Questions to Ask Before Buying New Lifting Equipment
Buying new lifting equipment represents a large capital expense for any business. Doing so is usually necessary to help increase efficiency, production capacity, and improve worker health and safety. Handling items in production are often the last consideration, but really they should be the first.
You will have a range of reasons and objectives that lead you to buying new lifting equipment. It provides a great opportunity for business improvement but can also pose a high risk from a financial and production perspective if you do not get it right.
To help you, here are some questions to consider before buying new lifting equipment to give you more confidence in your decision-making.
1. What are your requirements and constraints?
Before jumping in to buying new lifting equipment, it is important to have a clear idea of the outcome you are seeking and the value of this for your business.
Materials handling equipment can help you enjoy a safer, more efficient, and more productive operation. You should start with the end in sight. What is your priority? Is it; safety for operators to reduce injuries or days lost to sickness, faster production times, more precise positioning, safer handling of expensive items, less damage to products? Ensure you can communicate the outcome you are expecting from the outset.
When you are clear on this, you can focus on the task. What are you lifting? How does it need to be manipulated? Do you need to rotate the product? Will it need to work with existing machinery? Consider all the steps in the operation and how production will be affected. Build a picture of how your new investment will benefit you and your business.
Ideally, you would start with a blank canvas where considerations about how you will handle products and components in your factory will be factored in before you decide on the location of your production equipment. Often it is only when the layout is decided that you will then think about how items will be moved around production, machinery, and operations. With forethought, significant savings on material handling equipment can be made. It is very common to find environmental constraints dictate your options, so it is important you choose a supplier who can offer solutions tailored to your situation.
You will probably try to achieve an outcome that is made tricky by an inherited environment. Involving a supplier who is not tied to one type of solution, and has the knowledge and experience to advise, will be able to offer innovative approaches to overcoming constraints on the factory floor.
When setting up or adding a new operation to your production facility, budget usually becomes an issue as the requirement for handling equipment is overlooked. Tying the investment to the outcome will help you minimise the risk and make a smart choice. Consider:
- The savings or gains that handling more safely and more productively will achieve for you
- How many saved labour hours you will have
- How injuries and days lost to sickness are reduced
- What your increased throughput of units will be
- How much reduced waste due to damaged items there will be
You can measure the success of your investment against what is important to you.
2. Have you gained an external point of view?
It is important to consider any new undertaking from several perspectives. Involving your workers and operators when you start your research will give you information to help form ideas for improvement.
It is critical you have agreement from your operators because buying equipment that people do not use will only result in a poor outcome.
Choosing a supplier who has operated in a range of environments will provide additional insight. Over 25 years’ experience has given Handling Concepts the privilege of working with world class manufacturers across all industries and has presented many diverse manual handling problems that share common pain points. There are usually several ways to solve a materials handling problem but with Handling Concepts you will be recommended a solution that considers handling equipment best practices, such as minimising the manipulation required, avoiding mixing part handling and tool changing equipment and maintaining overhead access for servicing.
If you are looking at buying new lifting equipment because you are changing premises or building a new factory floor plan, a good materials handling supplier will help you plan the layout of your workplace to reduce the cost of handling equipment. By introducing it too late, you may end up buying more than you really need. With a little more thought about positioning production equipment, you can optimise production and safety. By actively taking on board information from staff and by working with your supplier, you will have the best information and support to reveal and resolve requirements and constraints to create the right solution to achieve the outcome you require.
3. Have you managed expectations?
Throughout the process, it is important that you manage the expectations of everyone involved in using the new equipment. If it is to help your workers perform a task more easily, informing them of the benefits they will see and the success of their area of work will encourage them to buy into the new methods. It is far more difficult to impose the use of new practices by enforcement, albeit that they will also look to you to provide them with safe and effective methods of operation.
With the right communication and by listening, your workers are more likely to be cooperative as it reflects your appreciation of their views. It is important you can show the benefits the new equipment creates to them and to the business. Workers will appreciate your efforts to prioritise their health and well-being.
When buying new lifting equipment is a collaborative exercise, it is easier to keep everyone on the same page and encourage agreement. In all change initiatives, there is often conflict in expectations throughout the development phase and it can take a while for everyone to get used to the new equipment and for it to settle into the workplace. Investing a little bit at a time to keep everyone on board is the best way to achieve the desired outcome.
4. How will you find your ideal supplier?
Usually there are two different types of suppliers you can work with: a sales-led business, or an engineering-led organisation like Handling Concepts.
Sales-led suppliers will usually carry stock standard materials handling equipment like stacker trucks or industrial manipulators. They can help you make an informed decision on what equipment is right for you, but you are unlikely to see any customisations to the equipment. This means the equipment you buy might not be fully appropriate for the application, but it can be a low cost option.
An engineering-led supplier will have in-house design and production capabilities to offer you a tailored solution. The result may be a low-cost item like a stacker or stand-alone item, but to ensure you achieve your desired outcome within your constraints and requirements, it may be customised, modified or completely bespoke. For example, you may need a bespoke below-the-hook lifting device with an industrial manipulator so you can grip and rotate as well as lift the desired load.
