The need for greater productivity, sustainability and safety across the entire materials handling industry is driving forklift fleets to undergo a technological evolution. For example, a recent study of 200,000 industrial tires found that 85 percent of resilient forklift tires are replaced with more than 25 percent of tire life remaining. Therefore, a greater understanding of tire life can potentially save organizations a substantial amount of money.
Forklifts are some of the most important vehicles in the world — operating in environments where uptime and deadlines are crucial and handling cargo in complex, global supply chains. Nearly every produced good in the global market is transported using a forklift before reaching consumers.
Replacing an industrial tire is not a small undertaking and can result in significant costs due to downtime. Also there can be unnecessary costs associated with replacing forklift tires too early. These costs, along with the lost time and productivity from unscheduled maintenance, makes investing in tires that address these issues a vital part of fleet maintenance strategies.
When evaluating a strategic purchase of forklift tires, it is important to calculate the difference between cost and price. Cost should be considered as long-term investment while price is the initial expense. The costs of idle downtime and service along with wasted usable tire life can far outweigh the benefit of a lower initial unit price.
Achieving Sustainability Through Education
Key to potential cost savings is educating fleet managers on when to replace industrial tires. There are also significant environmental effects.
By utilizing a tire for its full lifespan, the impact on sustainability is immediate. In addition to creating less waste, a fleet’s carbon footprint is reduced due to less replacement parts being shipped. For example, shipping just one metric ton of material from Asia to Europe creates 264.5 lbs of CO2. By better managing equipment replacement and using assets to their fullest capacity, businesses can reduce waste and decrease carbon emissions — a goal for all companies.
Solid forklift tires are often misunderstood and tread is a perfect example. In automotive tires, consumers know it’s important to watch tread wear and for years people have simply used the “penny test” to assess wear. This method of evaluation though does not apply to solid industrial tires. As a similar method of evaluation of tire life is used for solid forklift tires, many tires are being replaced with nearly 25 percent of tire life remaining. The industry therefore needs to better understand tire usage and tread life to ensure that waste and downtime are reduced while sustainability is improved.
At my company, Trelleborg Wheel Systems, Trelleborg tires are a key part of the global supply chain and we see our role as helping customers understand the impact of equipment decisions, both from an environmental and business perspective. We want our customers to take the opportunities for return on investment (ROI) that are often revealed through a better evaluation of tire life, greater education and the consideration of elements far beyond price.
Considering Premium Products and Evaluating ROI
It is always important to evaluate operating cost per hour when considering any premium versus a non-premium product. Operating cost per hour encompasses all aspects of downtime and provides a full view of an operator’s business situation. Evaluating and understanding that metric avoids short-sightedness, allowing businesses a long-term return on investment. More importantly, the operator should consider their individual business position in product evaluation.
For example, a major distribution center is an incredibly complex environment. Between managing several shift changes, high load levels and intricacies, business owners need to create simplicity and efficiency whenever possible. However, choosing a premium product only works if you don’t throw away 25 percent of its usable tire life; otherwise you don’t realize a tire’s full potential.
All of these factors should be evaluated based on the number of lifts in your fleet and your overall business needs. Again, the best way to evaluate premium equipment is to analyze operating cost per hour and how the product impacts operational uptime. Time is the one resource business will never get back.
Innovation to Gauge Remaining Tire Lifespan
At Trelleborg, we provide innovative, world-class and top quality products, all while working to better understand the industry’s needs. Trelleborg recently commissioned a study highlighting the amount of waste in industrial tires.
Forklifts are vital to a business’ bottom line and to the global economy. With 85 percent of tires being replaced too early and three percent replacing too late, fleet managers have an opportunity to use new products and techniques to create a more successful global supply chain.
Jimmy McDonnell is the Director of OEM Sales for Trelleborg Wheel Systems’ Industrial and Construction Tires in North America. He has more than 25 years of experience in the industry and currently serves as the Chairman of the ITA’s Tires, Wheels & Casters Sub-Committee.