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Making Technology Work For You And Your Customer

Increasing revenue is just the beginning.

Many industrial truck distributors are employing GPS equipment along with various software tools to lower their costs and improve efficiency. As the competition gets tougher, new ways to cut costs and improve services are very important. Maximizing technicians’ billable hours can have a significant positive impact on a distributor’s revenue stream.

Hour Meter Reading (HMR) is a sacred piece of information every forklift dealer depends on. Many things are measured by HMR- service scheduling, lease or rental contract and even life of equipment. When the fleet is scattered across your territory, managing planned maintenance (PM) can be a daunting task, since obtaining HMR from every site has not been practical or economical- until now. Cellular technology has made it possible to retrieve HMR automatically. In addition to HMR, Web-based software can also provide an e-mail alert when equipment is approaching PM threshold or lease/rental threshold. Having HMR at your fingertips can make a major difference in your ability to serve customers effectively and economically.

Some providers also offer diagnostic information electronically. An electronic system installed on the forklift can communicate with available forklift controllers. Electronic recording systems can transmit crucial fault codes so catastrophic failures can be prevented. Some providers’ applications can export HMR to your business system, eliminating manual data entry and reducing the chance of errors. You should review your operation and ensure such solutions will improve your bottom line. The best way to explore new technologies is to evaluate it with a pilot program.

How can you improve your bottom line while helping your customers? The answer is simple- address customers’ inefficiencies, which are not hard to find if a careful assessment is conducted.

In my experience, most forklift fleet users face the following issues:

  • Pre-shift safety checklist required by OSHA 1910.178. Many dealers feel safety compliance is the customers’ responsibility, even if they provide the training.
  • Damage caused by abuse, insufficient training or both. Damage to equipment, facility, merchandise and physical injury are also major factors which affect customers’ bottom lines.
  • Lack of the fleet usage visibility and the balancing of the fleet. Actual usage of the equipment is based on the application. Visibility on the fleet usage is available for efficient material handling.
  • Proactive PM scheduling should be based on actual usage, not by the arbitrary calendar-based schedule. Most, if not all, dealers perform PM based on this kind of calendar. Equipment usage can vary drastically across the fleet due to the application, operators’ “favorites” and other factors.

Fleet management systems are available to address the above issues. System capabilities and costs vary from supplier to supplier. Dealers must consider these factors based on customers’ applications.

One of the reasons dealers do not promote such systems is because they fear if the system fails or does not meet the customers’ expectations, customers will be lost. While this fear is valid in some cases, the fear may be due to their past experiences with specific vendors or lack of knowledge of the technologies. A complete understanding of the customers’ challenges, expectations and thorough knowledge of the system will play a major role in the success of the system implementation. Dealers must work closely with both the customer and the system provider to ensure a successful implementation.

Equipment monitoring technologies have come a long way in the last 5 years. Web-based software coupled with wireless monitoring can streamline both dealer and customer efforts. The system proactively monitors performance and alerts when the parameters are out of bounds, allowing for timely decisions which can prevent damages, improve operations and lower the cost of ownership- all while creating a safer workplace.

Progressive distributors have taken advantage of such technologies, which has set them apart from the rest of the industry. In addition to the 15% to 25% markup, installations and subsequent services could add to the revenues. Dealers must change the mindset of their sales force that money can only be made by selling forklifts, parts and services.

Careful adoption of technology can increase dealers’ revenue, provide a value- added service to customers and stay above the rest with technological edge over their competition.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Arun Patel Meet the Author
Arun Patel, CEO of Access Control Group of Mountainside, NJ, is an 8-year veteran of the material handling industry. He has an educational background in electronics engineering and biomedical engineering. Patel is an avid tennis enthusiast and also enjoys chess, reading and travel.

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