When Is It Time to Expand Your Forklift Fleet? A Fleet Management Guide

There comes a time when you're ready to expand your fleet. What are the signs you need to broaden your forklift fleet?

There are over 18,000 warehouses in the United States, and that number is only growing. With more and more businesses using warehouses, the demand for forklifts is also rising. 

In the beginning, you likely didn’t have a large warehouse, and one forklift probably handled the job. But as your business grows, so does your need for a larger warehouse and more forklifts. Before you know it, you'll have an entire forklift fleet.

So how do you know when it's time to expand? We've created this guide to help you notice the signs that it's time to invest in another forklift. 

What Is Your Forklift Fleet Productivity? 

The first thing you should look at is the operational hours of each forklift in your fleet. How many hours a day does each forklift spend in operation? 

If you only have one day shift, that could be 8 to 10 hours a day. If you have multiple shifts, this could be as much as 24 hours a day. 

The other factor to consider when looking at productivity is actual operation of the lift. You could have a driver behind the wheel of the forklift all day, but if they don't move much, that's not productive. 

To get the full picture of productivity, you need to look at both hours on the forklift and actual hours it is in operation. 

Then it will hit a certain point where you cannot be any more productive. Your individual business needs will determine when this point happens. When you can't make your current number of forklifts more productive, it's time to expand

Consider Forklift Downtime 

How would your business manage if one of your forklifts were taken out of commission? If losing a forklift to repairs or maintenance will have a significant impact on your productivity, then it's time for another forklift. 

Don't wait until you experience this decline in productivity. You've already figured out the workload of each forklift. Find the average and then distribute it as if you've lost one forklift. 

This will show you the increased workload that each forklift will experience. 

Frequency of Repairs 

The harder your forklifts work, the shorter their lifespan will be, and the more repairs they'll need. Even if you have planned maintenance with the highest-quality of forklift service, if your warehouse guys run your forklifts into the ground, they are going to break down more often. 

By getting another forklift, you can reduce the workload on the rest of your equipment. This will extend its lifespan. 

Forklift Useful Lifespan

The average forklift will last about 10,000 hours. Some brands claim as high as 13,000 hours. 

As your forklifts age, their likelihood of breaking down increases. It is smart to think about expanding your fleet before this starts happening. That way, you already have the fleet in place when your older machines begin to break down and need more frequent repairs. 

What Is Your Team Saying?

Sit down and have a chat with your employees that are on the front line. They are the ones who will know if you need another forklift. Build a solid relationship with your fleet drivers so that they feel comfortable coming to talk to you. 

If your team says they struggle to keep up, they may need another forklift to manage the demand. 

Planned Warehouse Expansion 

If your warehouse square footage is expanding, then you need to think about expanding your forklift fleet too. Sometimes your expansion is vertical, not horizontal. 

If this is the case, you may not have a forklift that can handle the increased height. Since forklifts come in all different sizes, you need to make sure you have one that can handle your vertical expansion. 

Another consideration is the floor square footage expansion. Maybe you need to increase the speed of your forklifts. This will help your team traverse the increased distance faster and more efficiently. 

Product Line Expansion 

You should have a solid understanding of what your current product line requires for safe movement throughout your warehouse. But if your product line expands, you may find that your existing equipment isn't capable of handling your new products. 

Consider the size and weight of your new products. It may be time to expand your fleet with a larger forklift that can handle larger loads. 

A second consideration is the height of your products. If you expand upwards, your current forklifts may not be able to safely handle the weight of your products at an increased height, or even reach the new height at all. 

Pushing your current small forklifts to their limits is dangerous. It is much safer to buy a larger forklift that doesn’t always operate at its full capacity. 

Sales Volume Growth 

If your sales numbers are larger this year than they were last year, then your warehouse is going to experience an increase in work volume. With more orders to fill, more product will flow through your warehouse. That means your forklifts will do more work. 

As your business grows, it's smart to consider increasing the size of your fleet. An extra forklift will help take on the additional sales volume. You can't expect the same number of forklifts to handle double the amount of sales volume.

Is It Time to Expand Your Fleet?

Deciding to expand your forklift fleet is not a spur of the moment or light decision. Your new forklift is an investment in your business. The first step is to evaluate your current productivity. If you find that your fleet could use some help, then it is time to expand your fleet. 

Contact our team today if it is time to expand, or update your forklift fleet.