How you became a Forktruck Engineer

Here is my story as a fork truck engineer, fairly long but here goes

When I was a kid my dad messed about with cars, engines, motor bikes, he was not qualified, he also has very little tools, he was a ex army truck driver Royal Corps of Signals , but knew all about mechanics, self trained, he also invented/made the worlds first agricultural carrot lifter, that machine sat for years on a farm till it was scrapped but he never patented it.
He would buy Triumph twin motor cycle engines and join 2 engines together to make engine driven welders, this was in the early 50's, he brought home aeroplane propellers to alloy weld them, his boss had a couple of aeroplanes, but he was not a qualified welder but knew how to do it

kids used to come round to the back yard of our house and watch dad repairing and tuning cars, motor bikes, asking about what he was doing and he showed them. I also watched and read books about mechanics as a kid
a good few of the kids went onto to be successful car mechanics using my Dad's knowledge

I left school after living out in the sticks, I wanted to join the British Navy, but ended up in the British army.

I joined the British army and was trade trained with generators and power supply in the Royal Corps of Signals

After I came out of the military I nearly went back in to join The Royal Engineers as a Heavy Plant Mechanic, but I met my wife. something to this day I regret,, no, not the wife, but the military, I had to settle down, so civvy street it was.

I got a job with a large company, some in the UK will recall the company, The 600 group, everything from generators, cranes, shovels, lift trucks

I worked the generator repair department.

What I noticed was that the company had service engineers going out to repair, so I enquired, no chance of getting that job, but I noticed that the engineers in the fork truck department got out more, I eventually got a transfer to the lift truck department, all Coventry Climax fork trucks, they would not let me go out on the road

I left,

I applied for a job with a lift truck hire company called L Lipton fork trucks, they also manufactured the Lipton gas system for lift trucks, their main trucks was Komatsu, they gave me a pair of overhauls suit, service van keys and sent me out on a job the same day.
The firm went bust

I then joined Matbro fork trucks, a company formed by 2 brothers called Mathews Brothers, Matbro for short, Horley Surry it was they who invented the articulation pivot system of the front end loader, they too went bust

I then left a joined Clark Equipment Industrial Truck, best company I have every worked for as a Service Engineer

Clark Equipment was I believe the first to offer Preventative Maintainance procedure for lift trucks and also to produce the first paper work to be issued to customers if the machine was in dangerous order, before, ie Forklift Truck LOLER Certification

how about you???????

was you a lift truck engineer, did you go on to be a company, still trading?

On looking back I miss Fork lift trucks, but todays engineers are not what they used to be, the files, reamers, micro meter, the spill timing of the injection system is gone, its computers, plug it in and it tells you what is wrong, we found the fault with out computers

I am glad I did that job, and I miss it, maybe that's why I get ForkliftAction on my pc

