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Benchmarking forklift performance

05 March 2015

Consistent use of an independent fleet management system can accurately judge forklift performance, particularly in multi-brand fleets, says I.D. Systems MD for EMEA Alexander Glasmacher.

Comparing different forklift models has always been a little problematic for fleet managers. Forklifts operate in different ways and fleet management systems use varying sensors and metrics, so it’s hard to know if you are comparing apples with apples.

The solution proposed by I.D. Systems is to deploy an independent fleet management system consistently over the full range of MHE and across all sites. This way you can build up data that is measured against the same benchmark.

I.D. Systems’ MD for EMEA Alexander Glasmacher explains: "There are many very good fleet management products in the market, but we see our unique selling point as leveraging our independence to allow fleet managers to benchmark their vehicles and ensure service and maintenance regimes are optimal.”

It is common for end users to multi source MHE in search of better prices and to make use of specialist truck abilities.

Forklifts operate differently. For example, if you take the lift motor, a fleet management system will record both drive and lift time. But with some forklifts, the lift motor also assists the steering, so this will skew the truck’s performance data, making it difficult to compare exactly with other models.

Similarly, fleet management systems often differ with the sensor technologies used and therefore how they are measuring truck performance.

"One system may say a truck has had 1,000 activity hours, and another may say 900 activity hours. It is not that one is right and another wrong, but they may be measuring things differently. The solution is to view forklifts through one independent system. You can then benchmark multiple brands operated at one site or at various sites within the organisation,” says Alexander. 

Deploying an independent system is easier than it has been in the past, he adds.

"Most forklifts have a standardised connection point for our systems. This is factory fitted, and enables us to plug and play our products when we come on site. In many cases, the plug is already there, streamlining the process.”

Solution sell

Alexander says I.D. Systems is seeing a change in the UK market in that customers are becoming more educated about what fleet management can accomplish.

"The most successful sales route is working with the end user, because we sell a solution - the key is not selling the forklift but selling fleet management.”

Fleet managers have identified boosting safety and driving down total cost of ownership as key drivers in deploying fleet management.

"An important functionality in the UK is the pre-ops checklist and we were the first to introduce this. This is a simple idea, but it is a key safety feature that allows fleet managers to ensure access to the trucks is only permitted to trained operators and only trucks that meet maintenance and performance requirements are used,” says Alexander.

He adds that fleet management systems typically pay for themselves quickly, with one example cited where a client reduced impacts and huge repair bills by 40% within four months of installing the equipment.

Do you need real time?

Alexander adds that while it is possible to monitor forklifts in real time, the infrastructure required and the nature of distribution centre and warehouse environments, means the business case typically does not stack up.

"You can monitor in real time, but wireless connectivity in warehouses is difficult, there are usually some dark spots,” Alexander explains. "There are better ways of doing it. You can implement zone-based safety using RFID tags, for example. This can limit the speed trucks can travel at in areas where risks are highest and allow the operator to travel faster in low-risk areas.”

I.D. Systems sells through dealers, through OEM deals and in key accounts with major end user customers.

It has a varied product offering, from didBOX, which is a non-wireless fleet management system for small fleets, to PowerBox and PowerFleet - wireless, high-end offerings for larger fleets.

The fleet management specialist can provide both on-premises and cloud-based solutions, and is ‘connectivity agnostic’, meaning that any wireless technology from cellular to Wi-Fi can be used.

MHE fleet management can be seen as a pioneer in the Internet of Things (IoT), marrying a machinery-based industry with IT. Arguably, the combination of hardware, sensors, connectivity and a strong business case is spearheading a new industrial revolution. Companies like I.D. Systems are in the thick of it.