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Forklifts have been an essential component of warehouse and manufacturing operations since the early 1900s. The earliest versions were simple trucks with platforms that could be raised and lowered. As technology advanced, manufacturers began to design more specialized forklifts with components like hydraulics and streamlined designs to make them more efficient and effective. 

Today’s forklifts are intricate, specialized machines that can cost anywhere from $20,000 to more than $100,000. Given the high cost of purchasing a forklift, and how critical they are to the operation of your business, keeping your forklifts working well is a top priority. 

The best way to protect your investment and keep your assets working as they should is with a well-defined and properly executed forklift maintenance plan. 

How do you maintain a forklift? 

Just as with all other assets and equipment in your facility, forklifts require regular maintenance to ensure safety and reduce downtime. There are several important components of proper forklift maintenance, including:  

  • Cleaning 
  • Safety checks 
  • Operational checks 
  • Preventive maintenance 
  • Regular inspections

When it comes to routine maintenance, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended schedule of inspections and tasks. This not only helps you keep your forklifts working well but also ensures you don't inadvertently void your manufacturer’s warranty or compromise the safety of your forklifts by missing important maintenance tasks.

How often should you inspect your forklifts? 

Different elements of your forklifts need to be inspected at different times, and establishing an inspection schedule is an important part of proper forklift maintenance. 

Daily forklift inspections 

Daily forklift inspections are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)1. If your facility operates around-the-clock, then forklifts should be inspected at the beginning of every shift. 

Monthly forklift inspections 

Monthly forklift inspections are much more in-depth and often require diagnostic or other specialized equipment. Most manufacturers offer maintenance contracts for forklifts, which include regular checkups by trained technicians, allowing your team to outsource the more difficult and intricate aspects of forklift inspections and maintenance. 

Yearly forklift inspections 

Manufacturers usually recommend yearly forklift inspections as well, and they are often a required component of warranty maintenance. 

Regular inspections help you identify issues before they can create safety hazards, reduce forklift downtime, and extend the expected life of your assets and equipment. 

How often should you perform preventive maintenance? 

While you should schedule forklift inspections based on the daily, monthly and yearly timetable suggested by the manufacturer and outlined above, the preventive maintenance schedule for forklifts is usually based on hours of use. So, if your forklift’s manufacturer recommends certain maintenance items be completed every 200 hours, and your facility is running forklifts 24/7, then your maintenance should be scheduled much more often than a facility that only uses forklifts during a single shift. Creating and following a comprehensive maintenance plan for all your forklifts helps you ensure your equipment is running as efficiently and safely as possible. 

OSHA’s maintenance and inspection requirements are also based on hours of use, so it’s critical for you to keep good records, not only of the usage hours for your forklifts, but of the inspection and maintenance records, as well. If you fail to properly maintain, inspect, and/or document the maintenance for your forklifts, your company could face hefty fines from OSHA. 

Keeping tabs on the preventive maintenance and inspection records can seem like an overwhelming task, though, especially for facilities with large amounts of assets and equipment that are operating around-the-clock. That’s where a good computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) can help. The right CMMS makes it easy to schedule and track preventive maintenance across every asset in your facility, and gives you instant access to the complete maintenance record of any forklift or other asset. 

A great CMMS also allows you to create templates for inspection checklists for every different inspection type. These templates can then be used by every maintenance technician on your team to ensure that every inspection is completed correctly and consistently, regardless of who is completing the work. 

Daily forklift maintenance checklist  

Daily forklift inspections, as mandated by OSHA, are mainly focused on making sure the forklift is safe to operate. The daily inspection should consist of two main parts: a pre-start visual inspection and an operational check with the forklift turned on. A daily inspection should include looking for damage, excessive wear, or problems in any of these areas:  

  • Tires and lug nuts 
  • Safety components, like lights, horn, seat belt, etc. 
  • Forks and mast 
  • Hoses and cables 
  • Data plate 
  • Accelerator, brakes, steering 
  • Axle and other moving parts 
  • Gauges and instruments 
  • Oil and lubrication

Different types of forklifts may also need additional checks. For example, in an electric forklift, you will also need to check the battery during the daily inspection.

Monthly forklift maintenance checklist  

The requirements for monthly forklift maintenance depend on two main factors: the manufacturer’s recommendations, and type of forklifts in your facility. In general, for each component and system in your forklifts, technicians will need to conduct a thorough and in-depth inspection every month, and then perform preventive or responsive maintenance where required. 

These in-depth inspections can help you identify potential issues with your forklifts before they result in failure that costs you time and money. 

Executive summary   

Given how crucial forklifts are to operations in most facilities, creating and following a comprehensive forklift maintenance schedule helps you protect your organization’s investment, reduce downtime, and improve safety. However, tracking maintenance inspections and repairs for many forklifts can be complicated and time-consuming. That’s where a good CMMS can help. With the right CMMS tool, your maintenance department can more easily manage all the assets and equipment in your facility, track proper maintenance and complete it on schedule, and use inspection templates to ensure consistency in maintenance and inspections across the board. 

Next steps   

Want help tracking your facility’s forklift maintenance schedules?  

Hippo's here to help you get the solution that works best for you, including answering your questions about facility maintenance software, helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial

About The Author

Steph Hatfield

Steph Hatfield helps people find the right SaaS software with blog posts that are equal parts informative and awesome.
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