The old Mr Clark got it right from the start, quality and a good product, most grateful to him and his historical lift truck company
  • Posted 17 May 2013 13:20
  • Modified 17 May 2013 14:53 by administrator
  • Discussion started by Dave_S
  • North Yorkshire UK, United Kingdom
Showing items 1 - 11 of 11 results.
Very interesting, stories,
  • Posted 1 Sep 2013 02:09
  • Reply by towmotor
  • Ontario, Canada
  • Posted 31 Aug 2013 06:15
  • Modified 21 Feb 2014 07:31 by poster
  • Reply by Keef
  • Suffolk, United Kingdom
I started out working for ICI (Remember them?) in their engineering workshops on a YTS scheme, this was 1984, 6 weeks later i was offered a 4 year apprenticeship as a installation electrician, so took that instead, when i came out of my time, i'd had enough of moving wardrobes and lifting floor boards and plaster falling on your head, i went to my aunties in Virginia for a holiday and when i came back applied for a job at the local Cat dealer Finning as a forklift electrician, luckily my dad was a plant welder there and he was good friends with the fork truck boss at the time, and that is how i got my break into the fork truck business and i must admit it has looked after me well.
I left Finning (or Briggs as it is now) 16 years ago and went to work for another large company as engineer and now manager, i echo the sentiments about engineers and fitters, send a workshop man out on a field job and they forget everything they have learned in a workshop environment, I've seen decent workshop engineers go to pieces out on customers sites as they had nothing to fall back on, i always made a point of employing field experienced engineers on that basis. But i've also seen some so called engineers as they claim to be just fit part after part in a blind hope it'll sort itself out, there are very few proper problem solvers out there, i had a guy who worked for me who now is retired, and he had the lowest parts cost stock on his van, the highest first time fix rate and lowest number of breakdowns on his patch, he was an absolute dream and i dreaded the day he retired, i knew we would struggle to find anyone even half as good as him.
In a few weeks i'm off to a new company as a senior manager on MHE equipment, i can't believe the career it has given me and i'm still learning and picking up new ideas every month and cannot wait for this next chapter to start, it's always been a very interesting business to work in, with some great people in ti and at the same time a small world, trade shows are like school reunions, people you've not seen for a few years suddenely pop up at a new company and so on, i just feel like i've been lucky to enjoy the job and industry.
  • Posted 24 Jul 2013 09:12
  • Reply by BurtKwok
  • West Yorks, United Kingdom
I was always interested in mechanics when I was a teenager and got a job at a engine rebuild machine shop. After learning about that stuff, I worked at a couple of forklift dealers for 8 years and then went out on my own as an independent. That was 28 years ago. It sure is a sense of freedom when I can call all the shots on how things are doing to be done. So, I've been a forklift field tech for 36 years. That's all I've ever been, but I'm retiring early, I think.
I've gotten to the point of doing everything at the customers place, as long as they approve. It just seems to go faster and they save the cost and time spent to transport their lift. Most people have a second forklift if needed to take the counterweight, mast, or trans/engine out. If not, a chain fall usually can be hooked up. I always make sure that a major cleanup is done when finished.
  • Posted 29 May 2013 04:27
  • Reply by mrfixit
  • New York, United States
It's good to read your stories on how you became fork lift techs, I started of in the motor trade with a big dealership in the 1960s as a motor veh electrician, working in different departments ranging from accident repair to commercial vehicles even working in the fuel injection pump overhaul shop, yes I remember splill pipe timing and micrometers and going to night school and all those friends I made in the trade.When I was 22 I started work for an agricultural merchant with 108 commercial vets to look after and a fleet of reps cars, but we were heading into the 70s and inflation was affecting the pound in ones pocket, two years with Farmway and I needed to move on to increase my earnings along came globe and Simpsons auto electrical and fuel injection engineers, so I was then working on every type of vehicle that had wheels you could think of, but inflation was the beast that ravaged my pocket, Ted Heath was priminster we had the three day week power cuts. I noticed a forklift engineers job in the paper working for Eaton Materials Handling manufacturer of the Yale lift truck, I got the job and the rest as they say is history doubled my wages more money than I could spend, 35 years down the road and Mr Briggs happened. That's when I decided it was time to retire. I can say that was the best 35 yrs of my life being my own boss working from home my nearest depot a 100 miles away left to organise my own work load it was good.

Regards Titus
  • Posted 29 May 2013 04:01
  • Reply by Titus
  • North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
I learned this business from my dad, who owned an independent forklift repair business for 40 years. He once was the lead mechanic at the local Hyster dealer. After they gave him the big screw (after 15 years of service), he decided to go out on his own- lucky for me he did.

I went to a local automotive training school- fully engaged in becoming an automotive tech. Only after my education was almost fully complete did I find that auto techs work flat rate- not an activity I was at all interested in doing. When I graduated I then started working for my dad's company, and, as they say, the rest is history.

I'm thankful I found this website- I learn so much from the discussions we all have- you never know when something discussed here will apply to a new issue. I can only hope that I help you guys in some way the way you help me.

I believe we are the best of the best- always trying to improve ourselves- for whatever the reason. I have noticed a trend with younger techs in our field (at least the ones I've spoken with directly)- they don't seem to want to learn the basics. They seem to know only the "plug & play" side of repairs, not really understanding what they're replacing or what purpose it serves. I think this understanding makes folks like us more valuable in the long run but the loss of this knowledge to the younger techs hurts the industry as a whole.

I was talking with a 27 year old tech the other day who's been in the business 2 years. His primary job as of now is basic PM's, belt changes & other light duty stuff. We were discussing how electronics have changed the game on serving lifts as of late. When I asserted that there is a need to know what different electronic sensors are & what their purpose is, he disagreed, saying that knowledge is not needed. When I pressed on why he felt this way his answer was the following: and I quote- "You don't want to know that stuff because then you'll look like you know what you're doing. And you certainly don't want to look like you know what you're doing because then you'll get all the BS work that no one else can fix, and who wants that".

