How to Buy an Electric Forklift – by Carer Electric Forklift Solutions

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- 2 Jun 2022 ( #1079 )
7 min read

The vendors of material handling equipment (aka – forklifts) have not served the industry in North America well by supporting the conversion to electric forklifts from internal combustion dinosaurs.

The biggest challenge with electric forklift technology has been promoting it at the ground level. That would be the guy or gal who shows up at your door, suggesting they would like to talk with your operations manager about buying a forklift from them. Does this person know what they are talking about, and does this person have the best interest of the company they might be presenting to in mind? We will take some industry heat for our opinions on this; generally, the people you are speaking with will have limited knowledge of properly determining how to specify a forklift to a customer's application effectively. As a commissioned sales rep, they want to close a sale.  

The industry is also to blame. Sorry, don't shoot the messenger; we're trying to help. The process most companies go through in buying a forklift is, "It's time to replace the old 10,000lb forklift, so let's get Mr. John from the shop to get us some quotes for a replacement." John from the shop has established a great relationship with a forklift sales rep they often buy from. He gets to go to a football game occasionally, maybe out for lunches and that sales rep does an excellent job closing the sale because they learned something called "relationship selling". What if this application hasn't moved a load heavier than 4000lbs? John from the shop is tasked with replacing a 10,000lb forklift, so that's what he does, and the sales rep, with seasons tickets to the football game, is pleased with taking the order and is never motivated to determine what the customer needs are and if better solutions might exist.

To compound the issue, let's introduce some innovative technology. The forklift sales rep who has been selling propane or diesel forklift for the last 20 years continues to sit by the crusty old' fax machine waiting for POs to arrive without investing the time to keep up with technology in their industry. You then end up in a situation where instead of having better, more innovative solutions presented to the industry, the forklift sales rep prefers to convince John from the shop that new technology is risky and expensive.  In other words, the path of least resistance to an easy sale and commission.

In some cases, management might encourage John from the shop to source an electric forklift. 

Well, our football-loving sales rep who has ever only sold LP or diesel forklifts doesn't know how to consider an application to sell an electric forklift properly. This is most notable when it comes to specifying the battery power system for the application. Inevitably, what happens is the forklift sales rep sells an electric forklift to John, the battery fails because it was not appropriately specified, but the message back to management is, "electric forklifts just don't work in our application."

Did you know that electric forklifts with fully enclosed AC motors designed for 100% all-weather outdoor operation that can support very high utilization applications without spare batteries have been around for 20 years now? Are we not quite there yet?  Are you still going to be the guinea pig? 

We want to help you with considering the purchase of electric forklifts and are pleased to offer the following guidance:

Please interview your sales reps and confirm they know what they are talking about. This includes high-level operations managers and finance directors, as the proper depreciation of an electric forklift, will vary dramatically from diesel or LP, and the finance department needs to be aware. Also, sales rep worth their salt will be able to properly be prepared a return-on-investment analysis and be sure of how the proper calculation of capital acquisition based on extended working life needs to be considered with electric forklifts.

Please, if your sales rep asks for internal information from you so he can develop a solution, this is a good thing! This might include historical maintenance costs, fuel costs, labor rates, load details, facility operating hours and shift times, lunch/coffee breaks, and all that information that will probably really annoy you until you realize that you have a rep who is trying to function as a consultant for you because they care. Give it to them, do it, and give it all to them, as it will help them create a better solution for you.

Once you have sourced a rep that you feel can support you with a better solution and know what they are talking about with electric forklift options, your job is mainly done.

At a minimum, the following needs to be considered when buying a forklift:

Analyzing the load details, including maximum and average load weights, dimensions, load center, and lift height - This is very important as a properly made electric forklift has a lower center of gravity and will typically have a batter residual lift capacity to a higher lift height. This means you can often decrease the base rated lift capacity of the electric forklift vs. an internal combustion equivalent and often save capital. 

Performing a detailed utilization (operating hours) analysis - When you convert from internal combustion to electric utilization, on average will drop by 35% with the elimination of idle time. This means the electricity will last in your application by at least 35% longer, which will impact your acquisition costs and depreciation and, therefore, your ROI. Performing a detailed utilization analysis is the essential breakdown component in creating a practical solution as it also affects the design of the power system. This should include your shift times, break times, and working days per week, as this will detail when power can be retrained to the battery.

Application analysis to understand the working environment - It's essential to recognize that electric forklifts will consume power differently from one application to another. If you put a clamp attachment on a forklift, it will generally consume 40% more energy. Your sales rep needs to know this as it will significantly impact power consumption and how the battery power system gets designed. When correctly specifying an electric forklift to an application, there are many items to consider, and this comes only with experience.

A proper financial analysis (grossly underrecognized in the industry) - Critical to this development is recognizing that the useable life of an electric forklift is significantly greater than the internal combustion (IC) forklift. Therefore, a large chunk of additional capital must reinvest in another IC while the electricity would otherwise continue to operate. This additional capital investment needs to be considered compared to the electric's acquisition price. 

Your sales rep should be able to forecast electrical energy consumption costs for you to compare against diesel or LP consumption. It sounds like a stab in the dark, but your maintenance costs will drop by 40% at a minimum when converting to electric. There are several additional inclusions for a properly prepared financial analysis your sales rep can help you with. When considering an electric forklift, your ROI should almost always come in under 30 months, with most landing at 18 – 26 months. All these government incentives to encourage the conversion to electric machinery aren't needed as there is easily a sufficient justification for this already. If you get some, consider it as icing on the cake.

The Carer electric forklift brand in North America remains under-recognized. We wanted to first invest in people, so we know we have sales consultants who can use a consultative approach to helping people correctly specify, analyze, and justify an electric forklift for their application. We now have a lot of people out there that are very capable, and we ask for the opportunity so that we can show you how we work.

The Carer electric forklift range includes 56 different chassis models ranging from 10,000lbs to 66,000lbs lift capacity. We want to help you. 

 

Contact us now by email, or visit www.carerforklifts.com

 

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