Steel King Announces Durable, Engineered Drive-In Pallet Rack Systems

Allows users to store up to 75% more pallets than with selective pallet racking

Drive in racking, Steel King

Steel King Industries, Inc., a leading manufacturer of material handling products and systems for improving operational efficiency, announces the availability of its Drive-In Rack Systems. Drive-In and Drive-Through Racking delivers cost-effective storage in high-density storage applications.

Requiring fewer aisles and providing better cube utilization than selective racks, drive-in and drive-thru racking allows users to store up to 75% more pallets than with selective racking. Forklifts drive directly into the rack, allowing storage of two or more pallets deep. Flared drive-in support rails helps forklift drivers enter the pallet rack by guiding the pallet into the bay. A Drive-In pallet rack system uses the same entry and exit point for each storage bay, providing last in, first out (LIFO) access. A Drive-Thru pallet rack system is loaded on one side and unloaded from the other for first in, first out flow (FIFO).

Drive in racking, Steel King

Because they are often used in high turnover areas and operated in close proximity to forklift traffic, drive-in, and drive-thru racks are subject to greater wear and tear than other rack structures. Steel King’s drive-in rack system is engineered and manufactured to better stand up to this wear, making it the market leader among drive-in racking systems.

Steel King’s drive-in racking features unlimited storage depth and is ideal for high-traffic and cooler/freezer installations. Additionally, Steel King offers an optional offset leg design for easier handling of pallets. The welded frame construction delivers high rigidity and strength, while other optional features, like protective railings and seismic-safe designs, deliver even greater safety and stability in demanding applications.

Advantages:

  • Maximum pallet storage
  • Virtually unlimited depth of storage
  • Limited aisles, resulting in more efficient use of space
  • Load rails constructed of durable structural angle steel
  • Flared rail entry ends allow easy bay access
  • Space saver, low-profile arms
  • Custom-designed for your pallets & forklifts
  • Cost-effective storage strategy
  • Welded aisle-side load arms and rail stops

For more information about Steel King and Drive-In Rack Systems, visit https://www.steelking.com/products/drive-in-drive-through-rack/

Walk This Way: Pedestrian Safety In Forklift Operations

Forklift warning lights

Every year, more than 68,400 forklift accidents take place in the United States. Far too many of them injure pedestrians. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report reveals that nearly 20 percent of all forklift accidents involve pedestrians being struck by the forklifts. With proper awareness and pedestrian safety training, the rate of accidents can be significantly reduced.

Having formal forklift training is an OSHA requirement. While OSHA does not specially address forklift pedestrian training, the OSHA General Duty Clause instructs companies to take all the precautionary steps to protect all employees. This includes ensuring that workers who are exposed to forklifts and lift trucks in operation receive the instruction necessary to preserve their safety on the job.

Very often, warehouse managers do not realize the significance of training pedestrians exposed to any kind of lifting operation. When the pedestrian is ignorant of basic safety precautions around lift trucks, the chances of an accident involving the forklift and pedestrian increase.

Common Forklift/Pedestrian Accident Situations

Following are two common situations accidents involving pedestrians and forklifts take place:
Pedestrian Came Too Close To Lift Trucks  There is no way a collision involving a pedestrian can take place if the pedestrian does not come within close proximity of a forklift. Maintaining at least a 4-foot safety zone is highly recommended when the forklift is running. This precaution can lessen the risk of the lift truck driving over the pedestrian’s foot.

But the actual safety zone can be much longer than just 4 feet. In the employee or pedestrian awareness programs, companies should let the pedestrians know that the back end of lift trucks can swing very quickly to the side. Normally, forklifts that come with elevated forks necessitate proportionately higher safety clearance. The horizontal length of a load is another important consideration. A long load like a 20-foot long lumber package will need a proper safety clearance especially when the lift truck turns.
Pedestrian Did Not Notice The Lift Truck In Operation  In many cases, pedestrians don’t see the lift truck in operation. Blind corners and varying degrees of intersections can be reasons for not seeing the lift truck. So, pedestrians should be aware of those to be safe from accidents. Pedestrians may not hear the lift truck in operation as different power sources of forklifts determine the sound generated in operation. For instance, electric battery powered lift trucks can be very quiet, the internal combustion lift trucks can be very loud. So, if not well-aware of different sounds generated by different forklifts, a pedestrian might equate a lack of noise with the absence of a lift truck in operation.

Ways To Increase Pedestrian Safety In Forklift Operations

The frequency of forklift accidents involving pedestrians can be significantly reduced by providing awareness training, using the right safety equipment and better traffic management.