I walked away shaking my head. He had no desire to learn anything, just plug the computer in & do whatever it tells him to. IMHO- this is just sad. I hope this isn't the direction our profession is taking only time will tell.
  • Posted 28 May 2013 05:49
  • Modified 28 May 2013 05:56 by poster
  • Reply by bbforks
  • Pennsylvania, United States
bbforks (at) Hotmail (dot) com
Customers love technology- until they have to pay to fix it!
let me add my $.02 USD...
I have had to care for a 15000lb capacity hubtex side loader that was inside a cooler room that got built around the loader after the loader was in the building, and if that side loader ever comes out of that room, either the walls will be torn down or the side loader will be cut up for scrap first. there are also a few 3000 lb capacity forklift inside big cruise ships, that have to be repaired or serviced while the ship is in port changing passengers, and do not just drive out of the ship. There is no job that CAN -not- be done at the location, the question is what is the most cost effective way to do the repair/service. I usually try to insist on a 4 hour rule; where any single job that is going to take more than 4 hours should be done at the shop by the shop techs.
Now as far as how -I- got into this trade/ career...
I have tried to continuously learn this trade, and still try to learn new things about forklifts when ever I can*, and after almost 40 years looking really closely at forklifts, the one thing I think I can say I know for sure about forklifts is that no one knows it all.
I first got into thinking that forklifts were neat machines at my father's place of business (in the 1960s and early 1970) where he had a few Yale and Barrett battery powered pallet movers that lifted about 3 or 4 feet (low lift walkie-stradle stacker) and then signed up for the US Air Force before I could be drafted. I had a 'guaranteed' job that sounded great in the job description (corrosion control tech), but when I got to through basic training, and they explained this was the guy who washes the air-planes, I asked if there was any thing else I might be able to qualify for. and as I had been to a 2 year/3 hours a day tech school to learn auto and boat mechanics, they gave me a test and then a tool box and pointed me in the direction of the forklifts. One of the things I have observed since then is that, no matter how much I try to get away from looking at forklifts, it seems that this industry drags me back into it (I usually claim "dragged me back kicking and screaming all the way), and seems to me to be one of the most 'recession proof' types of jobs.
No matter how you count it, it is cheaper to move your goods with a forklift than to move them by hand, and that is one of the main reasons why even when the rest of the economy is in the bottom of the barrel, there is still work fixing forklifts, even though the customer will be slower to pay, and search real hard for a less expensive alternative, in the long run, if you are doing the work in the manner that is most cost effective for the customer, even their search for a less expensive alternative will work in your favor to bring even more work your company's way. (But I digress)
*= one of the best things about forkliftaction is that there is discussions where I can learn from other techs, and it is one of the main reasons I prefer to discuss forklift problems in a forum like this (rather than directly mailing each other) is that we can learn from each other, and correct any misconceptions of wrong opinions we have.
  • Posted 25 May 2013 23:57
  • Modified 27 May 2013 05:21 by poster
  • Reply by edward_t
  • South Carolina, United States
"it's not rocket surgery"
Dave s no I am a field service engineer and ye s depending on how big the ram was and if there was some thing or some one to help lift it out there is no reason it cannot be done on site.
However a lot of companys these days will not allow that sort of work to be under taken on site given that they are also responsible for your health and safety.
In days of old there isn`t a job that could not be done on site and yes I have done just about all of them at one time or another.
  • Posted 25 May 2013 06:02
  • Reply by daryl_j
  • manchester, United Kingdom
I resealed a main lift ram on a triplex mast only a couple of weeks back.

If there is suitable working space then it could easily be done on a site.

I do know some customers don't like any mess being made & also some customer's wont allow any mast / ram removal's on there sites so in those cases the machine would have to be uplifted back to the repair centre.
  • Posted 24 May 2013 20:07
  • Reply by Forkingabout
  • england, United Kingdom
daryl j

I presume you are a on site service engineer,

look at this scene, a customer rings up and wants repair service, "my lift truck hoist ram is leaking", this could be a single, duplex, or a triplex ram. would this be done on site or taken to workshops in todays world???
  • Posted 24 May 2013 13:33
  • Reply by Dave_S
  • North Yorkshire UK, United Kingdom
I had a similar discussion with my service manager just today about the merits of an engineer over a parts fitter. our boss would not know one from the other but it is telling to find proper engineers that still have pride in the fact that they want to mend things and do it to the best of their ability. There are plenty of bit fitters and so called experts with laptops and hand helds but what happens when it does not show you exactly what is wrong or you have to find a work around to either make it fit or the bit no longer exists. These are the times when a true engineer appears. Sadly they are getting to be in short supply and most firms don`t know they have such a rare breed until they have left and it is too late.
  • Posted 24 May 2013 05:25
  • Reply by daryl_j
  • manchester, United Kingdom

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