I believe that one of the biggest decisions you can make for your business operational efficiency is whether to purchase material handling equipment and alternatively, what do you actually buy?
Maybe you’ve experiences a complete breakdown of your current equipment, you are fed up with costly service expenses for the unit or maybe you’ve decided that a forklift is what you need to help you out. Whatever your reasons, it’s a pretty major choice to make. Where on earth do you start?
Now don’t get me wrong, you may already know exactly what you want. First ask yourself; is it exactly what you need?
Let’s start with the three major areas I feel you need to consider when it comes to your purchase.
The environment and the job at hand
Assuming you have absolutely no idea of what you need in a forklift let’s consider the job the equipment will be doing and where it will be doing it. Every place has special environmental requirements and they need to be discussed with your sales rep to find the most efficient and effective unit.
When I say environment I mean the actual physical surroundings and conditions the machine will operate in. For example you are a farmer looking for a unit that will work outside and in a barn or you own a large warehouse that requires forklifts for moving freight onto racking. In fact, let’s use these two “customers” as the example.
Joe Farmer owns a dairy farm in North Western Ontario. He has used a small tractor for many years to move hay to and from his barn as well as to clean and remove manure. His trusty old tractor had to be retired and his neighbor told him to call PLT because their sales team really knows their stuff!
Now Joe doesn’t need a masted Hyster electric forklift because that simply will not get any job done based on the environment (the farm). I’m going to suggest a Manitou diesel telehandler for Joe but before I can quote him on a particular model, we need to hit a few more points to narrow it down.
• What are you moving? How much does it weigh?
• How high do you need to lift?
• Will the machine be outdoor or indoor or both?
• What are the ground conditions like? Concrete? Fields and grass? Gravel?
• If it’s going indoors; what are the door height restrictions? Are there narrow aisles
These same questions can be applied for Jim Foreman the warehouse owner who needs to move pallets from a truck onto racking. I would never recommend a Manitou telehandler to Jim because again that just would not work. In fact, I’d be quite bad at my job if I did that!
Even though both of these customers are looking for completely opposite things, the same questions need to be considered before they talk to any sales representative. Understanding your needs will make you an informed buyer.
New vs. used
Obviously every business and business owner comes into the sales situation with a budget number in their head. Sometimes that number works and sometimes it doesn’t. No one wants a lemon when making a large equipment purchase so you have to use a few factors to determine if a new or used unit is what you need and if you can match that up with your budget.
What’s your long term investment and how much does it get used?
Ask yourself how many people will be using the forklift and if they are trained or will need training. If you are purchasing something that will require new training for employees that will add to the overall cost.
Wear and tear is another major point. Don’t get fooled by a “too good to be true” price or a “fixer-upper”. Service costs can add up quickly so much like mileage for a car, you want a used unit with low hours.
A new unit may be the way to go if your budget allows it. Initially it is a higher cost but you have a machine that has come right off the lot. Many brands have really great warranties and parts for repairs are readily available when purchased from a dealer. Brand new generally means a longer life and lower service costs in the long run.
This particular consideration is very much a personal preference but I definitely think it is important to your purchase. Everyone has brands that they trust and that is the whole idea behind a “brand”. I am not going to get too specific here as I do have a certain bias however I will say that just because you know a name doesn’t mean it is the best choice and vice versa. Do some research, demo a few different brands and see how you feel about their operation. Ask about warranty and parts which can save you money down the line and don’t get distracted by the “bells and whistles” that are offered as extras. Most of all, shop around.
There are tons of great brands with both new and used units on the market so meet some reps and find out which one is the right one for you!
Much like a car purchase, there are many considerations when it comes to buying the right material handling equipment for you and your business. It really comes down to knowing what exactly you need and doing a bit of research. Often we have an idea of what you want but you may be missing a key factor that could be the difference for your business. Consider what you want to accomplish with the equipment, how much you are willing to invest and what a name means to you. Material handling equipment is a worthwhile investment that truly can change the way you do business.