Training and Awareness for Pedestrians  Proper pedestrian awareness and training should not take much time and effort. First of all, pedestrians need to be aware of the fact that lift trucks can suddenly appear around blind corners. The training can work as a reminder to the pedestrian to stop, listen and look carefully when working or staying around the blind corners. Pedestrians should always expect the sudden appearance of a lift truck.

Before crossing a forklift’s path, a pedestrian must maintain eye contact with the forklift driver. When the eye contact is not possible or difficult like when crossing the path behind the forklift, giving the driver a verbal alert is mandatory. Alertness and communication are crucial. When crossing behind a forklift that may back up, be sure to make verbal communication with the operator before crossing, or to wait at a safe distance until it has finished backing up.

Other important safety rules that need to be included in pedestrian training and awareness programs include never riding on a forklift truck unless the vehicle is specially designed to accommodate a passenger, keeping clear of a forklift and loading swing radius. Never walk under a load.

Traffic Management  Safety professionals recommend the creation of separate routes for pedestrians made easily noticeable through painted lines and signage. Having physical barriers to keep forklifts from entering pedestrian-only routes can be a very effective solution. If having physical barriers is difficult or not possible, avoiding forklift use in areas with high levels of pedestrian activity can be a good solution. Having and maintaining safety rules for both pedestrians and lift trucks are very important.

Safety Equipment  Safety best practices dictate that pedestrians should wear a highly visible vest step for improving visibility. Having and using forklift truck horns, adding warning lights, or travel alarms are good measures as well. The use of convex mirrors at intersections can improve pedestrian safety by providing the pedestrians with better chances of seeing the forklifts in operation.

Conclusion

While the training of forklift operators is mandatory, facility operators are also required to protect the safety of pedestrians who traverse in proximity to material handling equipment. Take care to consider the safety of pedestrians who might not be obvious such as sales, maintenance or clerical personnel, supplier representatives or contractors working at the site.

Note: The information provided above is intended only to provide general guidance. For specific regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction, please contact a local safety professional or appropriate compliance professional. 

Forklift Safety Tips Infographic

A forklift is an essential piece of equipment in any warehouse, distribution center or factory. Without it, it would be nearly impossible to efficiently move heavy objects in these environments. The strength and versatility of lift trucks certainly make life easier for the people who work in most industrial settings. However, the power that forklifts provide must be used with a great deal of responsibility.

Because forklifts are heavy machines designed for lifting and carrying large and bulky loads, the potential for danger is high. In fact, nearly 20,000 people are injured each year as a result of accidents involving forklifts. The good news is most, if not all, of these injuries can be prevented.

Knowing how to operate a forklift safely is critically important for any worker who uses one. Operators must be aware of their surroundings, loads and behaviors. For example, they must never allow anyone to stand or ride on the blades of the lift. It’s also crucial that they always check underneath the forks before lowering their cargo.

Take a look at this infographic for vital safety tips to remember when operating a forklift. Share it with your team to remind them about their responsibilities when they’re behind the wheel of a lift truck.

Download the Equipment Depot Forklift Safety Infographic

 

Infographic created by Equipment Depot

Forklift safety a high priority this Christmas

Businesses which use forklifts are being warned to lift their game as the retail sector moves to stock stores in time for Christmas following a number of tragic incidents in recent months.

SafeWork NSW Executive Director Tony Williams said rushing to get goods out the door, poor safety systems and fatigue with workers on the job for more hours are all factors which can lead to tragedy.

“The lead up to the holiday season is the busiest time of the year in distribution centres, warehouses and loading docks and we have too many incidents under active investigation involving forklifts,” Mr Williams said.

“In one incident a 41-year old lost his life having been crushed when his forklift overturned, and in another incident a 27-year old female factory worker suffered massive internal injuries to her abdomen when a forklift crashed into equipment she was operating. In yet another case a 29-year old male required surgery to a foot after the forklift struck him.

“SafeWork inspectors visited more than 180 businesses in March this year and it was disappointing to see more than 90 Improvement Notices handed out for unsafe work practices.”

From July 2014 to July 2016, more than 1,300 workers were injured in forklift incidents costing the NSW workers compensation system more than $30 million. Tragically this also included three fatalities.

