An increasing number of companies, particularly in the manufacturing, warehousing and logistics industries, are moving toward a forklift-free environment. Safety concerns and maintenance costs are the primary factors driving this major change in material handling application.
According to a recent study by the Hyster Company, a major manufacturer of forklift trucks, only 6% of end-users know their real forklift maintenance costs and few have implemented programs to reduce those costs. Over the 20-year life of a forklift, 80% of the total costs are operating expenses. Ownership accounts for only 20% of a forklift’s total cost. The Hyster study estimates that American businesses waste more than $1 billion per year in unnecessary material handling operating costs.
Far more expensive are the human loss and liability costs directly tied to forklift injuries each year. Each year, nearly 100 U.S. workers are killed in forklift accidents and another 20,000 seriously injured. Forklift overturns cause 25% of forklift-related deaths. Medical expenses, insurance costs, workmen’s compensation and lost man-hours associated with forklift accidents cost American businesses millions of dollars each year.
According to John Neuman and Larry Tyler, writing in American Machinist, a forklift-free program can have multiple benefits, including:
- reduced inventory,
- improved material flow,
- reduced line-side handling equipment,
- reduced floor space,
- increased cycle efficiency,
- increased floor coordination,
- increased stocking efficiency, and
- decreased operating costs.
On the human side, a forklift-free environment improves investor, worker and public perception of a company’s attention to safety. It improves worker ergonomics, efficiency and production and decreases expensive lost man-hours, medical, insurance and liability costs.
Next time: Implementing a forklift-free program.