Forklifts are a common sight in many manufacturing plants and warehouses, but are they necessary? Modern technology allows companies to gain better supervision of plant operations and redesign inventory control procedures based around smaller equipment. By using an ERP software solution, business managers may convert factories, production lines and warehouses to forklift-free areas.

Forklift problems
Occupational Health & Safety Magazine shared the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recent numbers on forklift-related injuries. Each year there are almost 100 fatalities and over 34,000 serious injuries caused by operating the vehicle. Accidents occur due to driver error, rough terrain, poorly balanced loads and general carelessness.

Employees who drive forklifts must be properly trained with an emphasis on following procedures and keeping drivers safe. The amount of care workers must exercise when operating this equipment, however, can be burdensome. Every employee must be aware of when and where the machine performs its duties. Manufacturing routines or warehouse tasks usually halt while the vehicle moves through a space. Safe performance is essential, but it is slow and affects manufacturing productivity.

Forklifts are also expensive. If companies own their machine, they must pay the upfront cost and then continue to contribute to its maintenance. When businesses rent forklifts, they pay large sums to use the equipment daily.

Possible solutions
Forklifts perform vital tasks. Workers use the machines to transport heavy objects across large company spaces. The machines can also reach items stored on very high shelves. Doing away with the equipment may seem like a difficult concept, but there are options.

The Safety Daily Advisor said there are smaller pieces of equipment that manufacturing plants and warehouses can use to perform the same jobs. A company may look into acquiring a tugger, an electric or gas-powered driver that pulls trailers. These tools are more cost-efficient and easier to work around. They are usually much less dangerous. The operators have a better field of vision and the machine is less likely to tip over. Multiple trailers can also move more materials than traditional forklifts, calling for fewer trips. 

Warehouses could also break orders into smaller pieces that employees can transport using non-powered carts. This would require a complete reevaluation of business procedures. Opening distribution up to e-commerce may call for multiple small orders and it could provide the catalyst for new manufacturing and inventory operations.

A scaled-down approach
While tugger and trailers equipment is less expensive than forklifts, converting operations will always be expensive. Reliable Plant said a company needs a complete overview of daily procedures before it implements any new solution.

Using ERP software with data collection solutions like Microsoft Dynamics NAV Add-ons, manufacturing and warehouse workers can report real-time job information and communicate where and when forklifts are put to use. The data may indicate redundant equipment paths, which the company can use to start reducing daily forklift operations.

If a scaled-back approach works, a business can investigate eliminating forklifts all together. A complete data picture displayed in an ERP software solution gives managers insight into current procedures and demonstrates the potential for new ideas.

Managers can read more about new solutions by downloading the White Paper: Warehouse Management for Microsoft Dynamics NAV today.

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