For the past couple of months, we have been running a survey to inform our upcoming 2017 report on material handling and how the equipment and processes used can impact business productivity.
Whilst we are still collecting responses, a predominant theme so far is a growing awareness to think ‘beyond the truck’ or beyond the legislation when it comes to investing in material handling equipment, and actually consider the business implications that come with a truck purchase.
Costs and productivity are inevitably interlinked. Ongoing requirements like fuel, along with unseen implications on downtime and storage can impact the level of work getting done and the required cost to keep things on track. That can have big implications for businesses.
Let’s take a look at three of the trends from our material handling survey
1. Downtime and non-contract damages are considered the largest hidden costs
When asked what the most prominent hidden costs of a forklift purchase are, the strong majority was with both downtime and non-contract charges or damages. Both feature far higher than the need for extra storage or operators in order to actually run the truck.
It's interesting to note that both of these have significant influence over the levels of productivity in a business, as downtime and damages can severely impact the time a truck can be driving ROI.
2. Lifetime costs are seen as more important than the cost of the truck itself
Lifetime costs of forklifts are seen as more important than simply the cost of the truck itself as 81% of respondents agreed that lifetime costs were very important, compared to only 47% agreeing that the cost of the truck is very important in the buying process. Those that agreed with both could well highlight that this is an emerging trend and shows a move to more educated purchases in the industry.
With these responses in mind, it was telling to see that truck performance and efficiency are the most researched prior to a purchase which links to the total cost of ownership (TCO). Respondents are starting to look to the future when making purchases rather than simply the upfront costs.
Paul Freeman from CAM Forklifts notes that "It is really encouraging to know that end users are recognising that cheaper trucks can be more expensive over the longer term, especially when this can lead to a lack of truck availability and can also create further problems for the clients' operational need, adding to daily running costs.”
3. Truck performance, safety, battery and technology are the most popular innovations
We want to make sure that we are writing articles on topics which really matter to the industry and so are asking respondents to tell us which innovations capture their attention the most. Out of the options provided, truck performance, safety and battery technology are currently coming out on top in some way.
Whilst safety is to be expected when there is a whole host of legislation to be compliant with, the presence of battery technology in that list suggests that people are looking towards the future and potentially considering the now-announced 2030 legislation. Our emphasis on the future there is largely down to the indication from the results that of those interested in battery technology, only 60% are actually using electric trucks as part of their material handling equipment at the moment.
Malcolm Mitchell from Amvar agreed that this is something to be paying close attention to, saying that "battery technology is the number one issue right now in my opinion, and finding energy solutions for our customers is a priority".
Ian Coulman from Carrylift Group said that ''innovations in battery technology are increasing the number of low maintenance options available with innovations such as lithium-ion. These innovations will increase the percentage of users of electric trucks, who will be able to adapt their fleets in line with the new 2030 legislation.''
So what happens next?
Ultimately, doing the research and considering future costs and impact on the business can really save you money. It's good to see that whilst the cost of the truck is (and no doubt always will be) an important element of the purchase, it's certainly not the be-all and end-all.
All of this said, we are looking forward to hearing more opinions to really gain a broad picture of the current state of material handling. The final report will go into more depth on the findings from the survey, seeking to provide advice on the areas which are most needed and you can influence what that actually looks like.