KION North America | Page 11

Forklift Maintenance Checklist

Unsafe forklift operations are one of the biggest safety hazards in warehouses. Whether due to improper training or lack of maintenance, forklifts can cause damage, injury, or even death when used improperly. That’s why regular maintenance and operational checks of forklifts are extremely important. OSHA requires that forklifts be inspected daily. In order to create a safe warehouse, make sure you look for these issues when conducting a pre-operational inspection:

Firstly, perform visual checks

  • Tire condition and pressure
  • Visible spills or leaks, including underneath the forklift and near hoses
  • Obvious signs of damage, such as cracks or other visible defects
  • Condition of gauges
  • Safety decals and nameplates are visible and legible
  • Examine the forks for signs of damage and appropriate height and thickness
  • For electric forklifts, there are no exposed or fraying wires

Next, conduct physical checks

  • Brakes and steering controls are operating properly
  • Safety devices like seat belt and horn are functional
  • Other operations and controls are working

And lastly, check liquid levels

  • Fuel
  • Brake fluid
  • Hydraulic fluid
  • Engine oil coolant

In addition to pre-operational checks, forklifts should undergo further inspection and maintenance based on days, months, or hours of operation. The following are the best practices for conducting more comprehensive maintenance checks:

Conduct forklift maintenance or service in safe conditions

  • Area of service is clean and free of clutter
  • Forklift engine is off and battery disconnected
  • Emergency brakes are set and wheels are blocked

After making sure the area is clean, begin servicing the vehicle

  • Change engine oil based on manufacturer’s specifications
  • Replace air filters
  • Examine brakes and replace brake fluid
  • Examine the cooling system, checking radiator hoses and clamps
  • Replace tires if damaged
  • Inspect chains and other parts for rust, damage, or misalignment

Protect your warehouse and employees by following these simple steps for forklift maintenance. This checklist is just a starting point for conducting appropriate forklift maintenance inspections. Read the manufacturer’s manual, look at OSHA’s guidelines, and contact professionals when servicing your forklift in order to prevent damage and injuries. In doing so, your warehouse can enjoy a safe and productive year in 2017.

Caring for Your Forklift Battery

In order to get the best possible use out of a forklift, it is necessary to practice proper maintenance so that it lives a long, productive life. One of the keys to helping your forklift live a long life is to care for its battery. A well-maintained battery should last a number of years, meaning you should get good use out of the forklift for that long. Here are a few steps for caring for the battery to help keep your forklift running for years to come.

Charge properly

Correctly charging a forklift battery is one of the most important factors when it comes to ensuring its longevity. You do not charge the battery when it is convenient for you or the opportunity happens to present itself. Charging a forklift battery drains its life cycle, and charging when you feel like it can reduce a battery’s lifespan significantly. The battery should only be charged at certain times and to a certain extent. It is recommended that you only charge a forklift battery at the end of an 8-hour work day or once the charge goes below 30%. Do not allow the battery to totally die before charging, as it could take up to three days for the battery to reach full charge. If you follow correct charging practices, your forklift’s lifespan should reach 5 years. OSHA recommends that users find and designate a battery-charging area. The area should be well-ventilated and neither too hot nor too cold.

Consistently check fluid levels

In order to work properly, batteries need to have the right amount of water. Most experts recommend you should check fluid levels every five to ten uses. If fluid levels need to be topped off, fill until the water covers the plastic element protector. Be careful not to overfill, as this can cause damage during the next run. Only cover the element protector by about ¼ of an inch. If fluid is running low, only fill with water after the battery has been charged, not before.

Practice safe storing and handling

As in all aspects of the warehouse, safety is extremely important when it comes to caring for and handling a forklift battery. While batteries can handle extreme environments, using and storing the forklift in harsh temperatures, especially extreme heat, can diminish battery life. The battery needs to have plenty of air circulating around it to ensure it cools properly and does not overheat. Batteries are designed to be safe, but as battery acid can be very dangerous, it is important to practice safety and caution when working with or handling a forklift battery. Be sure to wear protective gear, and take the recommended safety precautions.

Even the most effective and recommended batteries require proper care and maintenance in order to function to the best of their abilities. By following these steps, you can ensure that you are getting the most out of your forklift’s battery, helping make operations in your warehouse as productive and efficient as possible. Read our Forklift Maintenance Checklist for even more tips to improve your operation.

