Planning a Spare Parts Inventory for Your Lift Truck Fleet

To keep your operation productive, you need to look for every possible way to improve day-to-day efficiency — and in many cases, this means planning for the unexpected. Every operation that uses material handling equipment will eventually need to repair both its lift truck fleet and its battery handling equipment, and immediate access to spare parts can drastically improve recovery times and keep your trucks operational.

Of course, you don’t want to buy more parts than you need, and if you’re frequently performing repairs, you may see a better return on investment by upgrading older equipment. These tips will help you optimize your spare parts inventory and keep your operation efficient.

  1. Analyze Costs and Identify Essential Equipment.

    There are a few costs associated with holding spare parts at your facility, and you’ll need to consider all of them in order to see a predictable return. In addition to the fixed purchasing price for each unit, plan for labor costs associated with storage and labor (storage costs are typically low for spare part inventories, but space can be at a premium in many facilities). Labor and storage space will become more significant factors with a larger inventory of spare parts; labor costs will also increase over time, and if a part becomes unnecessary or obsolete, you’ll need to stockout the part and absorb the expense.

    You should also understand the costs of downtime, however. If you can’t change out batteries, you probably can’t operate your forklift fleet at full capacity, and you certainly can’t operate at peak efficiency. A single day of inefficient operation will easily exceed the total costs of spare parts in most instances. On the other hand, a single damaged lift truck probably isn’t a serious issue for your facility, so you may be more willing to wait for a part delivery.

    And while the fixed costs of a large parts stock can be significant, it’s important to remember that all mechanical machines will eventually need repairs — it’s not a question of “if,” but “when.” Make sure that you have a plan for each piece of essential equipment, and understand the exact costs of downtime before you determine your stock.

  2. Identify Key Components to Keep On Site.

    Parts required for routine maintenance can be ordered or supplied by service technicians, and probably don’t need to be stocked at smaller operations. Likewise, you might not want to stock larger parts for equipment that is approaching obsolescence.

    The most important parts to stock are the components that see a high degree of mechanical stress. Look at your repair records or contact your equipment manufacturer to identify these parts. You can also consider purchasing a few parts kits, which can remove guesswork and allow for faster repair response times.

  3. Order New Equipment to Control Your Spare Parts Stock.

    In some cases, repairing your equipment could cost you, especially if you need to order hard-to-find parts for obsolete lift trucks and battery changers. Older equipment should be replaced, as you’ll encounter fewer repair requests while enjoying the benefits of more speed, better energy efficiency, and improved safety.

    This is especially important if you have a mismatched fleet with older and newer lift trucks. If you use two different types of forklifts, your spare parts inventory will be twice as large — and you may even need different battery handling equipment for each type of truck, which compounds your expenses. Wherever possible, try to maintain a uniform fleet to simplify operations.

  4. Track Spare Part Usage and Maintenance Schedules.

    This is an important aspect of fleet management that many facilities neglect entirely. You should always keep records of spare parts usage, along with full equipment repair histories, to improve your stocking practices and to streamline your spare parts inventory.

    The goal is to achieve the greatest benefit with the least cost; knowing how you use your inventory is the first step toward achieving this goal. Forklift tracking software like the BHS Fleet Tracker can also help to reduce maintenance costs and improve profitability, and any operation can start using fleet tracking software within a few days. Remember, strict adherence to planned maintenance schedules pays off and greatly reduces the need for sudden repairs.

Manufacturers and dealers can usually provide you with spare parts lists and recommend the most useful components to include in your inventory. BHS provides parts kits for all of its battery handling equipment, and our kit-based approach simplifies maintenance tasks by bundling all the required parts with the required hardware. An optimized stock of spare parts allows you to quickly repair your battery handling equipment whenever necessary, improving workflow and keeping your fleet on the floor.


Bharadwaj, Ujjwal R., Vadim V. Silberschmidt, and John B. Wintle. "Risk Based Optimisation Of Spares Inventory Management." Advances In Production Engineering & Management 6.3 (2011): 173-184. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 July 2015.