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A Versatile Forklift

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THE INSPIRATION: Ron Reichen is always on the lookout for ways to save time and implement more lean principles at his two-shop repair business, Precision Body & Paint in Bend and Beaverton, Ore.

He says there were many instances in his much-larger, roughly 26,000-square-foot Beaverton facility in which processes were taking longer than needed, whether it be unloading heavy boxes, gathering the garbage cans, sorting the recycling or moving dead vehicles.

“What can we do to reduce waste and reduce the number of movements that any particular person does?” Reichen says. “When you get a pallet that’s got a lot of weight, that takes a long time.”

WHAT IT DOES: Reichen decided to invest in an 8,000-lb. forklift that has the capability to lift four tons. Since purchasing the forklift, he and his staff have created a number of attachments that have turned the piece of equipment into a versatile, must-have tool:

  • Removing garbage. Reichen built a platform with a sleeve that attaches to the forklift that allows all the garbage cans in the shop to be picked up in one trip. Each night, the technicians push their
    garbage cans into the center aisle and one person goes down with the forklift and platform attachment to pick up the cans, bring them to the dumpster, lift the platform up to the dumpster and
    empty the cans.
  • Sorting recycling. The shop built a second platform that allows them to sort the damaged metals that come off the cars. The shop built two bins, one for sheet metal and one for aluminum, which technicians use when disposing of damaged metal parts. The bins are then attached to the forklift with a sleeve and can easily be
    brought to the recycling dumpsters.
  • Changing light bulbs. Reichen’s Beaverton facility has 444 fluorescent light fixtures that contain four tubes each. That means light bulb maintenance is almost always ongoing. The problem? The light fixtures are 22 feet in the air, meaning the shop had to rent a high lift every time a light bulb needed changing. To remedy that, the shop built a set of 10 stairs with a landing and safety rack at the top. The stairs connect to the forklift with a sleeve and a staff member
    is then raised up to service the light bulbs.
  • Moving dead vehicles. Reichen says that the shop frequently moves dead vehicles, which required three or four staff members and floor jacks to push it. That’s when Reichen decided to purchase a wheel
    lift, similar to that on the back of a tow truck, and attach it to the forklift, which saves significant manpower.

HOW IT’S MADE: Reichen purchased a used forklift and built most of the attachments in-house. He says the platforms are simply rectangular wooden platforms with raised sides. He did purchase the wheel lift and the safety rack for the stairs, he says. 

THE COST: The forklift was roughly $8,000. The platforms and stairs cost $400–$600 in materials and roughly the same in labor. The wheel lift was purchased from a tow truck company for $2,000 and modified for the forklift for another $1,000.

THE ROI: Reichen says the forklift has provided a labor, money and time savings. It’s saved him from spending money for a tow truck and it’s reduced the likelihood of a worker’s comp claim from a technician getting hurt. The stairs have also saved money by keeping the maintenance of the light fixtures in-house.

More than that, however, he says it’s saved invaluable amounts of time and labor.

“It’s such an incredible labor savings,” he says. “It’s another level of efficiency of using the existing forklift with another attachment. It has simplified so many processes in the shop.”

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