2017 Warehouse Safety Checklist

The new year is upon us, which means a chance to start fresh when it comes to proper warehouse safety practices. Creating a safe warehouse is one of the keys to running an efficient and productive operation. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. Use these warehouse safety tips to make 2017 a safe and productive year in the warehouse.

Training

Perhaps the most important aspect of warehouse safety is proper training. Forklift operators should be properly trained for the specific vehicle they will be using. Supervisors should regularly monitor and assess operators and provide refresher training if they witness any issues.

Training does not only apply to forklift operators, but the entire staff of a warehouse. Managers should outline the safety standards for the warehouse as a whole, fostering an environment that puts safety above all else.

Training is not a one-and-done system. Regular safety checks and training sessions should be performed throughout the year. As a warehouse grows, evolves, and acquires new equipment or systems, so should its training methods.

Maintenance

Safe maintenance applies to a number of areas in the warehouse. Firstly, there’s machinery. All forklifts and trucks should receive routine maintenance and service, as well as pre-checks before each use. If any issues are found, do not use the machine and have it serviced as quickly as possible.

Maintenance also applies to maintaining a clean, organized environment. Warehouse aisles should be clear of any clutter, debris, or spills to allow easy access and maneuvering for both employees and forklifts.

Operations

Safe operations in the warehouse depend in many ways on proper training. Forklift operators and employees working in fields that require special training should only operate the systems or models they have been trained to use.

Safe operations also depend on signage and the appropriate safety measures in place. Emergency exits and routes are clearly marked, stairs are accompanied by hand railings, areas where employees could fall more than four feet are roped off, and employees use the necessary safety equipment, such as hard hats, gloves, and protective eyewear footwear.

Supervision

The final key to creating a safe warehouse is competent, regular supervision. Managers and supervisors are responsible for catching and remedying any unsafe practices employees may be performing, ensuring that only the best practices are being used throughout the warehouse. And of course, supervisors should be trained and familiar with all of the safety practices put in place in the warehouse.

Warehouse safety is about informing, educating, and communicating. These steps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to warehouse safety. OSHA provides detailed checklists for a range of warehouse safety measures, which can be found here. Follow these tips to get the ball rolling on warehouse safety for the new year.

Best Safety Boots for Manufacturers

When you think about safety in the warehouse, protecting your feet may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But with all of the heavy lifting that goes on in warehouses, your feet can be injured very easily. Thankfully, there are different varieties of safety boots made to keep your feet from harm. The following information on different kinds of safety boots can help you decide which pair is the best for your manufacturing needs:

Steel-toed

Steel-toed boots are one of the most common types of safety footwear, especially in the warehouse. The toe area is capped with steel to prevent injury or harm to the toes. Steel is also generally recommended over other kinds of safety-toed shoe materials, like aluminum or plastic.

Metal instep

Footwear with metal insteps protects the foot from all outward injuries. Metal insteps are especially helpful for protecting against sharp objects like nails or glass, keeping them from penetrating the shoe and reaching the foot. This type of safety footwear is also especially helpful in large industrial warehouses.

Steel insole

Steel insoles can be inserted into the a boot to help prevent joint problems and strain. Steel insoles are more common for those already suffering from joint issues and for employees’ whose jobs put strain on their joints. Those who operate heavy machinery with pedals may find comfort from putting steel insoles in their boots.

Metatarsal

Shoes with metatarsal protection are also known as drop hazards because they protect the upper part of the foot, meaning they are especially helpful in preventing damage from falling equipment or objects. This type of footwear protects the toe area as well.  

Electric hazard

Electrical hazard boots have special soles designed to help reduce the potential of employees getting shocked from high voltage circuits and electricity. Employees that work around circuits, high voltage machines, and wiring should wear these protective boots. Electric hazards are extremely common and can lead to serious injury, even death. 

Following appropriate safety procedures is essential to the safety and productivity of a warehouse. Remember that safety procedures go beyond what your employer or supervisor mandates, and that you need to look out for yourself as well.

