Alternatives to Going Forklift-Free at Automotive Manufacturing Facilities

Automotive manufacturing facilities have long been at the forefront of lean manufacturing — after all, the practice was born out of Toyota's process of continual improvement, or kaizen. But unlike some other sectors, many auto manufacturers are choosing not to go forklift-free to achieve their goals. That's because automakers have discovered how to become leaner without sacrificing the muscle of lift trucks. Here's how they do it.

1.  Reduce energy consumption.

Choosing electric over internal combustion forklifts can greatly reduce energy costs. And considering the volatility of gas prices, it also makes those costs more predictable. But to get the most from your electric forklift fleet, you should carefully plan and optimize the entire battery room. Alternatives-to-Going-Forklift-Free-at-Automotive-Manufacturing-Facilities

Electrical Distribution Systems provide power to all of your batteries while eliminating the jumble of cords frequently seen in charging areas. These systems are the most efficient way to charge batteries and connect to Battery Room Ventilation Systems or Hydrogen Gas Detectors for maximum safety. With a well-planned battery room, electric forklift fleets use vastly less energy than internal combustion engines.

2.  Reduce maintenance costs.

Electric forklifts also have cheaper maintenance costs than their IC counterparts. This is due primarily to there being fewer moving parts within the machines. Of course, for either variety of lift truck, maintenance costs depend largely on how well the trucks are kept.

For electric forklifts, maintaining batteries is the key to keeping trucks running. Battery room managers should schedule periodic washes for all batteries to remove accumulated electrolyte from the cases and terminals. Washing batteries extends the life of the battery and prevents electrical issues from occurring in the lift truck. This means fewer visits from the mechanic and less time with lift trucks decommissioned for maintenance.

3.  Reduce change-out times.

A common complaint among those going forklift-free is that the battery change-out process is too cumbersome. Managers don't want to waste precious minutes while a forklift isn't accomplishing any work. And considering that for some operations, forklifts may need five or more change-outs per day, those minutes add up fast. Luckily, there are simple ways to speed up change-out times.

For instance, take the case of BMS Logistics. Like many auto manufacturers, this major 3PL firm knew they were less productive due to a less-than-optimal battery room. After a consultation with BHS and local dealer Magnum Industrial Power, BMS logistics invested in several fixes that dramatically decreased change-out times. The firm installed Double Stack System Stands that worked in tandem with a Double Stack Battery Extractor. A Fleet Tracker helped managers determine which battery should be installed during a change-out.

After these modifications, BMS reduced their average change-out time to 2 to 3 minutes (down from 10 to 15 minutes). The company even found that they needed fewer change-outs per day because of the Fleet Tracker's first-in, first-out system of choosing batteries.

Going lean doesn't mean sacrificing power and versatility.

Every operation can find ways to become more efficient and productive. Sometimes, this process involves better planning or better utilization of existing equipment. Other times, companies may need to invest in infrastructure to make operations run more smoothly.

The principle of continuous improvement is heavily dependent on the unique needs of individual companies. Only by studying internal processes and inefficiencies can managers figure out the best way to go lean. For some, that may entail going forklift-free, but many can reap large benefits simply by choosing to improve their battery room setup and management.


Andel, Tom. "Going Fork-Free Without Stabbing Yourself in the Back." Modern Material Handling. 24 Jul. 2014. Web. 8 May 2018.

"Kaizen: Gaining the Full Benefits of Continuous Improvement." Mind Tools. n.d. Web. 8 May, 2018.