engineering learning for efficiency

     Last Friday afternoon, we were hustling to get everything finished before we left for the weekend. I had George moving all the pallets of finished product to the loading dock and placing them neatly in the holding area. As he came around the corner by the punch press, the hydraulic system on the forklift failed, the product tipped off the lift and was destroyed, and the entire area was flooded with hydraulic fluid. The cleanup took us several hours. A few of my guys were pretty miffed that it messed up their Friday-evening plans, and the product lost was worth about $3,500 as nearly as I can calculate. I think it’s really important that we get a new forklift, as it would increase safety, productivity and employee morale.
     First of all, the old forklift is presenting an unacceptable safety risk. Industrial Safety, had a story in last May’s issue about a gal who was killed in Texas when some heavy product tipped off a forklift and crushed her. The forklift’s steering linkage had failed while the operator was trying to avoid hitting a wall. He had to slam on the brakes causing the product to tip over on top of the woman. Our forklift has a ton of similar problems. For example, the brake discs are so badly worn and warped that the forklift shakes when they’re applied. I’m worried that something similar to the Texas incident could happen here.
     Beyond safety, the old forklift is reducing productivity. Toward the beginning of last week, we were working on several rush orders for automotive parts: the blowers for Acme Corlefton, the alternators for Montana Supply, and the fin extenders for Napa. The forklift kept breaking down, and we had to continually shut down production because we couldn’t get the pallets moved out of the production areas. I had to have the employees working on the fin extenders take them off the pallets, load them onto hand trucks and then restack them on pallets in the holding area at the loading dock. We lost about 17 man hours from this, which may have completely eaten up our profit on that order.
     In addition to productivity, a new forklift will also help employee morale. My crew is starting to make comments about how it doesn’t seem like the higher-ups have a clue. They can see that we’re losing money with these delays. Last week one of the guys said, “They obviously don’t care, so why should we?” We used to have a ton of fun making the work a real team sport. We have always kept the production numbers up on the white board where we all can see them, and we love to beat the other plants for most production without a lost-time accident. After the accident last Friday, I can tell my crew isn’t even trying to beat our Toledo plant because they’re sure that some of our “chewing gum and bailing wire” equipment will fail and we’ll lose.
     Based on these concerns, please let me know if I can purchase a new forklift. The benefits to safety, productivity and morale are obvious. I’d really like to avoid another late-Friday-afternoon cleanup if we can, and get my crew back into the game.