Instead of purchasing the vehicles, Diamond entered into a three-year lease deal with Watts Equipment. Zaffarano understood the company’s potential for growth and the difficulty that maintaining a fleet might become. “We saw how much we were growing here and knew how hard we’d be working the trucks, and we wanted to be able to turn our trucks over as soon as the hours got to a predetermined number,” says Sandoval. “Plus, we had an in-house staff of four mechanics and we really didn’t want to be in the forklift business. We wanted to focus on our core business, which is food processing.”
Evaluating The Facility
Watts Equipment assisted Diamond in replacing its mismatched lift trucks with the right mix of electric lift trucks for warehouse applications and LPG lift trucks for outdoor use.
“Our materials handling team and Watts went through our facility department by department to determine what our current and future needs would be,” says Sandoval. “We knew that our snack division was growing, so we had to build up in that area and we also knew our non-retail business was going to remain level. So we determined what type of equipment was needed for each area and also looked at cross-functionality.”
“After Diamond evaluated its fleet, the company realized it could reduce its fleet down to 45 units,” says Shirley Perreira, vice president, Watts Equipment. “When you have trucks that old, you basically need a backup truck in case one goes down, so you wind up with a lot of idle units. Diamond has absolutely no wasted equipment—they leaned down their fleet and streamlined their operations.”
The first Toyota lift trucks were brought into the Stockton location in both the distribution and the operations area of the facility. Sandoval says it was immediately apparent the Toyota lift trucks were built to survive hours and hours of hard work in high-traffic environments.
“This facility runs 24 hours a day, and we cannot have equipment down for any extended period of time,” he says. “We soon found the Toyotas were workhorses and could withstand the long hours and hard driving conditions that take place in our plant.”
To further increase productivity, Sandoval, his team at Diamond Foods and Watts Equipment worked together to decentralize the in-house maintenance of its lift truck fleet to achieve additional cost and labor savings. “We no longer needed the four mechanics on staff to maintain the lift trucks,” says Sandoval.
Instead, Watts Equipment sends a representative to Diamond Foods each month to perform hour meter readings and a technician checks in every morning to check on the fleet. “If we see that any units have gone over the allotted hours per month, we tell them to switch the unit,” says Perreira. “We had their entire fleet down to zero overtime by the end of the three years. We’re in this together—we don’t want to charge Diamond Foods overtime.”
Sandoval says he’s found no disadvantages to leasing. “If we break down at midnight, we may have to wait to get Watts in here since we no longer have an onsite mechanic. But they’ve been very good at having a mechanic on standby and it has worked out very well.”
Once Zaffarano and Sandoval came to a decision on the type of fleet, Zaffarano then challenged the team to turn this into a cost efficient program that would generate a ROI in less than 18 months.
Looking for additional cost-savings for Diamond, Watts proposed the company integrate fast battery charging systems for its electric lift truck fleet. The idea was to eliminate the battery room area and free lift truck operators from the cumbersome task of frequently changing and charging batteries. Using just one battery per lift truck, the return on investment for this efficient product addition saved the company a great deal of time and money.
Fast charging recharges batteries at opportune times during the work shift when the lift truck is idle, such as operator breaks, lunches and shift changes. Each lift truck needs only one battery and the battery is charged while in the lift truck. Charging at significantly higher rates than traditional chargers, a Minit-Charger restores battery capacity quickly to allow operators to perform their duties throughout the workday, stopping for only scheduled breaks.
During a break, the operator connects the truck directly to the fast charger for about 15 minutes, using connectors mounted on the lift truck. While the operator rests, the Minit-Charger performs a battery health check and automatically determines the battery voltage, capacity and state of charge and then delivers the necessary charge.