One of the most persistent problems in logistics supply chains is damage caused by forklifts. It is a constant complication that dogs companies through every phase of their logistics operations by creating additional costs and complicating the delivery of products. Forklift damage comes in several forms: product can be damaged by the forklift as it is lifted or while being transported, or a forklift can damage the pallets product is carried on, which may cause grocery retailers to reject these loads when they arrive. Finally, it is likely that a forklift that inflicts damage on a product or pallet will also sustain damage. Therefore, forklift damage often results in machinery repair costs as well as product loss.
Product damage and rejection, along with the work stoppages that come from forklifts being taken out of service for repair, are a slow continual drain on a company’s profits that most simply accept as the cost of being in business. But savvy warehouse supervisors and operations managers know how to prevent forklift damage by making continual improvements, even small ones, that ultimately make a big difference by freeing up room in the budget and even boosting employee morale.
Causes of Forklift Damage in the Supply Chain
It’s tempting to lay the responsibility for damage done by—and to—the forklift at the feet of the forklift drivers. They—along with many heavy equipment operators—are infamous for taking a careless attitude towards piloting thousands of pounds of machinery and cargo through narrow warehouse aisles. Anyone who has worked in a warehouse has probably seen a forklift carrying a load well above its capacity across the warehouse floor while three or four staff members stand on the back of the forklift to counterbalance the weight.
Of course, warehouses and distribution centers give safety trainings and implement strict policies to maintain them. Yet products, facilities, and forklifts themselves still sustain damage. Obviously, the causes of forklift damage go beyond carelessness on the part of forklift operators. The following issues often cause damage to products, forklifts, and facilities:
- Poor Warehouse Layout: A poorly planned warehouse can force forklifts to take tight turns to get down overly narrow isles. If the forklift is loaded, this can cause the pallet and products to scrape walls or racks, potentially damaging the products and equipment involved. If the forklift is unloaded, trying to make too tight a turn can cause it to tip, damaging it and whatever it collides with.
- Improper Product Storage: Poor utilization of the space within the warehouse can result in product being stacked in the aisles. This crowds passageways and increases the chances of forklifts colliding with goods and employees, potentially doing major damage to both.
- Warehouse Debris: Discarded packaging and loose nails from wood pallets can become tangled in forklift mechanisms, causing damage to the forklift, while trash and wood fragments from damaged pallets can cause forklifts to tip if they’re run over at high speeds. Debris in the warehouse can also damage product when wood splinters or nails contaminate the product or puncture packaging.
- Overloaded Pallets: It’s not always obvious that a pallet is packed over the weight limit of the forklift until the vehicle is in motion with the load. Overloading a forklift makes it more likely to tip over, causing major damage to the forklift and the product it is carrying.
- Unbalanced Pallets: It’s important that product loaded onto a pallet not only come within the forklift and pallet’s weight limit, but also have an evenly distributed weight. An unbalanced load can shift during handling, crushing products in the load. It can also change a forklift’s center of gravity, causing it to tip.
- Damaged Pallets: A wood pallet that is damaged but loaded anyway can be a serious hazard. A cracked deck board or stringer can break while the fork is lifting, causing the load to shift and tilt the forklift. The pallet can also fail entirely, causing a mess and, potentially, the loss of a load of product.
Add to these problems things that can make even the most responsible forklift driver engage in risky behaviors. This includes the inconsistent dimensions of wood pallets which can make it hard to insert the forklift’s forks into the pallet. When this happens, drivers tend to push pallets across the floor trying to gain access, which means they run the risk of breaking the pallet, scraping or bending the forks, and gouging the floor. Unstable dimensions can also cause a problem when the forks refuse to slip free as a driver sets down a load. This leads drivers to thump the pallet on the ground to try to disengage the forks. Each of these behaviors can cause damage to the pallet, product, and forklift.
How to Prevent Forklift Damage
A well-planned warehouse is the first—and best—step to preventing forklift damage. A warehouse that has a place for all of its inventory through proper cube utilization or other means has gone a long way toward keeping its aisles clear and preventing damage from and to forklifts. Improving the warehouse with wider aisles is another great step towards preventing forklift damage. However, changing the layout of an entire warehouse might not be practical for most businesses.
Shifting to a high-quality plastic pallet can help prevent damage to your forklift and to your products and warehouse.
If this is the case, the easiest way to prevent damage to and from forklifts is to consider equipment improvements. Here a different shipping platform can make a huge difference. Shifting to a high-quality plastic pallet can help prevent damage to your forklift and to your products and warehouse.
A quality plastic pallet has features that prevent damage to the forklift or product, like:
- Full deck: A deck without significant gaps fully supports the load and keeps bagged products and box corners from slipping through spaces in the top deck and getting torn or crushed by the forks.
- Durability: Plastic pallets are far tougher than wood pallets and are better able to resist the rigors of transport by heavy machinery. This prevents damage to the pallet and removes a source of debris that can damage forklifts and products. It also means that the pallets hold up better against operators in a hurry who might not check that their forks are exactly lined up or all the way through the pallet.
- No nails: Plastic pallets don’t require nails to hold them together. This removes the danger of fasteners working their way out of the wood and into product or forklift tires.
- Efficient design: Plastic is an easily molded material, and this allows a plastic pallet to feature details like wider access spaces that allow forks to enter a pallet more easily. Some plastic pallets also have a chamfered edge that helps direct forks that are slightly off to enter the pallet without damaging it.
All of these benefits make plastic platforms an obvious choice for anyone looking for easy savings that will ultimately lower a company’s Total Cost of Business (TCOB). In fact, switching to plastic pallets from wood ones results in a predicted savings of $0.15-$0.70 per pallet turn just based on reduced product damage (this doesn’t include savings from reduced damage to forklifts or other efficiencies). Those are big savings from one simple change, and they make plastic pallets the wisest choice of platform for anyone looking to reduce waste and increase efficiency.
For more information on how the durable iGPS plastic pallet can help prevent forklift damage in your warehouse with its full deck and forklift-friendly rounded uprights, give our team a call at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.