SafeWork recommends a number of simple steps employers and workers could take to make this Christmas season a safe one:

  • Employers must ensure that only licenced workers operate the forklift and that they are used only for their intended purpose.
  • Physical fences or barriers or clearly defined walkways should be in place to ensure a separation as the two don’t mix.
  • Forklift speeds should be kept as low as possible which can be achieved by fitting speed limiters or sensors which automatically adjust the forklift’s speed.
  • Workers should never be lifted on the forklift tynes or on pallets – they should only be lifted with a forklift truck in an approved work box.
  • And when parking a forklift, make sure the brakes are on, that it is turned off and key removed.

For further information on forklift safety, visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au

Steel King Announces Products to Extend the Life of Rack Systems

Safety and protection products guard against forklift damage and protect rack system investment

Steel Guard racking protector from Steel King

Guard Dawg, Steel King

Guard Dawg from Steel King

Steel King Industries, Inc., a leading manufacturer of material handling systems for improving operational efficiency, announces the availability of several products that can help reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of rack systems. The company’s safety and protection rack enforcement products include: Snap-Guard® and Column Core®, and its guardrail products include: Steel Guard®, Armor Guard®, Guard Dawg®, and Mega Guard®. By utilizing these products, companies can protect the investment made in pallet rack systems and ensure safe usage over time.

Steel King’s SK Snap-Guard is an adjustable rack column protector for boltless racks that protects the upright rack column from forklift damage. Snap-Guard is constructed of structural angle and features an exclusive 4-rivet connection that automatically locks into the upright column. Adjustable, removable and flexible, Snap-Guard can be used to protect each storage level.

Column Core is a unique C-shaped column reinforcement that doubles the impact resistance of Steel King’s SK2000 boltless pallet rack. With Column Core, the boltless pallet rack system retains full beam adjustability but reduced puncturing, buckling, and torsional twisting without additional installation costs.

The Steel Guard and Armor Guard guard rails protect people, products, and the physical plant from collisions. They feature a modular design that makes expansion or relocation easy, and effectively separate workstations and walkways from shop traffic. The guardrail systems feature universal posts with connection holes on three sides for added design flexibility.

With a bright industrial yellow paint finish and anchored to the floor, Guard Dawg is a highly visible and effective end-of-aisle protector for the prevention of fork truck-incurred damage. Its low-profile rack protection design makes it ideal for use at intersections and along high traffic routes.

Steel King’s Mega Guard is an all welded steel protector designed to help keep forklift trucks and other in-plant vehicles from damaging facilities and equipment, all while protecting employees. Mega Guard acts as both a visual and physical barrier against costly damage, downtime, and injury.

Steel King also carries a full line of safety accessories including Safety Gates, which can be ordered as part of a new installation or retrofitted into an existing system. The gates are self-closing and include a hinge assembly on one side of the gate and two gate stops on the opposite side, for hanging in either direction.

For more information on safety and protection products, visit www.steelking.com.

How much is your pallet rack really costing you?

Hint: It may be more than the initial purchase cost

Steel King racking

When shopping for pallet rack, buyers may find options in the market that, on the surface, seem quite similar, but a savvy buyer will find that with all that is riding on a pallet rack decision, doing one’s homework up front can pay dividends in the end. From the warehouse environment to the steel gauge to the “recipe” of the steel itself, the true cost of a pallet rack over the life of the system can be difficult to determine.

While the dimensions of the rack components certainly contribute to a rack’s capacity rating, many factors can adversely affect its performance and long-term cost. “It is all about price – pay upon initial purchase or pay much more later to upgrade a sub-standard system to meet requirements,” according to Raymond Weber, Eastern Regional Manager at Steel King.

The dimensions and gauge of steel are not the only measures of rack quality. When comparing two seemingly identical rack systems, for example, 3-inch columns of the same gauge of steel, there can be profound capacity differences that can lead to frequent repair/replace situations.

Rack structure considerations:

  • How much bracing is designed into the system? Inadequate bracing will affect both capacity and impact resistance.
  • How much weld surface connects your uprights and braces? Frames are only as impact resistant as the welds that hold them.
  • Are upright columns a fully closed tube design or the common open-back configuration? A closed tubular column can withstand far more impact.

“Steel King’s SK2000 roll-form pallet rack system is designed with a closed tubular design throughout – uprights, beams and bracing, giving the rack a 250% increase in front-impact strength and 68% increase in the side-impact strength when compared to common open-back systems,” according to Weber.

“This leads to a reduction in damage in the event of a collision and a far less likelihood of rack collapse and product loss or worker harm,” Weber adds.

Once a load-bearing component of a rack has been damaged, its capacity is reduced, increasing risk. Since replacement parts and labor often cost far more than parts in the original rack system, a lower-cost rack will often require large investments in maintenance and repair. And it’s not just the cost of the repair itself.

