Using big data to right-size and right-type your fleet

By John Rosenberger, director of iWAREHOUSE GATEWAY™ and Global Telematics, and Jason Fiume, manager of iWAREHOUSE Professional Services, The Raymond Corporation

Knowing exactly how many lift trucks – or what kinds – to get for different areas of your operation is easier said than done. While one operator may be using a single sit/stand reach truck for the vast majority of the day, another may be switching from a walkie pallet truck to a rider pallet truck several times throughout the day. If that weren’t enough to think about, your options for the types of trucks to get for a fleet are endless — from swing reach trucks to order pickers and from high-capacity reach-fork trucks to deep-reach lift trucks or a combination of the two. It’s like a 3D puzzle that doesn’t stop moving, and it’s your job to figure out how to piece it all together.

Fortunately, this type of decision-making no longer needs to be guesswork. Knowledge is the key to the puzzle, and with today’s technological advancements, it’s becoming much easier to gain real-time information about your fleet and operators’ performances. One key innovation leading the way in the manufacturing and supply chain industry is telematics systems. These systems can provide in-depth lift truck data to help manage growth and monitor fleet and operator behavior. They can also provide the information you need to better make fleet decisions.

A right-sized and right-typed fleet can drive productivity and efficiency, and telematics systems can help assess which trucks are working the hardest and which trucks can be removed from the fleet based on use data. If the data shows that certain trucks aren’t being used enough to justify their maintenance costs or have reached an age where they are requiring a lot of downtime for maintenance, you can make informed decisions about how to better meet operator needs or replace lift trucks.

To better demonstrate how telematics systems can help in practice, here is a real-world application:

After nine months of using telematics systems and the data from them, a company was able to capture data showcasing slow and peak operations times. Based on the analytics, the company right-sized its fleet, reducing its 76 trucks down to 67 — removing one counterbalance forklift, one order-picker, three pallet jacks, and three swing-reach trucks. Reducing its equipment by 12% led to approximately $72,000 in cost savings, which includes the telematics system monthly fee, truck maintenance, and staffing expenses. 

Telematics systems also offer data aggregation that can expose patterns of equipment inefficiencies. This information shows you how a certain type of lift truck can be underused within your operation or expose how it isn’t being used at all. With this knowledge, you can better decide what kinds of lift trucks are needed to round out your fleet.

Another aspect of fleet right-sizing with which telematics systems can help is determining when it is better to rent or buy equipment. Telematics systems monitor peak operations seasons and can determine when you may have heightened equipment needs. For example, telematics systems data helped the above company realize it had nine rental trucks it did not need for most of the year, so the company was able to eliminate that unneeded cost. Ultimately, right-sizing your fleet to fit day-to-day needs and renting equipment when necessary will save on maintenance, operator and truck costs.

Right-sizing and right-typing your fleet based on the information that telematics systems make available is just scratching the surface of these systems' potential. Telematics systems can allow you to get a better overarching view of your operation's many moving pieces and better piece together the puzzle for optimized performance.