Warehouse and material handling managers continue to face pressure to reduce costs and improve productivity, and making strides in either effort requires quick access to relevant, actionable information. For many companies, investing in an on-the-premises forklift fleet management system requires an IT effort that can sometimes be cost and resource prohibitive.

Cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions have enabled many warehouse and fleet managers to implement a forklift fleet management solution without the typical IT investment required. In addition to the reduced IT investment required, SaaS solutions provide the benefit of always having the latest, most up-to-date software. Forklift fleet management systems are constantly evolving with new features and capabilities, and many internal IT departments are unable to keep on-the-premises-based forklift fleet management systems updated with the latest software.

The forklift is a mobile information technology hub capable of collecting and processing data from products, operators, the environment and other material handling systems. Cloud-based SaaS solutions ensure that managers and operators have access to the latest features and functionality. Data on how and when the forklift operates is enabling warehouse and material handling managers to realize a number of benefits.

For instance, a company specializing in contract packaging for the food and beverage industry uses an operator and fleet management system to make important business decisions regarding its forklift fleet. Relying on a cloud-based system helps to expedite the implementation. Once it activated the cloud-based system and launched the web-based portal, the company conducted two hours of training and made minor changes to the configuration based on operator feedback.

The company also used the fleet utilization data gathered across multiple locations to develop a better understanding of its fleet activity, helping to not only determine the correct number of trucks and operators to deploy across multiple locations and shifts, but also to identify process improvements that will minimize operator distractions resulting in fleet downtime and reduced productivity.

The following are some additional ways companies can benefit from actionable data:

1. Reduced impacts.

It can be a little shocking when you analyze the number of forklift impacts in a typical warehouse. In some warehouses, 50 or more impacts a day are common and considered part of the cost of doing business.

The cause of these impacts may be poor warehouse design, operator competency or other factors. Without forklift fleet management systems, it is difficult for warehouse managers to have the visibility to understand how and when impacts are occurring. 

Forklift fleet management systems provide that visibility by collecting the data to create an accurate picture of how and when the impacts are occurring. Using this data, warehouse managers can identify areas of the warehouse where impacts are most likely to occur and operators that are most likely to be involved. By dealing with these root causes, organizations can potentially achieve a significant reduction in facility and product damage that is caused by impact events.

2. Increased utilization.

Data on forklift utilization can be valuable when evaluating and making decisions on fleet size and purchases. It is quite common that fleet managers find it difficult to report how many forklifts they have operating at any given time and where those forklifts are located. Sometimes the truth can be surprising; trucks that were assumed to be in operation might actually be sitting idle.

When fleet and warehouse managers understand their forklift utilization rates, they can make real decisions about the number and types of forklifts they need. They can even see forklift idle time with an operator present on the forklift. This insight can help managers determine whether it is an issue with operator behavior, the forklifts, training or processes in the operation. The result is a better and more efficient use of the company’s assets.

3. Streamlined compliance.

Every organization has processes in place to ensure compliance, but how well are those processes working and being documented? The data collected as part of a forklift fleet management system can bring increased rigor and oversight to compliance processes. In fact, compliance with OSHA inspections and training and licensing requirements is often the primary goal of forklift fleet management implementation.

Some systems allow managers to control access to the forklift to ensure that only certified operators use the equipment. Managers can limit access to operators with the required certification and training. An electronic inspection checklist can be customized with unique questions to ensure that operators have appropriately inspected the truck to ensure that it is safe to operate. The electronic system documents that the inspection checklist has been completed and the amount of time it took to complete. It then saves this information to provide evidence of compliance to OSHA regulations.

4. Enhanced productivity.

Nearly every warehouse has hidden opportunities to increase productivity. Here are two ways that connected forklifts and the forklift data can lead to measurable productivity gains:

Measuring operator performance through forklift data. The data gathered by forklift fleet management systems can be used to identify the most and least productive operators. Through operator log-ins, important productivity metrics, including average travel and lift times, actual travel and lift times, time stopped and time stopped with no operator, individuals and groups can be measured and benchmarked. With this information, management can encourage behaviors and practices exhibited by the best operators while providing additional support and training for operators who are underperforming.

Measuring operator performance through warehouse management system (WMS) and forklift data. Most warehouses use WMS data to assess operator productivity. While this data can help warehouse managers identify their most productive operators, it has limited ability to provide insights into why these operators are so productive. Some forklift fleet management solutions are able to integrate WMS with forklift data to help explain why some operators are more productive than others. Often times, the higher performing operators are more adept at blending forklift functions or at engaging forks into a pallet, sometimes at elevated heights as high as 40 feet or more.

The pressure to reduce supply chain costs isn’t going away, and there are opportunities in most warehouses to make significant reductions if the right systems are in place to provide management with the information to resolve issues and make better decisions.

Not only is the cloud providing the space for all this valuable data to be stored, but it is also providing fleet and warehouse managers easy access to the latest features and capabilities of the software, so they can use the actionable data to realize significant value and business gains.