We’ve talked a lot about forklift safety, driver behavior and accident prevention. We’ve also took closer looks at how these aspects affect your bottom line. For this article however, we explore the complete and thus actual cost of a forklift. An expenditure that makes up a considerable part of any warehousing or logistics site’s TOC. 

A cost, as it seems, that surprisingly few companies have a precise, non-fragmented and all-encompassing understanding of. This while such an understanding is crucial for making substantiated decisions in OpEx reduction, productivity optimization, etc. . 

There’s forklifts and then there’s forklifts

For obvious reasons it’s impossible to present you with a single figure that defines how much your forklift will cost you. Apparent variables being: brand, type, capacity, buy vs rent/lease, region, age, maintenance, active-idle ratio, operator behavior, environmental conditions, … . 

All of these can have a singular, combined and often major effect on how much a forklift will impact  your operational budget. Even within the same brand or propulsion category the price of purchase or maintenance can vary greatly. 

This also regardless of whether that cost is calculated over a year, a month, the lifetime of the forklift or, as one up-trending method recommends: per hour.  

What we can do is list up the known and lesser known items of expenditure that add up to that total and valuable, but in reality often elusive cost. 

The price of purchase

Whether the forklift is a pure purchase or a lease, this cost is the one most easily and precisely defined. Even if this figure can differ greatly between (again) brands, types, propulsion system, new or refurbished, bought or leased, region and capacity. 

Planned maintenance

The second, mostly straight up and identifiable cost. Free of whether it is expended to a dedicated budget or is part of the lease agreement. Besides because of the by now usual suspects as type, brand, propulsion system and region, these costs can also vary as a result of insurance demands, laws and regulations by governing bodies and even more so because of company policy. 

Energy consumption

Regardless of the propulsion system and the sometimes volatile price-fluctuations, this energy comes with a cost. It’s remarkable that most companies have at best an overall picture of what they are paying in diesel or electricity. And in most cases this ‘view’ covers an extended period and the whole fleet of a site. A small but growing number of companies are implementing systems that grant them a precise figure of each forklift energy costs. A trend to foster, since it offers considerable expenditure-saving options and feeds into sustainability policies. 

Unplanned maintenance

This is where things get less predictable real fast. Ideally there should be no such thing. In reality companies can only do their best to preempt or mitigate a myriad of factors causing the need for unplanned service calls. These factors range from cowboy driver behavior, to accidents, surface bump impacts or forklifts just getting (way too) old. Also, not all planned maintenance gets actually done, done correctly or made up for when missed … ultimately leading to an increase of unplanned maintenance instances. 

Replacement parts

In some cases the cost of replacement parts (and installing them) fits into planned maintenance and is as such foreseeable. In too many other cases replacement parts feature into an escalated unplanned maintenance or mechanical intervention. Even one such event can significantly impact the overall cost of a forklift, even when seen over the whole of its lifecycle. 

Renting a replacement   

This is often the ultimate and most expensive escalation of unplanned maintenance. The alternative often being lost time for operators, falling behind on the production schedule, creating bottlenecks in the workflow. Even more dangerous is having other operators exceeding their workload and safety limits to compensate for the machine that’s temporarily out of commission. And all of these alternatives can run up a dramatically higher charge than a replacement rent. 

Resale value

Not strictly a cost but definitely a consideration when exploring the money spent and returned by a forklift. This is where the combination of brand, rigorous maintenance, driver behavior and possibly environmental factors, can make a compelling case for improving on each of these. 

Interested in a better understanding of planned and unplanned forklift maintenance costs and how to lower them? Check out part II 

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