When to Retire Your Forklift

Forklifts are invaluable pieces of machinery necessary for the efficiency of any warehouse. A good forklift can last up up to around 10,000-20,000 hours without needing major repairs, but unfortunately these machines do not last forever. When a forklift has exceeded its economic life, meaning the cost of operation exceeds the value it provides, or the forklift has become unsafe to operate, the forklift is ready to be replaced. Waiting too long to retire a forklift can cost organizations considerable money. Here are a few signs that indicate it’s time for your forklift to retire.

Increased Maintenance Costs

As mentioned above, if the cost of maintaining a forklift has become higher than the value of its performance, it’s time to trade the lift in. Think about a forklift like you would a car- if making repairs or maintenance costs more than the value of the car, you know its time is over. Small repairs will be necessary after the first few thousand miles and several years, and major repairs are typical once the lift reaches about 10,000 hours.

Hours

Keep track of the number of hours your forklift is in operation. When the lift has exceeded 10,000 hours, you may want to pay attention to how it’s performing and keep an eye out for any issues. It would also be a good time to look into options for your next lift. Once a lift reaches 20,000 hours, retirement and replacement should be a priority. However, these numbers will vary based on the intensity of the lift’s usage.

Decreased Productivity

If a forklift is down for repairs more often than it is out on the floor lifting loads, it’s probably time to retire it. You can lose a considerable amount of money due to the lost hours of work as well as the costs for repairs.

High Number of Work Orders

A high number of work orders indicates that a forklift has been down more than its being used. If a lift has needed many repairs in recent months, even small repairs, it indicates there is a problem and the lift is nearing the end of its working days.

Out of Date Features

An out of date forklift is an unsafe forklift. A telling sign that your lift is too old is if its features are not up to date with the most recent changes and improvements. Especially when it comes to safety features, having an out of date machine can be very dangerous and leave warehouses liable for any issues that may result.

Preparing Your Warehouse for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, marking the beginning of the holiday season. With Thanksgiving also comes Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when shoppers head out in droves to get the best deals on holiday gifts and merchandise. Due to the nature of these days, inventory will be in much higher demand than usual, and warehouses need to be prepared. It is undoubtedly a hectic time, so here are a few ways for your warehouse to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the rest of the holiday season.

Inventory and Stock

First of all, you should need to check on your inventory and stock. Make sure you are fully stocked with popular items and that your records on inventory are up to date and accurate. It may also be helpful to review sales data from previous years to see what items typically fly off the shelves around this time of year. There will also probably be sales for specific items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so be sure to have those items fully stocked.

Organization

Once you know what items you’re likely to need, you can organize your warehouse accordingly for optimal efficiency. The inventory that you predict will sell the quickest or the most should be placed in the most accessible pick-up areas. You could even have a designated area for popular seasonal best sellers.

However, it is important to note what items are being moved- as well as where it was before- and how any inventory is being re-organized. A new organizational system can be hard to get used to, so create proper labels and group similar items together to allow for an easier transition.

Staff

The warehouse is going to be flooded with orders, and there needs to be enough staff on hand to handle this influx. The holiday season can be tricky when it comes to finding enough workers, as people tend to get sick and ask for more time off to spend with their families or travel. If it looks like you’re going to be short-staffed during this time, look to outside companies or staffing agencies that can help you find temporary workers.

Being well staffed also goes for any outside groups or companies you work with, such as delivery companies. Reach out to those companies and make sure they will be able to perform and deliver with all of the extra work required during the season.

Technology

Technological systems are great for warehouses. They are fast, efficient, and often make life so much easier in the warehouse. However, technology can fail us when we need it most. That’s why it is important to run tests on your systems well before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Bar code readers and systems for keeping track of orders and volumes need to be up to date and working properly. If those systems fail, it could be disastrous, keeping you from meeting the increased demands of the season.

Safety

Things are going to be much more hectic on the warehouse floor during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and probably most of the holiday season. There are higher stakes for completing orders quickly during the season, which means some might let safety concerns fall by the wayside as concerns about getting orders out on time take precedence.

However, it is during these times that your warehouse and staff needs to be hyper-aware when it comes to safety, as there are more people and much more going on in your warehouse. This makes the chances of an accident occurring much higher if people aren’t careful.