Engineering led organisations employ passionate individuals who want to provide you with the best solution, rather than just sell you a piece of equipment. You will have a more detailed approach to the sales specification process, including concept drawings and site visits, to get an understanding of the environment and the constraints to overcome. Engineering led businesses offer a tailored, collaborative experience, these can mean a higher financial investment. Therefore, it is important you evaluate the price you pay vs the performance of the company and pedigree of the delivery when deciding who your ideal supplier is.
You can be reassured by the questions your supplier is asking you. Knowing that you are speaking to an individual who understands your requirements from the first enquiry will help you have confidence that you are minimising the risk of a poor investment. A good supplier will ask you key questions to tease out your priorities and objectives. This is in order for them to specify the right solution and take the weight of your handling problem off your shoulders by adding value to your project.
5. How will you be running the project?
The next step in buying your new lifting equipment is deciding how the project will be run.
It is helpful to involve key team members, including a representative from the production team with your supplier meetings, to check on the progress of the project and start collaborative decision making. You will know who to involve but typically, a production manager, machine operator, project lead, purchasing, and any core company decision makers are good to have with you.
Having identified the project team, it is helpful to agree on roles and responsibilities, especially who will be the main point of contact for the supplier, who will oversee preparing the site for installation, who will provide key details to the supplier, such as where your main power supply outlets are. By giving key responsibilities to your team, the running of the project will not lie on one person’s shoulder. Each person has something to bring to your project meetings and has a dedicated focus on completing their part. When purchasing, planning, and managing a project, there can be confounding factors, such as lead time delays or modifications. It is important for you and the supplier to be flexible and adaptable to changes along the way.
It is also wise to consider how the project will run during and after installation. If your production activities must stop to allow for installation, you will need a supplier who can schedule around those need. You may want to consider alternative activities for your workers during this time. You should also set aside sufficient time for training. The supplier installation team should be fully equipped to provide your staff with training on how to use the new equipment. So, if you can establish when your key operators and production manager are available, you could also schedule this training as part of your installation.
6. Do you know how to maintain your equipment?
You will be keen to ensure your handling equipment is maintained correctly. Otherwise, like any fundamental part of your factory infrastructure, equipment can break down and cause serious, expensive issues for your business.
One way to ensure you maintain your equipment is to perform daily and weekly checks. Your supplier should be able to provide you with key areas to monitor that are susceptible to general wear and tear, and a guide on what checks you should perform daily and weekly before using the equipment. By performing these checks, you will maintain a proactive approach to keeping the asset in tip top condition and prevent break downs.
Asking the operator if there are any problems with the equipment can also be very helpful in maintaining the equipment. When using a machine every day, you get a feel for how it works and if something feels off. As soon as an issue is flagged, your supplier can inspect your machine and get it back up and running before it causes any major disruption.
It is also important to keep a record of all checks, reports, and inspections of your equipment, so you can keep track of what parts wear easily, what issues are arising often or if a potential serious breakdown could be on the horizon.
You are also legally mandated to complete six-monthly LOLER inspections. These inspections are in place so that you can manage and control the risks to avoid any injury or damage. If you are looking for a supplier who can support you throughout your project and beyond, be sure to check if they have a dedicated maintenance team.
At Handling Concepts, you can benefit from a team of professionals with years of experience performing LOLER inspections, preventative maintenance, and repairs. They have a wealth of experience with many types of equipment and can help you maintain all your equipment, even ones that were not supplied by Handling Concepts.
A critical spares package can also give you the advantage of reducing disruption and downtime caused by equipment breakdowns. These packages contain all the essential parts of your equipment that may need to be replaced over time. By having these on-site, you will always have the parts you need on-hand and can avoid delays caused by long lead times. If this sounds like something you would benefit from, be sure to find a supplier who can provide this. This is not a standard offering from many sales or engineering companies, so you may need to look around or ask them if this is possible.
Essentials to buying new lifting equipment
When the decision to go ahead with buying new lifting equipment is made, it can be both an exciting and worrying time. It is important to take a step back and consider all these questions when you are planning your materials handling project so that you can ensure you are investing in the right equipment for you, your business, and your workers.
With almost 30 years of experience, Handling Concepts has identified what it calls the Seven Deadly Sins of Materials Handling Projects, and you can use them to help you avoid making a mistake:
- Failure to predict the need and budget
- Failure to analyse needs in detail
- Failure to involve operators
- Failure to respond to opportunities
- Unrealistic expectations
- Selecting the wrong suppler
- Failure to keep talking during system design
Consider the questions that have been suggested in this blog to help you avoid the pitfalls that the seven deadly sins can lead to.
About Handling Concepts
Handling Concepts is a leading provider of materials and industrial handling equipment. Founded in 1994, you can rely on over 25 years of experience, providing manual handling solutions to businesses across the United Kingdom and the globe. You will benefit from pragmatic advice and innovative solutions from a team that is passionate about improving your productivity and efficiency safely.
You can benefit from a range of services tailored to your needs:
- Providing materials handling equipment
- Bespoke manufacturing solution planning
- Full installation services
- Machine inspections and maintenance services
- Continued post-project support
- Sales of critical spares packages
- Equipment training help