000 to 110,000 square feet. That required 50 lift truck operators, many newly hired, at work during three daily shifts. As a top priority, warehouse managers wanted to limit damage to the racking, products and lift trucks. They asked operators to report impacts immediately so repairs could be made and causes investigated. However, operators did not always do so.
“Eventually, lift trucks would require premature maintenance to hoses or wheels as a result of impacts,” says Dan Murphy, warehouse manager. “We needed to find out when impacts were occurring, so we could assess the cause and determine if additional operator training was required, or if something in the facility was contributing to incidents.” The iImpact module provided a solution. It indicates impacts with a horn, light or buzzer as a tool to help operators modify their behavior. It also immediately sends an email alert to a supervisor when an impact occurs.
©2012 The Raymond Corporation ITRG-1002 4 The company programmed the system to provide notice of all impacts, including those judged to be low-level. The system reports the g-force of the impact so supervisors can quickly determine severity. That helps the company promote safe operating practices.
“In our first full month of using iWarehouse, we experienced a total of 45 alerts,” Murphy says. “We provided additional training for the operators involved. Five months later, we reduced the number of alerts to five.
Data helps in rightsizing fleets
The iMetrics module continuously records deadman hours, travel hours and lift hours. These seemingly simple data points can tell a great deal about fleet performance. For example, they help in assessing trucks’ fitness for the applications they are performing.
A properly applied, stand-up counterbalanced lift truck should record roughly one hour of lift for each seven deadman hours (14 percent lift time). Shorter lift time indicates the truck is being used for horizontal transport rather than for lifting and putting away packages in racking. Here, a less costly truck such as a pallet jack could be substituted.
The tool also helps assess operator productivity. For instance, deadman hours less the sum of travel and lift reveals idle time.
This figure can help identify less productive operators, who may need more skills training or who could be redeployed to other work.
Most important, the module can help determine how many trucks the operation truly needs. The data easily reveals how many trucks are used simultaneously during a day or a shift. It may show, for example, that while a warehouse runs 50 trucks, only 40 are consistently in use, while the others record only a few hours or minutes per shift. This would point to an opportunity to downsize.
One third-party logistics (3PL) provider in the Southwest saved $90,000 in the first year using iMetrics when the data showed the company did not need the extra trucks it had been renting for the peak season. In fact, it showed that the site needed just nine trucks instead of the 12 it owned. When opening a new branch, the company moved those three surplus trucks to the new site, saving some $100,000 on new truck purchases — on top of operating cost savings at the original site.
Finally, by recording key hours, the program can calculate how many hours the truck is left on while the operator is not on-board (key hours less deadman hours). Excess key hours waste relatively small but still meaningful amounts of energy.
Alerts enable fast, reliable fixes Through the iAlert module, the truck automatically emails a service provider when the on-board diagnostic system detects a fault.
The alert includes essential information — such as truck model, serial number, fault code, battery state of charge and time of the fault — so the service technician responds with the tools and spare parts needed to make an efficient, first-time repair. This frees warehouse personnel from looking up truck data and phoning for service, and more important, it detects issues before a truck fails, which typically cause unplanned downtime, lost production and greater repair cost.
Romark Logistics, a 3PL provider offering warehousing, packaging and transportation services from seven U.S. locations, has used iMetrics since 2009 to help manage its fleet of 53 lift trucks in its Pennsylvania warehouse. The company received ongoing service and maintenance for its fleet from Pengate Handling Systems, the local Raymond Sales and Service Center.
Ryan Ziegler, director of facilities management for Romark, says the iAlert module helps streamline service by notifying the on-site Pengate technician when scheduled maintenance is due and when a truck may have an impending issue. If necessary, the technician can send a notification back to the iWarehouse monitor on the truck if the operator needs to take the truck to the shop for service.
©2012 The Raymond Corporation ITRG-1002 5 Trucks adjust to fit the operator Many electric lift trucks allow owners to set operational parameters manually for each unit, such as by restricting travel and lift speeds to assist new operators as they train and gain experience. The iControl module lets owners change settings remotely, so when the operator logs on, the truck automatically adjusts to fit his or her skills.