Safety is paramount in any warehouse operation. While far from the only hazard, heavy machinery like forklifts are some of the most prominent threats to worker safety. Tools like forklift telematics can minimize these hazards. Forklifts caused 7,290 nonfatal workplace injuries in 2020, resulting in an average of 17 days away from work per incident. Employee well-being aside, that represents a considerable loss from lost productivity and worker’s compensation payments. If you hope to avoid these dangerous, costly incidents, you should consider all that telematics has to offer.
What are Forklift Telematics?
Telematics refers to technology and processes that gather vehicle data and transfer it wirelessly, often in real-time. While you may be most familiar with these systems in the form of truck shipment tracking, they can apply to forklifts, too. Many of the same technologies can work in forklifts, but these vehicles’ smaller sizes and different environments offer unique possibilities.
At its most basic, forklift telematics can track these machines’ locations throughout the warehouse. In these controlled environments, you can go further by sharing that real-time data with other internet of things (IoT) devices. This interconnectivity opens new opportunities where other machines and sensors can respond to moving forklifts in real-time to prevent accidents or maintain efficiency.
With telematics, you can track more than just locations. Telematics solutions can monitor equipment health, driving patterns, charging or refueling cycles, and operator IDs. Here are a few ways this data can improve fleet safety standards.
One of the most significant benefits of forklift telematics is predictive maintenance. These technologies can report diagnostic codes in real-time or detect slight changes in performance that may signify emerging issues. By alerting employees when these problems arise, telematics systems enable more effective and cost-efficient repairs.
Real-time alerts let you schedule a forklift for maintenance as soon as possible. On top of preventing breakdowns, which could endanger operators and nearby workers, this minimizes repair costs. Because this approach to upkeep is need-based, it also prevents costs and downtime from unnecessary, schedule-based repairs.
Keeping forklifts in top condition through predictive maintenance minimizes unforeseen accidents. These machines will be easier to operate and won’t unexpectedly break down. As a result, drivers can easily avoid situations that may endanger them and their colleagues.
Collision Prevention Systems
Another way to improve forklift telematics is to implement collision prevention systems. Many forklift-related injuries occur from collisions or caught-between accidents where operators don’t see incoming pedestrians or vice versa. Warehouses’ limited visibility naturally lends itself to these incidents, but real-time location data provides a solution.
After installing location data trackers and transmitters in forklifts, you can give similar devices to employees and other machines. IoT connectivity lets these gadgets communicate, giving each an understanding of where the other is at any given time. That way, they can alert workers as they approach another employee or machine.
Advanced systems can act on this data, automatically braking when they sense a forklift getting too close to a person or obstacle. Even without automated braking, though, collision alerts can prevent accidents. A simple beep can alert drivers to brake or change course as they approach a co-worker or other obstacle.
While real-time data tracking is the most eye-catching feature of forklift telematics, it’s far from the only benefit. Telematics data is also useful in more long-term contexts. As you use connected forklifts, you’ll generate a considerable amount of data about regular operations, providing helpful insights.
Logging telematics data can reveal trends in ongoing costs, operating hours, driver behaviors, and more. These patterns can suggest where your operations are strong and where you could improve to be safer. For example, you can track braking patterns to see where most near collisions happen, highlighting areas that may need more visibility.
The key to effective trend analysis is determining what metrics are most useful. Set goals, then use these to decide what data is most relevant. You can then find a telematics solution to track that specific metric, set benchmarks, and review data regularly to measure progress.
Improved Employee Training
Similarly, you can use telematics systems to adjust your forklift operator training program. Using a telematics solution with a keycard access system lets you see who uses which forklift at different times. You can then compare this to data about speeds, braking, and maintenance to see potential issues.
If a problem arises, you’ll be able to see who was in charge at the time to help determine fault. In a less dramatic sense, this visibility reveals where each driver excels and where they can improve. You can then tailor each employee’s ongoing reviews and training to address their specific strengths and weaknesses.
You can also use this telematics data to see overall trends across multiple employees. These trends show you areas to emphasize while training new hires, as common mistakes suggest an area where training falls short.
Streamlined Regulatory Compliance
Forklift telematics also makes it easier to comply with regulatory audits. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has extensive forklift maintenance requirements, as well as regulations over proper training and usage. Telematics data provides an easily accessible and readable record of compliance with these standards.
OSHA inspections and similar regulatory audits can be time-consuming under normal circumstances. That often means lost productivity and unnecessary stress, but you can streamline the process if you have an organized, informative, and readily available record of everything. Those records are precisely what telematics solutions provide, and, because telematics systems record this data automatically, you don’t have to worry about errors or time consumption in the record-keeping process, either. As a result, meeting any regulations becomes far simpler.
Agile Supply Chains Need Forklift Telematics
As supply chain demand rises, your warehouse must manage higher volumes in less time. Safety hazards are a significant barrier to that goal, and traditional approaches to addressing them can be inefficient. Forklift telematics provides a better alternative, improving both safety and efficiency.
Proper implementation of telematics will prevent dangerous and costly accidents while streamlining related operations like maintenance and audits. These benefits will help your warehouse become as agile as possible without putting your workforce at risk. That’s an indispensable benefit in today’s supply chain industry.