Hidden Costs of Forklift Ownership
When you are purchasing a piece of equipment is being purchased, you obtain competitive quotes, verify specifications and generate a purchase order. For that matter, just about anything we purchase goes through the same process. However, there is much more to purchasing forklifts and other equipment. We have found, over the years, that often there are variables that can greatly affect the total cost of ownership of anything, be it an automobile, forklift or a giant cargo container.
The price you pay for your piece of equipment, by most accounts, reflects about 10% of the total ownership costs of that piece of equipment. This leaves 90% of your total costs up in the air. Depending on many variables, you could pay much more for the equipment than you needed to, or much less. These variables include:
Performance and Reliability of Equipment – Comparing cost per hour to operate can give you a good idea of what competing pieces of equipment will cost you over their useful life. When comparing cost per hour to operate, you should be sure you’re comparing similar models under similar circumstances. A lift truck operating 1500 hours a year for a Styrofoam manufacturer will cost far less over its lifetime than the same lift truck operating at a recycling facility. This cost should reflect general maintenance requirements as well as fuel costs.
Fuel Consumption – While this is often a part of performance and cost per hour, knowing the fuel costs for each comparing brand and calculating total costs over the life of the equipment can sometimes be quite an eye-opener. In addition, what are your fuel alternatives? Can you use electric models? Thinking outside the box may result in lower costs to power your forklift and other lift equipment.
Specifications vs. Operations – It is rare that two 5,000-lb-capacity forklifts from competing brands will have similar specifications. Knowing what your facility will accommodate and comparing that with each model will give you insight into how each model will perform, given your operating parameters. Factors include: aisle width vs. turn radius, decline/include vs. draw bar pull, suspension and ergonomics compared to your floor condition, indoor/outdoor use and ceiling height/rack height vs. max lift height. You will also want to compare features between brands to ensure that each lift truck model is equipped with the proper components to meet your operational requirements. For example: Can it operate properly inside your ice cream freezer?
Ergonomics – A comfortable and smooth-running piece of equipment will provide you with increased productivity. These are latent costs hidden in equipment that are quite real in daily operating conditions. How much time and energy/investment does each brand put into the comfort and ease of use of their equipment? One strategy is to rent out each piece for a week or so and get the input of your operators. They’re not shy about telling you which model they prefer to be operating. While this should never be your only factor, it should have relevant weight in your decision-making process. Happy, comfortable operators are simply more productive.
Safety – Never underestimate the safety features of your equipment. Once incident can make the difference between a lower-cost model’s price tag and the cost of an injury. What equipment is being specified and what equipment is optional from each manufacturer is very important to know. Reducing your accident costs or product/facility damage can make a big difference in your total fleet operational expenses.
Useful Life – Finally, what can you expect from each mode in terms of hours until the cost to operate becomes too high and the unit needs to be replaced? This can vary widely depending upon brand and model. But having some qualitative and quantitative information on hand, if possible, will help you make a better decision about the total cost of operating each unit/model.
There are many factors beyond price tag or lease rate that can help you make good decisions about the equipment you purchase. Having a partner that listens, evaluates and fulfills your needs is essential in building a fleet that is most productive and less costly in the long run.