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Suddenly, he feels a slight shimmy in his vehicle’s left front tire. He’s only a few yards from the recharging station so he decides to simply coast into the berth.
As he pulls the forklift into position, he’s met by a technician from the company that manufactured the forklift three years earlier. He’s holding a replacement tire.
“How did you know that my tire was going to go?” the driver asks.
“We’ve actually known that the bearing was starting to become worn for a while now,” the technician replied. “That’s why we ordered this replacement tire three weeks ago.”
This isn’t some futuristic science fiction scenario. It’s real life and it’s being repeated at businesses all over the world.
Many modern forklifts are assembled with built-in electronic sensors that monitor performance of the vehicle’s various systems, including such things as tire wear, battery charge, lifting efficiency, and much more.
This data is continually collected and transmitted via WiFi connections to the original manufacture, where potential breakdowns and problems can be identified before they occur.
Fleet Management Systems
One of the fastest growing side businesses among forklift manufacturers today is fleet management services. Thanks to these high tech monitoring devices, forklift makers can sell a “virtual insurance policy” to their customers along with their vehicles.
These allow forklift owners to worry less about such things as maintenance and repair expenses. And in many instances, the forklift’s manufacturers can anticipate and offer solutions to problems before they even happen.
AUSA, the Spanish company that specializes in rough terrain forklifts for the European market, uses a fleet management system to provide service to its customers in Germany, according to Roger Tornero, the program’s developer.
“In relation to after sales, this new approach means that the machines are constantly sending information to our HQ, allowing us to monitor a machine, and allowing us to know if the machine will need a maintenance service or if the machine is likely to suffer a breakdown,” Tornero told Forklift Action.
Customer Are Asking for this Technology
Heike Oder is spokeswoman for Linde Material Handling GmbH, one of Germany’s biggest forklift makers. She said clients are asking for this technology because it allows them to keep their fleets more productive.
“The Linde standard for fleet management via the locally installed fleet management software — connect:desk — is Bluetooth, which is very reliable and resistant to interference,” Oder said. “For the decentralized Linde online platform — connect:portal — the GPRS mobile radio standard is used, which is available worldwide.
“This solution is also open to customers who want to access their fleet data wherever they are and also via mobile devices like smart phones or tablets,” she said. “The data transmission hardware as well as other connect:hardware components can be retrofitted to older Linde trucks as well as to trucks from other brands.”
Fleet management systems allow forklifts to know when they need maintenance so they can then tell their makers what needs to be done.