In order to prevent any incidents, take the time before Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holidays to go over safety procedures with your team. Stress to your staff that these procedures are just as important- if not more so- during the hectic holiday season.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the beginning of a frantic season for shoppers and warehouses alike. But by following these tips and through adequate preparation, your warehouse operations can run smoothly, allowing your staff as well as your customers to really enjoy the season.

Tips for Reducing Warehouse Costs

The list of costs required to run a warehouse is long. From labor to handling inventory to equipment and more, running a warehouse can get very expensive very quickly. However, there are practices that can reduce costs without diminishing productivity and efficiency. Check out these tips to reduce warehouse costs while maintaining and even improving productivity.

Labor management

Labor costs are one of the largest expenses when it comes to managing a warehouse. The following are just a few of the many ways to effectively reduce labor costs and improve employee productivity.

Employee training is essential. Employees should be trained not only in their specific line of work, but also informed about the organization’s goals and expectations of its employees. Cross training is another way to improve productivity and ensure the warehouse operations continue to run smoothly in someone’s absence.  

Investing in employee training pays off in the long run, so long as employees stay with an organization long enough. Hiring someone is an investment, and if an employee doesn’t stick around for too long, your company can lose money. By focusing on employee retention, your investments can pay off.

Reducing space and optimizing storage

Another large contribution to overall warehouse expenses is land costs. It’s possible to work in a smaller, less expensive space by optimizing storage. Here are a couple of helpful storage practices to keep in mind.

Racking allows you to optimize storage space and store inventory efficiently. Use racking to increase the number of pallets stored in your space and the square footage it allows. There are different ways of racking, but one common use is to build tall and narrow. The right racking system depends on your inventory, so make sure you are using the safest method possible.

Aisles are imperative when it comes to navigating through a warehouse and allowing forklifts and other equipment to get to inventory, and they can unfortunately be quite a space consumer. But by knowing the dimensions of various lifts that need to move through your aisles and get to certain items, you can reduce aisle space for optimal use. Different lifts are required for different products, so sort your inventory accordingly with the equipment required to handle and move it.

Inventory management

After optimizing your storage space, inventory management is the next step to reduce warehouse costs. Racking and sorting items in aisles according to the equipment that needs to reach them is a start, but there are other ways to manage your inventory in a cost and production efficient manner. Slotting refers to figuring out where each item should be located in your warehouse. An effective slotting strategy will ensure that products are in the right place at the right time, making handling of materials easier and faster.

Optimize equipment use

From forklifts to storage structures and more, equipment is another expense that can become quite costly in a warehouse. Here are a few things to keep in mind to get the best out of your equipment without paying an arm and a leg.

First, consider renting or leasing equipment rather than buying. There are different advantages for renting and buying, so evaluate your options and see which would option would work best for your organization.  

Another cost to keep in mind when it comes to equipment is repair expenses. Use preventive maintenance to avoid equipment failure. Be sure to regularly check the conditions of your equipment to avoid failure and any possible incidents or injuries that may result.

Proper Forklift Weight Distribution

The forklift is a powerful industrial tool that allows heavy items to be moved with ease and prevents various injuries from personal lifting. However, it is essential that operators are properly trained to operate a forklift and understand the factors that affect the machine’s stability.

An understanding of load capacity and weight distribution is especially important when operating a forklift. The load capacity represents the amount of weight a forklift can safely lift and maneuver. Weight distribution refers not only to the weight of the load, but also the weight of the forklift itself. An empty forklift has most of its weight in the rear, but when a load is placed on the lift, the weight distribution moves forward.

Load Center

The load center is the horizontal distance between the face of the forks and the center of gravity of the load. Forklifts are designed to carry a capacity load at a standard load center, typically 24 inches, to evenly distribute the weight of the load and keep the lift stable.

 

Proper Forklift Weight Distribution

Photo credit: www.osha.gov

This center is determined as if the load being carried is a perfectly shaped cube whose center of gravity is exactly in the center of that cube, so when lifting irregularly shaped loads, the capacity may be reduced.

The load center should be as close to the forklift’s wheels as possible. Increasing the distance between the load center and the wheels can result in tipover. Additionally, going over a forklift’s weight capacity can cause the weight distribution to move too far forward and result in tipover, as well as other hazards like loss of steering control or falling load.