“Workflow disruption and downtime during rack replacement is a cost that few companies take into account when assessing the cost of the rack, but it’s a very quantifiable budget item,” says Weber.

Quality of steel

Not all steel is alike, and there can be considerable differences in strength. Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, with the flexibility of having other elements “alloyed” into it. Steel made in the U.S. is carefully regulated and will have mill certification that it’s been manufactured using the correct mix of metals for optimal performance. Imported steel does not carry that same certification and assurance, and can often contain other elements or contaminants that diminish strength.

Special applications – cold storage and seismic zones

While all rack applications run the risk of collision or improper loading, some warehouse environments cause even greater wear and tear on rack systems.

Cold storage applications can be particularly brutal. Food and pharmaceutical inventories are time-sensitive. Products are moved through and the stock is rotating far more frequently than other products, making these facilities high traffic areas.

To reduce the cost of refrigeration, facilities opt for denser product storage, and fork trucks have to navigate narrower aisles, increasing the chance of collisions.

Cold storage facilities are harsh work environments for workers as well. Bundled in cold- weather gear, drivers operating in 0-55°F facilities are often in a hurry to get in and get out, which can also affect their level of precision. In addition, the slippery conditions of blast freezers can contribute to the vulnerability of racking.

Seismic zones

Since a pallet rack is classified as a building element, it, therefore, must be permitted as such. Increasingly, building codes require that pallet racks meet seismic standards. In practical terms, this means that pallet rack systems must be strong and durable enough to withstand seismic forces.

Pallet rack systems built from “stock” components often do not meet these rigorous building codes. High-quality racking can be customized and built to meet the load rating capacity to withstand tremors. Thoroughly researching the applicable codes and permitting requirements in your municipality ahead of time can save a lot of cost and headache.

Retrofitting a budget system to bring it up to code is not advised. The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) warns against adding products from one manufacturer to the rack of another, “Mixing of products from various manufacturers may cause fit and/or function issues and may void the original equipment warranty. The beam-to-column connection properties are of vital importance in the proper structural analysis of the rack system.”

Avoiding unseen costs

When evaluating the purchase of a pallet rack system, it’s important to look for the hidden costs that can dramatically increase the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over the lifetime of the rack. Making sure that the purchased system can endure the environment for which it’s intended can far exceed the initial investment in terms of safety, maintenance and operation costs.

Since forklift impact is inevitable and underreported, rack systems should be inspected regularly, and maintenance performed promptly, in order to mitigate dangers and keep large-scale maintenance costs low.

A reputable rack design firm will also take into consideration the storage environment and workflow. By installing options such as oversized base plates, reinforced columns where rack may be impact-susceptible, a majority of serious damage can be prevented upfront.

An investment in post protectors, end of row guards, safety guard rail, or other accessories will also contribute to the long-term durability and cost savings of your pallet rack system.

“Ultimately, even though they may cost more up front, pallet rack systems that are built better from the beginning can save on costs throughout the lifetime of a pallet rack system,” says Weber.

 

Steel King is the nation’s only single-source manufacturer of pallet racks, drive-in rack, flow rack, pushback rack, pick modules, mezzanines, cantilever racks, portable racks, industrial containers, custom shipping racks, and industrial safety guard railing.

Source: Steel King

The Benefits of Pallet Flow Racks

Any warehouse or distribution centre with limited floor space that needs high density storage or automatic rotation of inventory on a first-in, first-out (FIFO) basis can benefit by implementing pallet flow storage racks.

However, achieving the full performance capabilities of this type of rack system requires careful planning and implementation. When this is done properly, pallet flow systems can be the warehouse manager’s best friend; without it, the system may underperform expectations.

Simply defined, this type of racking system is designed so that when the pallet in front is removed by a forklift, the pallets behind gently “flow” forward to replace it. Inclined tracks, rollers, and brakes – with an assist from gravity – are used to accomplish this task.

New inventory is then loaded at the back end of the rack, facilitating FIFO product rotation, which is particularly valuable for items with expiration dates.

In this type of “dynamic” racking approach, goods can be stored 3, 10, even 20 pallets deep and on multiple levels. This eliminates the need for wide aisles between every row of traditional “static” rack required for forklift access and maneuverability.

By storing more palletized goods in less space, facility managers can dramatically increase the amount of inventory in a specific warehouse footprint or, on the flip side, reduce the amount of space required for new warehouse construction.

