Lift trucks are the workhorses of a DC. They’re expected to withstand a wide range of temperatures, occasional operator abuse and a round-the-clock schedule in some cases. Keeping these mechanical beasts running smoothly directly contributes to the DC’s productivity level.
Whether lift truck maintenance is done in-house or contracted out to the OEM or a third party, sticking to the lift truck maintenance schedule can go a long way in keeping your fleet in tip-top shape.
All lift truck manufacturers provide their vehicles with a preventive maintenance schedule, or PM. It is imperative to track the number of hours the vehicle is used and commit to taking it out of service for maintenance when it reaches the prescribed hours.
Lou Micheletto, manager of warehouse product strategy, NACCO Materials Handling Group Inc. (NMHG), Greenville, NC, says companies that adhere to the schedule will benefit by preventing a cascade of failures which can occur when maintenance issues go unseen for long periods of time.
“It’s easy to think ‘this lift truck is operating fine, so why take it out of service and absorb the cost?’ But it’s called preventive maintenance because it’s exactly that. We’re looking for things that may subsequently damage the vehicle thereby taking it out of service for much longer than a regularly scheduled PM would. Ultimately, you’re avoiding a panic situation of failure at an inopportune time.”
Bruce Marti, national manager parts, service and aftermarket, of Toyota Material Handling USA Inc. in Irvine, CA, stresses the importance of conducting maintenance on a regular basis.
“We use the term periodic maintenance because over the years we’ve determined that maintenance doesn’t rule out failures,” says Marti. “We call it periodic because the objective is to get on a regular interval maintenance schedule. We simply avoid using ‘preventive maintenance’ because at some point, you still have to do maintenance.”
Examples of periodic maintenance include checking fluids and lubricants, chains, electrical connections, tire wear and battery health (see more on maintenance issues on page 59).
According to major lift truck manufacturers, PM schedules vary based on the application. One variable is the environment the truck is expected to operate in.
Frozen storage warehouses can reach temperatures as low as -40 C. The most significant challenge lift trucks face when migrating from freezing to ambient-temperature zones is condensation. Any time water may encounter electrical components there is potential for problems, so special design considerations must be made for subzero applications.
“In the wire harnesses we have connectors that are sealed to IP64 level, as well as seals around the individual connectors,” says Ken Schreiber, director, class II products, NMHG. “And on the control boards we have seals and coatings so condensation won’t affect the internal components.”
Cara Donna Provisions Co., located in Braintree, MA, is a broad line foodservice distributor servicing the New England area. Jim Wilcox, operations manager of Cara Donna, manages a fleet of New Bremen, OH-based Crown lift trucks at its 52,000-square-foot facility. Each truck is equipped with a special freezer package to ward off the maintenance challenges associated with freezing conditions.
“Our Crown lift trucks come with condensation heaters on the switches and a different kind of wiring that’s thinner and more pliable,” Wilcox says. “We also use special tires that disperse any moisture that might get onto the equipment.”
Condensation near the tires can lead to a slippery situation that may result in the lift truck needing to be repaired, Toyota’s Marti explains. “When operating lift trucks on a slippery surface, you need to make smart decisions about your tires. A softer compound allows the tire to grip the surface more easily than a rigid tire compound. A key aspect of maintenance is paying attention to what type of equipment is suited to the application and replacing the equipment when it is time.”