A MARKET proliferation of small scale forklift repair businesses has pushed the industry into a new era of 'caveat emptor', according to forklift company Crown Equipment .
Glenn Pulley, executive director at Crown's Asia Pacific head office, says companies need to closely analyse what they need in a forklift maintenance service and realise the cheapest hourly rate can turn out to be the most costly in terms of lost production and occupational health and safety risk.
"While there are many lift truck service technicians running perfectly able businesses in this industry, the majority of problems stem from undercutting competition with a very low hourly rate to take clients away from manufacturers' maintenance plans," Mr Pulley said.
"While it is not exactly a case of 'paying peanuts and getting monkeys', there have been some significant issues and problems unearthed in recent years when companies have used inappropriate - often technically unequipped - service companies."
As an example, in situations occurring every day in the materials handling and general manufacturing industries, companies operating lift trucks can turn away from the service plan of the machine's manufacturer in favour of an external operator who may undercut maintenance charges by, say, $20 per hour.
Although on the surface this may appear to be a cheaper alternative, a recurring problem under this structure has been a lack of accessibility to an entire range of parts, hence the job could take twice as long and therefore the overall cost is higher.
But perhaps the area of most concern is the OH&S factor in choosing a maintenance provider purely on the face of hourly charges. Lift truck manufacturers know their product intimately and would not take short cuts in repair and maintenance work.
"Although we can assume that external maintenance providers generally have good skill and intentions, they often operate outside the technical direction of the companies that build lift trucks and are regulated only by their own actions.
"Other matters to consider are downtime, maintenance crew response times, level of attention, parts availability, and many other factors," Mr Pulley said.
It contrasts directly with a maintenance facility such as that provided by Crown, which has more than 180 well-stocked service vans around Australia and guarantees to reach a job within two hours of being contacted.
Furthermore, should the repair engineer not have a required part in the van, immediate delivery is organised while other aspects of the repair are undergone. In this way, downtime is almost non-existent and productivity barely affected.
In situations where regular scheduled maintenance is performed, Crown will identify parts that need stripping and total retrofitting before re-installation and perform complete diagnostic tests as a double check.