“Compared to traditional fixed racking, a high density pallet flow system can essentially cut the required square footage for a warehouse in half,” says Ryan Wachsmuth, Dynamic Storage Sales Manager at Steel King Industries (www.steelking.com), a designer and manufacturer of warehouse material handling, storage and safety products with a national dealer network. “The savings can be significant in terms of reduced property and building costs.”

There are substantial logistical benefits to using a dynamic rack system as well.

Pallet flow rack can drastically reduce the labor required to pick pallets, because a forklift is only needed for initial loading of the pallets as well as final unloading. With static racks, forklifts must travel further down aisles and often must spend time rearranging inventory to access the correct items.

When a large number of pallets with a single product SKU are routinely loaded into trucks, locating the pallet flow rack near the loading dock can also minimize the distance that forklifts travel to as little as 20 feet each way, which speeds material handling.

Even pallets with varied SKUs that are being shipped to the same location can be located near each other to further speed truck loading.

Designing to Meet Specific Requirements

Although the concept of a pallet flow rack may seem straightforward, installing a system that optimally meets a specific warehouse’s requirements takes some planning and collaboration with the vendor.

“Many people think you can take pallet flow rack off the shelf and ship it out the door,” says Wachsmuth. “But, it must be designed to accommodate your specific requirements: pallet types, pallet weights, forklift capacity, facility layout and any other restrictions.”

According to Wachsmuth, some racking distributors are willing to supply a price quote without fully understanding the requirements of the application.

“Not every vendor asks questions to find out what the user needs,” says Wachsmuth.

The process ideally begins by understanding the facility’s dimensions, obstructions, types of inventory and forklifts, as well as truck loading and shipping requirements.

“It is vital to build the flow rack to take advantage of your warehouse’s full height, width, depth, and floor plan,” says Wachsmuth. “Obstructions like low ceilings or the location of sprinklers, building columns, doors, lights, and vents must be built around.”

It is also important to consider the brand, lift height, and weight capacity of the forklifts used at the facility. In general, a forklift’s lift and push/pull capabilities diminish the higher it raises a pallet.

“A forklift can cost as much as $100,000,” says Wachsmuth. “So you want to be sure your new pallet flow racks work with the ones you have, or you could have to acquire new forklifts.”

In terms of tailoring a pallet flow system to an application, it is necessary to plan for efficient flow storage, loading/unloading, and transport.

“Forklift travel distance can be minimized with proper pallet flow planning,” says Wachsmuth. “You don’t have to travel hundreds of feet to pick a pallet. If you install it the pallet flow rack in the ideal location, you may only have to travel twenty feet to pick a pallet. When you return, the next pallet is waiting. This minimizes labor as well as speeds loading and unloading.”

Similar planning should be applied to storage depth. Just because the system can be designed 20 pallets deep, doesn’t mean it should be. Instead, it should be designed and grouped to simplify loading/unloading, as well as optimal product rotation.

Even some aspects that might seem like smaller details, such as the type of pallet, are important because they affect how pallets “flow” in the system.

“There are too many types of pallets with different dimensions today and it could affect the type, and cost, of the pallet flow rack required,” says Wachsmuth. “So, it’s not enough to design on the assumption that a standard 40” or 48” pallet will be used. If the actual pallet has different dimensions, it could increase costs significantly.”

With all the aspects that must be considered to get the best results from your flow rack, Wachsmuth adds that it can be helpful to work with a vendor that provides one point of contact for planning, coordination, answering questions, troubleshooting, and resolving any issues. This is far simpler than interacting with a separate pallet flow manufacturer, rack manufacturer, as well as dealer and installer.

“Given sufficient planning and coordination, pallet flow rack can be one of the most space efficient and cost effective forms of material handling for warehouses and distributors,” concludes Wachsmuth.

Source: Steel King

FORKLIFTS – Lease Vs Buy: What is Best for Your Business?

The decision whether to purchase, lease or rent forklifts depends on the particulars of the application and company preferences.

Forklifts are expensive. In fact, next to employees, they could be your largest expense. Your job is to look for ways to measure those costs accurately and reduce them.  With financial tools becoming more and more sophisticated and material handling equipment (forklifts) becoming increasingly complex it might be time to rethink the way you “purchase” your machines.  Is there a way to reduce the costs of your material handling equipment through leasing?

In a perfect world, if a forklift were idle the cost of it would be zero; if working, the cost of a forklift would be like paying an employee, e.g., $10/hour. Tie the COST to the WORK. Pay for USE. Essentially, that is what leasing or renting should do. Or at least it should get you closer to that ideal.  

