Every peak holiday season that passes has its own set of challenges; all varying in degrees year-to-year.
From increased demand, staffing, equipment overuse, inventory management, shipping delays, space constraints and quality control, the list goes on...
On top of this, we wrestle with the ever so prevalent long lead times and supply chain delays that have become all too familiar in recent times.
It's a testament to the resilience and adaptability of our industry that we continue to persevere. We've become numb to it at this point, but it's essential to recognize the Herculean efforts put in by all members of the team to keep the ship sailing smoothly.
To that end, staying agile in face of supply chain disruptions begins by asking the right questions:
1. Have you placed your holiday forklift battery orders? The busy holiday season is fast approaching, and many suppliers have now closed their ordering windows altogether. We’ve heard of several companies that have been shocked when they’ve tried to place Q4 battery orders, only to find that their supplier’s typical 3-6-week deadline is now much, much longer. Fortunately, while Concentric has also seen lengthening lead times, we’re still in a position to fulfill most orders before year end. If you haven’t placed your equipment orders already, act now.
2. Does your supplier have multiple options? Some suppliers are limited to a specific brand or technology. This means you may not have access to alternatives that can arrive earlier. Alternatively, sourcing with technology- and brand-independent suppliers may reveal more flexible solutions that will bring equipment to your warehouse in shorter timeframes. Suppliers that also help you think about financing option, paired with equipment choice can help extend the lifecycle of your fleet in a cost effective way.
3. Are you using batteries to extend the lifespan of your existing forklifts or leases? A fresher, healthier battery may give your equipment the boost it needs to live longer than it would with older power solutions. And given that lead times for batteries are much shorter than equipment, buying or leasing new batteries is a viable power management strategy.
4. Is maintenance a priority? The last thing you want is to deal with equipment breakdowns while you’re waiting for new shipments to arrive. Having a planned maintenance program -- either in-house or with a trusted forklift as well as power specialist -- goes a long way to preventing untimely shutdowns by ensuring forklifts and batteries are being kept in peak operating condition.
5. Have you considered short-term rentals to fill gaps? While renting equipment is certainly not an inexpensive option, it’s a viable strategy while you wait for supplier shipments. Be sure to calculate the potential cost of lost business due to too few working forklifts against the cost of rentals; this will ensure this option makes sense for you.
6. Are you rotating assets? It’s best practice to use batteries and lifts on an equal rotation. This reduces strain on individual pieces of equipment and extends the lifespan of your entire fleet. This is always a best practice, but it can buy you some time if you aren’t already actively rotating assets.
7. Do you have a planned maintenance (PM) plan? And if so, does it include a roadmap to an ideal solution? As mentioned above, PMs afford peace of mind during turbulent times. Equally important, however, is for your PM providers to include a roadmap of maintenance activities and investments that will move you toward the best use of your fleet (and budget) in the long run.
8. Are you thinking long-term? Consider partnering with a power specialist who can provide the resources and maintenance strategies to keep your operations flowing for the long haul. At the same time, it helps to partner with a vendor who can build a global view of your company’s assets, spend, and productivity so that your team is better positioned to move in this rapidly changing landscape.
This unpredictable holiday season promises to challenge even the most seasoned material handling execs. The good news is there are strategies for cushioning your warehouse against supply chain delays and extending the lifespan of the lifts you already have.