A Maintenance Manager’s Ultimate Guide to Forklift Maintenance
Did you know that some corporate managers value forklift downtime cost at thousands of dollars per minute? That’s right, not per hour – per minute! Proper forklift maintenance can help prevent such costly downtime.
Are you in charge of maintaining forklifts or handling downtime in your workplace? Then we’ve put together some info we think you’ll like: an easy to use guide on creating a forklift maintenance plan.
Getting started: safety is a maintenance priority
First, we have to consider workplace safety as a cornerstone of maintenance. Safety tasks are often closely related to the best maintenance practices.
Guidelines and regulations regarding occupational health and safety are set by an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Health And Safety Administration (OSHA, imagine that!) and they have set quite a few forklift maintenance regulations.
In fact, studies performed by OSHA have shown a 20-40% reduction in costs after implementing safety plans. Other authorities, like H.W. Heinrich, have shown a 4:1 return on investment when safety is made a priority in the workplace.
There are too many rules for us to dive into in one blog post (and you kind of need a law degree to interpret much of the OSHA website) so we decided to map out OSHA’s most important requirements below in a brief but insightful overview.
We’re aware that these checks may seem silly to operators, but in reality, the checks take about 3 minutes (if that) to perform and result in a safer operating environment and lower maintenance costs.
Do this while the forklift is off.
Check your fluid levels (i.e., fuel, water, hydraulic) – Low fluid levels can cause machine malfunctions, like forks not raising properly or brakes not working, which can cause some pretty nasty accidents.
Look for visible damage. See something? Tell your manager – Reporting visible damage can end up saving you from larger repairs in the future.
Check tire condition and pressure – Damaged tires with low pressure will cause your forklift to not function as safely or as effectively as it could.
Forks must be in good condition – Operating poorly maintained forks can cause serious damage to the machine and can cause loads to slip or worse, injuries to employees.
Inspection stickers and decals must be in the right place and legible – This is an OSHA requirement and ensures you can quickly identify a forklift.
Ensure the operator’s compartment is clean and free of debris – A dirty compartment can cause accidents (i.e. slipping on an old water bottle).
Safety devices (i.e., seat belt, finger guards) must be working – People first. Safety equipment is there for a reason, keep it in good condition!
Additional daily checks are required depending on the type of forklift(s). Perform these tests while the truck is off.
Type 1 – Electric forklifts (batteries power electric forklifts)
Make sure no cables are frayed
Check the battery restraints
Electrolytes must be at proper levels (wear personal protective equipment like rubber gloves, apron, and face shield when checking electrolytes) – Electrolytes allow energy to flow between the truck and battery. If they aren’t at proper levels, your lifts performance will suffer (or it just won’t run).
The hood latch should be secure – You don’t want a hood flying open and causing accidents. You also want to keep the hood secured to prevent debris/damage to the engine and all the other parts under there.
Type 2 – Internal combustion forklifts
Check engine oil and engine coolant – The engine is one of the most expensive parts on a forklift and keeping fluid at the right levels keeps the engine healthy.
Check the brake fluid
Belts and hoses must be in good shape
The radiator and air filter should also be in good shape
The hood latch should be secure
Type 3 – Liquid propane forklifts
Make sure the propane tank is properly mounted and secured
Check for any tank damage/leaks – Look for white frost or a funky smell! You might also hear a hissing noise if there’s a leak.
The pressure relief valve should be pointing up – This ensures the tank is aligned properly with the truck; it prevents spraying accidents and also makes sure most of the LP gets used up
Hoses and belts should be in good shape
All forklift types require the same driving checklist. Do this while the forklift is on.
Make sure your steering, accelerator, and brakes work
Check that your gears work (forward and reverse)
Make sure the lift works (tilt and hoist)
Check that the horn, lights, and backup alarm work
Creating a forklift maintenance plan
Now that we’ve got the forklift safety basics out of the way, let’s move on to something more robust. Creating a forklift maintenance plan is something that will benefit your business for years to come.
Like any other asset, forklifts need a proper preventive maintenance plan to ensure your company achieves its best bottom-line.
1. Consider the circumstances
The first step in creating a forklift maintenance plan is to consider what should be inspected and how often. These considerations will help you create a plan of action for the future. Ask yourself the following:
How old are your forklifts? – Older lifts often require more frequent maintenance.
Have they been serviced appropriately in the past and is there a record of service? – This also helps in determining what the maintenance schedule should look like for a particular forklift.
What are the safety requirements for your forklifts? Refer to the above info. – Safety checks and requirements should be built into your maintenance plan.
Is the machine susceptible to damage (like alignment issues)? – If so, you might want to consider adding extra checks to maintenance dates.
Are there colleagues or supervisors that could assist you in putting together the best plan? – If so, reach out to them and note their advice.
2. Create a forklift maintenance schedule
Now that you know what you’ve got to look out for, you can successfully begin to create a schedule for forklift maintenance. Preventive maintenance can save a company thousands, if not millions of dollars per year. Consider the following questions while you’re piecing together the appropriate schedule.
What type of forklifts do you have? Internal combustion, propane, or electric?
What are the recommended preventive maintenance checks (refer to the list above)?
Which tasks will you perform? Which tasks do you want to outsource?
How often will these tasks need to be completed?
Seem like a lot of work? Here is a list of common maintenance checks to jump-start your forklift maintenance plan.
These checks are a great starting point for your preventive forklift maintenance plan. You can add or adjust the requirements on these checklists based on your collected knowledge of your company’s forklifts.
A few extra tips for saving money with forklift maintenance
Some of the most valuable lessons learned in forklift maintenance come from personal experience. Below are a few of our experiences and best-practices.
Make sure your operators know what they’re doing.
Having well-trained operators is the best way to avoid expenses accrued from human error. OSHA’s got some tips on how to implement a training program.
Change the tires regularly and watch for tire damage.
Bad tires can cause accidents and add costs. Avoid unnecessary mishaps like five pallets of the product being knocked over because an operator’s tires were too worn to break-in time. That will cost your company thousands of dollars. Plus, crappy tires can increase your fuel costs.
Don’t run into things.
Keep your facility clean. Make sure there’s plenty of space for trucks to get around and make sure there are rules and regulations in place for operating the trucks including right-of-way for multiple vehicles. Preventing accidents is the best way to avoid added costs and unexpected maintenance.
Use qualified and licensed technicians.
The person changing tires should be licensed to do that; the person repairing an LPG tank should be licensed to do so. What good is all the preventive planning if the repairs are crap?
Keep your forklifts CLEAN.
Wash em’ down (seriously!) so you can see what’s broken or damaged and what’s ready to go. It only takes a couple of minutes to wash a truck with water (not flammable liquids). Dirty vehicles make it hard to spot damage. Letting dirt/grease pile up on your forks can damage the forks, as well as their operational mechanisms.
Streamline a process for dealing with corrective maintenance.
Make sure you can document an issue, tag it, get it to the repair shop, and ensure that it’s repaired efficiently. Streamlining will save everyone time, money, and headaches. If you’d like, you can implement a software program to do this for you. Our software can streamline the entire forklift maintenance process.
Forklift safety is an excellent way to keep your maintenance costs at bay. It’s clear that implementing daily inspection checks and long-term forklift maintenance plans will save your company both time and money, as well as from unexpected accidents!
What are your personal experiences with forklift maintenance? Do you have any stories? Let us know in the comments below!
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