Renting a forklift

Renting and leasing are almost the same. Rentals are usually short term, a few weeks or months. One advantage to renting is that you can experiment with a machine.  If you are not sure of the dealer’s response time to breakdowns, rent something for a few months and see how they respond to mechanical issues.  That experience can help you assess their capabilities.  Not sure if this “different” machine will be more productive?  Rent it for a few months and measure it against your existing forklifts.  Want to try a new method of picking?  Set up a temporary model and rent the appropriate equipment.  Use rentals to test your hypotheses.  

Peak periods are another reason to rent. Perhaps from September to December, you build up your business for the Christmas rush. To match this volume increase over this short term you may need to increase your fleet of forklifts. Return the rentals in December and save the cost of those machines for the next three-quarters of the year. Renting equipment increases your flexibility.

Renting is usually more expensive.  The extra cost of a unit pays for the machines that sit idle but available (in the dealer’s warehouse waiting to be rented).  Another reason rentals cost more is because the cost of maintenance is included in the monthly rental fee.  

The biggest difference between leasing and renting is that, when renting, you probably lose the option to purchase the machine.  A rental machine usually must be returned to the dealer.        

Leasing a forklift

Monthly leasing payments can vary from place to place. On an average, you may have to pay around $600 per month to have a forklift that cost around $25k. Monthly lease payment can be around $1100 for a forklift that costs around $50k. (That does not usually include the cost of maintenance.)

Positives Of Leasing

  • Lower Initial Costs: You can acquire an expensive machine without paying 100% of the cost upfront.
  • Increased Productivity: New machines every 3-5 years will ensure that downtime is reduced and the forklifts should be working at peak efficiency.  As labor is your highest cost it is important to get the most out of your employees. (Cost of labor is $10+/hour vs $1+/hour for your forklift).  Good tools should make more efficient workers.   
  • Cost Closely Matches Use: By spreading the cost out over 3-5 years the work done with the forklift matches the monthly lease and maintenance costs to get that work done.  It should help with budgeting.
  • Testing As You Purchase: Leasing allows you to test the machine without committing to a purchase.  Use the forklift for 3-5 years and, if it works reliably, and isn’t too well used, there is a provision to purchase it at the end of lease term.  Or return it.
  • Always Have The Latest Technology Updated Equipment:  With leasing, you get the opportunity to replace the forklift with the latest technology, updating your equipment at regular intervals. This is a strategy to keep technologically competitive in the marketplace and increase the performance of your business.
  • Tax-Advantage: In most states in the U.S. leasing is a 100% tax deductible operational expense. (Check your own state or provincial tax rules.)
  • Maintenance Cost Can Be Part Of Monthly Lease Price: It is common for the leasing company or dealer to offer maintenance packages to add to the lease payment.  This added cost will depend on the environment (e.g. cold storage maintenance costs are higher). The benefit is that you can account for it by paying one price per month.

Negatives of Leasing

  • Higher Long-term Cost: If you decide to exercise your option to purchase at the end of a term you may ultimately pay more than financing the initial purchase price of the machine. You are paying a premium (like an insurance policy) for the option of sending it back with no obligation. The dealer is taking on that risk.
  • Penalty for Over Use – the lease usually includes a clause to cover the number of hours that you intend to put on the machine. Like a car lease, if you go over that, there is a penalty. (Sometimes, if you stay with the manufacturer that penalty can be negotiated or covered in the new lease.)   
  • You Don’t Have An Asset: When you purchase a forklift outright, you can use it to borrow against, resell it, etc. But in the case of leasing, you can’t sell because you are not the owner of the machine.
  • The Possibility Of Poor Maintenance Service By The Leasing Company: As the maintenance is often up to the dealer/manufacturer or the leasing company, it may prove to be difficult to get things fixed in a timely manner. Before leasing, it is important to do your due diligence – understand the supplier’s capabilities and reputation, investigate references, etc. It may require you to include a spare machine in the contract to cover unintended downtime.

 

Buying A Forklift

Depending on your requirements purchasing could make more sense than leasing/renting. If for example, you need a machine to work one hour a week, leasing might not make sense. Purchase a used machine. Likewise, purchasing might be the best option if: 

  • there is no intention of changing the use and a machine will last 20 years
  • you have the cash to purchase, or you need the asset on your books as capital equipment
  • your bank has this inexpensive line of credit for you to use
  • or your owner simply prefers to own all capital equipment.

 Each company has their own unique policies and ways of looking at this decision.

