How Replacing Forklifts Saved Thousands, Improved Productivity

posted on: Monday March 27, 2017

fork-lift-truck-1430377_640Modern Materials Handling recently featured the company LEDVANCE and the changes that brought them a two-year ROI with reduced costs and product damage. The primary change was replacing forklifts for tasks related to moving pallets.

The article highlights an interview with LEDVANCE plant manager Mike McNulty. He explained that one of the company’s Lean strategies is an annual “hoshin kanri” event, during which the team does time studies and value stream mapping to drill into the areas with the greatest potential for improvement:

“When we looked at where we were incurring costs, we found that we had some fork truck drivers who were doing little more than making a milk run, which was not the most value-added activity for those drivers.”

The solution that made sense for this company was to replace lift trucks with automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) for these tasks. Bob Trebilcock writes that one of the reasons the company chose this route is that “there was often congestion as multiple fork trucks went through the opening between the production and finished goods storage areas, increasing the possibility of an accident or product damage.” McNulty “wanted to reduce the amount of fork truck traffic going between the two areas.”

As a result, the team reassigned four lift truck driver positions to “more meaningful work within the plant,” and they reduced congestion on the facility floor. By using AGVs, “LEDVANCE is saving about $8,000 a year in maintenance on fork trucks that are no longer needed and has seen a reduction in product damage due to driver error. “ The savings are so high that McNulty estimates a two-year ROI.

The issues that LEDVANCE faced are familiar to a lot of manufacturers. Lift trucks create hazards, backups, and extra costs. However, AGVs are not a practical solution for a lot of manufacturers, especially smaller ones. In these cases, similar results are achievable with the use of battery-powered tugs.

With power tugs, or a tug and cart system, you can still eliminate forklifts from tasks that only require horizontal movement. Anyone can operate a power tug, so you can put less-experienced personnel on these tasks and redirect seasoned truck drivers to areas that leverage their expertise. Congestion is cleared, safety is improved, and maintenance costs are decreased. With a human operating the tug, you may also have an opportunity to piggyback other loads that can be picked up and dropped off along the way.

Load Mover Inc helps manufacturers optimize power tugs to replace lift trucks and other manual push/pull tasks for efficiency and productivity. Our experts can help you determine your “Draw-bar Pull” so that you get the right unit for your needs. We understand Lean and the manufacturing industry, so you’re sure to get a tool that truly elevates your success. Contact us at 952-767-1720 or