Feb 14 2017

5 Ways to Avoid Costly Mistakes When Choosing a Material Handling Supplier

Material Handling is so much more than buying a forklift. It’s the lifeblood of any facility or operation that relies on the ability to move and transport just about anything. Think about this:

“Almost everything in your life, both at work and at home, at some point was moved by a lift truck”.

It’s connecting the world with the things they need in every aspect of their lives. So when your business is considering a material handling supplier, there are a variety of factors that should be considered…and it shouldn’t just be about the bottom dollar.

-Ask about safety ratings.

This might come as a surprise to be first on the list, but if you think about the way you run your operation and providing a safe working environment, shouldn’t the suppliers you do business with also demand high safety standards?  Any supplier coming into your facility should be properly vetted and asked to provide their OSHA safety ratings. This ensures that not only is the vendor you’re trusting to support your business in good standing, but that your own operation is in good hands and has a partner that is dedicated to being safety-first. Always ask for current recordable injuries and DART rates up front.

-Get the right truck for the right job

In the world of material handling, one size does not fit all. While it may seem that lift trucks are fairly basic, there are many differentiating factors and options that need to be considered when making a purchase. Ensuring you are getting the right piece of equipment with the right options and attachments to serve the facility and functions you need is crucial. Any potential supplier should start with a review of your business and your needs, and asking a lot of questions about your operation to truly understand what it is you need before making any sort of recommendations. Ask for references from existing customers, ask for other similar businesses they have partnered with and how they’ve helped their business, and most importantly, ask what their commitments to you as a customer are. You’d be surprised how often many suppliers don’t have an answer for you.

-Inquire about fleet management, operator training, and response times

There are numerous ways to acquire a forklift. So while selecting quality equipment is important, there should be other factors to ask up front regarding what else your supplier can offer. Asking about fleet management reporting to give you better understanding of productivity and efficiency, and what types of training they can offer your operators will help you gain operational efficiencies and reduce costs provides a true solution and partnership, not just a singular one-time purchase. Inquire as to what expected response times are for service calls to ensure your equipment is kept up and running.

-Know your true total cost of ownership

Over the course of your equipment purchase, only about 10% of the total cost is incurred in the initial equipment purchase. So what’s in the other 90%? Consider parts replacement and service to maintain the equipment, fuel and operator-costs, and equipment down-time. All of these add to your bottom line, so when considering a purchase, ask about all of the stuff that isn’t in the truck quote. A knowledgeable partner should be able to present you with the whole picture, not just your initial purchase price, and help you understand why price and cost are two very different things.

-Sign a planned maintenance agreement

Unless your operation has an in-house maintenance team to regularly maintain your equipment, having a planned maintenance agreement in place with your supplier is key to lowering your cost of ownership, and ensuring your equipment is going to operate at the highest level of efficiency for as long as possible. This reduces costly service calls in the future, and gives you the best value for your buck for the equipment your business depends on.

Whether you’re selecting a new vendor or renewing an existing contract, consider all of these factors, be informed, and ask the right questions. 

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