Final Decision: Rent, Lease or Buy

More and more companies, including the majority of the Fortune Five Hundred in North America, are leasing forklifts instead of purchasing. From a budgeting standpoint, it is important to match costs with revenues. From a productivity standpoint, turning over your fleet every five years means you have newer and, therefore, more reliable machines.   Bringing in rental equipment when the demand is temporary could make good economic sense.  Leasing gives you the opportunity to keep up with new technology.  In this rapidly changing world, sometimes there is a need to retract your business.  Leasing could accommodate that.  If there is a need to radically change the way you are doing things, leasing might accommodate that.  

Every company has different needs. However, if you are not leasing now, and you have a fleet of machines, I would encourage you to consider this option. Purchasing might still be your best option but to be sure work through the benefits of leasing.

At least that’s my two cents.

 

Dan Beer has consulted on material handling and warehouse equipment along with related safety programs for 30 + years, serving companies including  Amazon, Starbucks, and Best Buy, among others. Dan can be contacted at danwbeer@gmail.com.  

 

When Online Forklift Training Makes Sense and When It Doesn’t

Wikimedia Commons: Practical training: Senior Airman Marie Zieman, 403rd Civil Engineers Squadron emergency management specialist, guides Tech. Sgt. Emile Babin through a series of forklift operations during October 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

Online or e-learning for forklift training can be beneficial for the classroom portion of the instruction delivery. Here are pros and cons to consider.

According to OSHA requirements, a forklift operator must be at least 18 years old, as well as trained and certified in order to drive a forklift without the direct supervision of a qualified trainer. In addition, lift trucks can only be operated when authorized by your employer.

Forklift operators must be trained in forklift operation, general safety and equipment management procedures. Typically, employers arrange mandatory training for their employees either in their own facility, at a training provider location or online. Individuals interested in obtaining a forklift operator job may undertake training from a training provider on their own to improve their chance of being hired for a forklift operator position. 

It is important to note that OSHA makes the rules but it neither provides training nor certifies operators. Also, it does not approve or accredit training programs. There are many online forklift operator training programs available from which to choose.  When selecting a training option, one important question to ask is “When Does Online Forklift Training Make Sense?”

When Online Forklift Training Makes Sense

  1. When you are just talking about the classroom portion of the instruction. OSHA forklift training requirements include formal (classroom) instructions, practical training and finally the evaluation of operator’s performance. So, clearly, the second and third requirements can’t be fulfilled by an online course.  Formal instructions, however, can be effectively delivered through e-learning.
  2. When you can’t afford to spare a qualified operator to provide the training. When volume spikes or unplanned absenteeism get entered into the equation, all too often the scheduled trainees can report to work for training but be left without a trainer. Online instruction eliminates this risk of lost training hours. 
  3. When there is uncertainty as to when the time will be available to do the training. On demand e-learning courses can be undertaken as time permits. Training can be undertaken anytime.
  4. When the qualified operator who performs your practical training and evaluation isn’t comfortable providing classroom instruction. Some operators make excellent practical trainers but aren’t cut out for the formal instruction aspect.
  5. When there are available computer stations to accommodate trainees. Obviously, without terminals and an adequate Internet connection, e-learning is a poor idea.

When Online Forklift Training Does Not Make Sense

There are a number of situations, however, where online training might not be the best solution. These include:

  1. When your intent is to provide practical hands-on training and evaluation of operator performance. Online instruction is only permitted for formal instructions.
  2. When you believe it is more beneficial to have your practical trainer spend the additional time with trainees to get to know them better before they get aboard a forklift during the practical portion of training.
  3. When you are looking for opportunities for employee growth and development. Organizing and delivering the classroom forklift training content can provide a useful teaching and mentoring experience for the trainer.
  4. When you are looking for every opportunity to instill the company’s values. If the trainees are new hires, it can be worthwhile to have the formal training done by a trusted employee rather than an online service.
  5. When you are at risk of IT problems such as slow internet connection.
  6. When you cannot justify the expenditure on computer stations to allow online learning, or when the online training cannot be run without risk of interruptions while it is session due to the location of the computer stations.

Conclusion

Online forklift training can be a good option to cover the classroom requirements for forklift operation. Online courses from reputable providers are designed to be thorough and engaging. They may be visually appealing, and interactive. They provide the opportunity for the trainee to work at his or her own pace, and of course, the results of training are recorded to aid in your training recordkeeping. To reiterate, however, practical, hands-on training and evaluation of operator performance must take place in the operating environment and include instruction on dealing with site specific risks that would be beyond the scope of an online course.

