Accurate forklift metrics right at the fingertips

When distribution centres report huge increases in the total number of jobs completed per day, per forklift operator, just by using fleet management systems, there is no denying the impact this technology can have on overall productivity, and the bottom line. The continued uptake of Goscor Lift Truck Company’s fleet management system is proof that fleet owners are now well aware that every fleet detail matters, writes Munesu Shoko.

Traditionally, fleet management in the materials handling equipment sector was all about the location of a particular unit. However, to further improve productivity and reduce costs, the range of application has since evolved very quickly over the years as fleet owners now have cost control in mind.

Companies now use fleet management tools to maximise the value of their fleets and boost their bottom lines. With tough operating and economic conditions putting a strain on already constrained bottom lines, fleet owners know that maximising forklift uptime and efficiency is the foundation to keeping their businesses healthy and growing.

To reaffirm the significance of fleet details in today’s operating environment, the uptake of Goscor Lift Truck Company’s (GLTC’s) fleet management system continues unabated. GLTC, part of the Goscor Group of Companies, is the sole distributor of several internationally renowned brands such as Doosan, Crown, Bendi, Hubtex and BHS Battery Handling Solutions. The Goscor Fleet Management System (GFMS) is a complete forklift fleet management product, which operates via a GPRS network. Data is sent via a corporate APN (Access Point Name), a point where a mobile device can enter an IP network.

“We find that delivering accurate data on fleet performance and all the important parameters of the customer’s operation that speak directly to productivity, total cost of ownership and ultimately the bottom line, is key to the success of customers’ businesses,” says Darryl Shafto, MD of GLTC.

GFM in detail

There are three fundamental goals of the GFMS system: optimisation of fleet productivity, creating professional driver behaviour and monitoring equipment performance, explains John Valentine, national systems manager at GLTC. To optimise fleet productivity, the fleet management system measures the utilisation of forklifts over a predetermined period, providing a “utilisation snapshot” which establishes, among others, the optimum number of forklifts required in an operation.

Valentine reasons that unexpected downtime can be extremely costly as loss of output has a direct, negative impact on revenues. As a result, every fleet owner of capital equipment expects 100% equipment uptime. To increase uptime and maximise production efficiency, monitoring equipment performance on a constant basis is one of the key attributes of the GFMS. This helps prevent engine damage by accurately monitoring overheating, low oil levels, among others, resulting in extended lifecycle of the vehicle and significantly reduced maintenance and running costs.

Valentine says the driver cost is usually the biggest cost on IC machines, followed by fuel, which ranges between 30-40% of total lifecycle costs, but application dependent. Driver performance improvement is said to be quite staggering with the implementation of the GFMS. “Driver performance is a key parameter when it comes to fuel efficiency, which is a key metric in running a profitable business. The system analyses driver behaviour and generates easy-to-read reports to allow for identification of potential areas for fuel savings and optimise accordingly, through driver training, for instance,” explains Valentine.

There are also live alerts/reports from the system indicating which drivers/machines have the greatest incident ratios of excess idle for further interventions. Other features such as rpm, transmission protection and speed limiters also reduce fuel consumption. “In essence, if the desired parameter is exceeded, the machine can be disabled (safely), or an alert sent indicating the guilty party,” says Valentine, adding that the GFMS can show a visible fuel usage graph, and has an Excess Idle Cut Out after three minutes.

There is a general school of thought that one can reduce fuel costs by up to 20-25% through taking advantage of fleet management systems. Valentine agrees, saying that GLTC has found this assertion to be true, and customers have easily achieved 10-25% fuel savings where the interventions/management system is used correctly. “This can translate to a R1 500-R2 500 fuel saving per month, dependant on application,” says Valentine.

Ahead of the curve

According to Shafto, technological evolution, anchored by trends such as automation and Internet of Things, is influencing the supply chain in terms of service provision. Shafto says GLTC is well ahead of the curve in that regard. For instance, apart from solutions such GFMS, GLTC offers APS (Automatic Positioning System) on all its VNA trucks.

“We also offer Access 123, which is patented by one of our principals, Crown, and is already a self-diagnostic real time fault finding instrument. So, I believe we are already ahead of the game and as technology evolves so will the rest keep up with this technology,” he says.

GLTC has also seen a huge uptake in Crown’s fleet management system, InfoLink. With InfoLink, a wireless data management solution, decision makers have access to intuitive dashboards summarising key operator and fleet statistics, including battery usage, impact history, truck utilisation, service needs and more.

It also identifies opportunities for corrective action via laptop or other mobile devices. As a result, managers are fully armed to tackle problems and tap into emerging opportunities as they occur for more efficiency and better cost control.

For these reasons, a leading South African value retailer recently took delivery of 33 Crown lift trucks from GLTC, all fitted with the fleet management system, representing the largest ever InfoLink site in southern Africa. The fleet comprises 25 reach trucks and eight powered pallet trucks.

“We were awarded the tender for 17 x Crown ESR5260-2.0 Super Duty reach trucks with 13 500 mm lift height and a camera system; 8 x Crown ESR5240-1.4 reach trucks with 9 450 mm lift heights; and 8 x Crown WT3020-2.0 Powered pallet trucks,” explains Dale Rosewall, Area Sales Manager, Inland at GLTC.

Rosewall explains some of the reasons why the leading value retailer opted to fit all of its units with the fleet management system. “The InfoLink system will play a major role in the retailer’s operations at this site for various reasons,” he says. “Firstly, being a new site, with new high rise equipment and a large number of new drivers, it is important for them to ensure that they measure driver behaviour. This ensures that they can provide them with the necessary support and training to safely operate the new equipment.”

Rosewall adds that, with the new site, the retailer is pushing the limits when it comes to lift heights. Thus it needed to ensure that its racking is in top condition. “With InfoLink, they get immediate alerts when a machine damages a rack. This allows them to take immediate action to minimise the risk of any further damages,” says Rosewall.

Meanwhile, with the large travel distances at the site, the retailer needed to keep a close eye on machine productivity and efficiency. With InfoLink, the company is able to get the necessary information to ensure that fleet managers can take corrective action to constantly tweak and improve the warehouse operation.

Rosewall says that in this age where technology can assist warehouse operators to save a lot of money, InfoLink is a must-have for many distribution centres. “Globally, Crown has helped customers gain a revolutionary perspective on their fleets by connecting the machines, operators and facilities to create a uniquely integrated and efficient operation. This technology will help the owners of the new DC to reduce their total cost of ownership significantly,” concludes Rosewall.