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Forklifts: The invisible lubricant that makes industry flow

I’ve been thinking again, this time about how the forklift truck is the nearly invisible lubricant that makes industry flow - and just how little that’s appreciated even by the people who use them.


Let’s take your office chair as an example and consider how it came to be there ready to sit in. Looking back down the supply chain, chances are a forklift was used to load it on to the truck that delivered it to your office. Another forklift unloaded it when it was delivered to the store where you bought it, and it was a forklift that loaded the chair out from the distribution warehouse.


How did it get into the warehouse? Yep, that’s right – delivered by a truck that was loaded by a forklift which probably unloaded the truck that brought it from the furniture factory where it was loaded out by yet another forklift….


Beginning to see the pattern here? And of course the same pattern exists for all the individual components that the factory used to make the chair and for the raw materials that were used to manufacture those components by other suppliers such as steel for frames, plastics for castors and so on and so on.


The really interesting thing about this is that in almost all businesses the forklift is pretty much under the management radar, only becoming visible when production stops because the forklift isn’t going. If this happens often enough to become a problem someone takes notice and looks at update options.


This is where it can get really interesting. Even when it's essential to the operation of the business a forklift is mostly still a “grudge purchase” and the resulting decision is often cheapest option rather than best solution for the task. All too often the cheap option such as used instead of new or a “cheap” lease rate just leads to ongoing problems.


The answer is quite simple – match the investment to the task. If it’s an hour a day in the back store then used may be fine. If its flat out for 8 hours a shift think again and go new and spec’d for the job. Oh, and make sure you get it serviced regularly (just like your car!) And if you’ve leased a forklift or a fleet of forklifts make sure the supplier has enough in the deal to give you the customer service you need.


As I said at the start, forklifts are an industrial lubricant so make sure you’re using the best quality oil for the job - after all you wouldn’t put drain the oil out of a lawn mower and put it in a Porsche would you?


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