Forklift Battery Handling And Maintenance Best Practices

Forklift batteries cost $1,500 to $5,000 a piece. So, not giving importance to the proper maintenance might result in great financial loss or higher operating expenses in your business. Nearly all lead-acid forklift batteries provide approximately 2,000 charge cycles. This means a battery normally lasts around 5 years. But to have the maximum service life of a forklift battery, you need to take proper care of it. Without proper maintenance, your forklift battery may not even last 5 years. You can expect to use a battery longer than 5 years if you strictly follow the forklift battery handling and maintenance best practices.

Following are some useful battery maintenance and handling best practices and tips that you should follow:

1. Charge the Battery the Proper Way

People tend to charge forklift batteries whenever they feel convenient, known as “opportunity charging.” But this is a poor practice as forklift batteries should be charged only to certain degrees and at certain times. You should charge the battery until it is full every time it dips below 30 percent charge. It is important to note that both undercharging and overcharging a forklift battery can considerably lessen its life span. The best way to charge is having a fixed charge cycle and not interrupting the cycle. Never charge a forklift battery twice a day as it can cut its service life in half.

2. Regularly Equalize the Batteries

You must regularly equalize wet or flooded cell batteries. When the battery acid gets more concentrated at the bottom of the battery, the equalizing process reverses the chemical stratification. Acid and water stratification make it harder for the battery to hold a charge. Proper equalizing eliminates sulfate crystals from the plates of the battery and rebalances the electrolyte concentration. Equalizing is possible only when a battery charger has an equalizing setting. While maintenance specifications can vary from battery to battery, most batteries require equalizing almost every 5 to 10 charging cycles. Make sure you check the specifications before initiating the equalization process.

3. Frequently Check Fluid Levels

To work properly, forklift batteries require the perfect amount of water. Every 5 charge cycles, open up the battery to check the fluid levels. Check 2 to 3 battery cells and make sure that there is sufficient fluid to cover up the plastic element of the battery. In case if you are not sure checking only 2-3 cells, check all the cells and be sure about the fluid level. If you find that there is not sufficient fluid, you need to add water.

4. Maintain Correct Water Levels

Roughly every 10 charge cycles, you need to check the water level and add water to maintain right water level. Just top off the fluid in the battery and add sufficient water to cover the plastic element protector of the battery.

Just like not adding water when needed is harmful, adding extra water can be equally harmful. It is important to note that maintenance-free batteries are required to be topped off. Make sure you top off the battery only when it is fully charged. Adding water before charging the battery is a common mistake. Between 5 and 7 on the pH scale is the recommended limits for impurities. Remember, putting impure water into the battery can lead to damage of the battery.

5. Keep Forklift Batteries at a Safe Temperature

The temperature not exceeding 45℃ (113℉) is regarded as safe temperature to keep forklift batteries. For optimal cooking, try to ensure enough air circulation in and around the battery compartment. Charging a battery in extreme heat or cold can damage the battery and its service life. If you want to be 100% sure about the perfect temperature to keep and charge the battery, contact the manufacturer because the temperature can vary from battery to battery and model to model.

6. Have A Separate Battery Room

Having a designated area for charging the forklift battery is an OSHA-recommended best practice. Keep the room well ventilated. Make sure there is no open flame or smoking near batteries.

7. Move the Batteries the Right Away

As forklift batteries are quite heavy, do not allow a single person to move a forklift battery. Use special equipment such as walkie pallet jack equipped with a transfer carriage to move the battery.

8. Clean The Battery

At least once a month clean the battery with battery cleaner or warm water. Not cleaning the battery can cause faster self-discharge, voltage tracking, tray corrosion and even affect the electronics within the forklift. Some manufacturers waive the warranty if they find forklift batteries unclear.

9. Never Forget Worker Safety

It is recommended that the workers wear steel toe work boots to ensure their safety while handling a forklift battery. Having necessary arrangements for eye and hand washing nearby too are recommended to avoid health risks of the workers. Workers must wear chemical-resistant gears as well. Lead-acid battery cells contain a large volume of sulfuric acid, which can be the reason for serious chemical burns on human skin.

10. Miscellaneous

Never keep any metal objects on batteries as batteries are electrically live all the time. Metal objects can catch electricity and cause accidents. Always allow the battery enough time to cool before recharge or discharge. Never add acid or any other solutions to the battery. And never allow unauthorized representatives to service the battery. To prevent arcs and sparks, always turn off the charger before disconnecting the battery.