Load Placement

When loading items, the heaviest weight should be loaded as close to the forklift’s masts as possible. Also be sure to load rectangular boxes widthwise rather than lengthwise to keep the load center from shifting forward and potentially causing tipover, as seen in the figure above.

Understanding these concepts is essential to safely operating a forklift, but load capacity and weight distribution are not the only factors that affect a lift’s stability. Visit OSHA’s e-tools for more details about forklift stability, balance, and how to estimate a safe load capacity.

Keeping a Forklift from Tipping

One of, if not the biggest threat behind improperly handling a forklift, is tip over. If a load is placed incorrectly or a driver takes too sharp of a turn, the forklift is likely to tip over and could result in injury. In fact, according to Fatalities and Catastrophes from OSHA, six workers were killed by a tipped forklift between January and September of 2014. While this information is concerning, tip over is avoidable. By remembering a few simple steps, you can decrease your chances of tip over and create a safer working environment.

Pay attention to the load center

Tip over often occurs when a load is not properly placed according to the lift’s center of gravity. Maintaining the load’s center of gravity is essential in avoiding forklift tip over. Every lift has a specified load center- its center of gravity- and maximum load capacity. If you abide by the limits of the load center and capacity, you are much less likely to tip a forklift.

However, depending on the size of the load and its distance from the tires, the load center changes. For instance, your lift may be able to handle a 3,000-lb load placed close to the tires. But if you move the load forward, your chances of tipping increase. The closer the load is to the front tires, the less likely you are to tip.

Place the load properly

Keeping the load closer to the tires will help keep your forklift from tipping forwards, but forklifts can also tip onto their sides. Because forklifts have more length than width, it is actually relatively easy for the lift to tip to the side when a load is placed improperly. When driving, loads typically shift, and if the load is wider than the forklift, tipping becomes a bigger threat. This brings us to the third and final step for avoiding forklift tipping.

Drive carefully

Forklifts often don’t have the best turning radius, so it’s important to go slowly around sharp turns when carrying a load. Even if the load is perfectly placed, a sharp turn can shift a load and throw it from its center of gravity, causing the lift to tip. 

By following these steps during the loading and operation of a forklift, your chances of tip over are much less likely. Unfortunately, accidents can happen despite the best laid plans and precautions, so always be sure to wear a seatbelt when operating a forklift.

Investing in Warehouse Safety

When it comes to running a productive and efficient warehouse, safety should be your first priority. Because the profit behind safety efforts is not easy to directly quantify, organizations sometimes put those efforts on the back burner. In such cases, warehouse managers and overseers tend to do the bare minimum, only going so far as to obey government rules and regulations. However, a safe warehouse puts companies in a position to be more profitable and generate cost savings. Additionally, an unfortunate workplace accident or injury can have extremely detrimental consequences on a warehouse and hinder its efficiency.

With the right steps in place, you can avoid accidents and their costly consequences, as well as see better profit over the long haul. The following are a few ways that you can invest in safety, which will ultimately serve as an investment in the success and efficiency of your warehouse.

Keep the Warehouse Organized

In order for workers to move safely through the space, your warehouse must be organized. Not only will a well-organized space make it easier for workers to move about safely, but also improve efficiency and productivity. Your warehouse and its aisles should be free of clutter, electrical cords, or other potentially hazardous materials that could result in a fall or other injuries.

Institute Safety Education and Training

When organizations don’t recognize the benefits to the costs and efficiency behind a safe warehouse, safety efforts and employee education are inadequate. As a result, workers are not trained in up to date safety procedures. It’s extremely important to fully train and educate employees about the safety requirements and procedures in your warehouse, and these policies should be revisited over time. And if new safety procedures or systems are introduced to the workplace, perhaps due to a new kind of equipment or organizational method, further education and training should take place.  

Create a Culture of Safety

As mentioned above, warehouse safety procedures are often insufficient, and many times safety is not prioritized to the degree it should be. Every individual worker, supervisor, and manager should understand the importance of safety in the workplace as well as understand his or her responsibility in promoting a safe environment. This culture of safety cannot be created in the course of a single training seminar or during initial employee training, but can only be created through sustained, continuous effort on every level, from managers to workers on the floor.