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What to Do if You’re Short on Forklifts This Holiday Season

Forklift dealers prefer to start processing peak-season rentals in the preceding summer. So what happens when a distribution center manager forgets to arrange the order until, say, October?

This is not necessarily a recipe for disaster. Depending on the dealer, even late requests for additional forklift rentals can be processed. It’s not uncommon by late in the year, though, for the dealer’s entire inventory to be claimed. What then?

First off, don’t panic. There are ways to boost productivity even without adding a flood of new forklifts to the fleet. The trick is to use what you have, and to do it more aggressively than you might earlier in the year. Here are a few ways to accomplish just that:

  • Look for ergonomic tweaks. October may be too late to boost the fleet, but there’s still time to make a workplace more productive by making it easier on the workers. Adjustable-height workstations prevent the leaning, stretching, and awkward postures that often lead to burnout and fatigue — or even debilitating musculoskeletal disorders. Pallet Carousel & Skid Positioners can improve productivity and reduce risk for all palletizing tasks, allowing DC staff to fill the glut of holiday-season orders that much faster. Shipping & Receiving Desks include ergonomic features like optional cut-outs, which keep work closer to the body to reduce strain during repetitive motions. There’s still time to add these ergonomic solutions to a facility — and they’ll continue to provide value well after the peak season is over.
  • Improve forklift battery utilization. When additional forklifts aren’t available, there’s always a chance to use existing forklifts more efficiently. For electric lift trucks, that often comes down to battery use. Additional battery extractors can help keep every single lift truck running, even when frontline equipment goes down for maintenance or repair. Automatic Transfer Carriages change out batteries quickly, and, mounted to a pallet truck, they travel directly to lift trucks anywhere in the facility.
  • Add capacity at the dock with Dock Ramps. Docks can be a bottleneck during times of extra-high activity. One solution is to break out Dock Ramps or Yard Ramps. The former provide an additional lane of ground-to-dock traffic; the latter provides direct access to trucks from ground-level. These portable dock-access solutions can improve dock capacity during peak shifts, then return to storage for next year.

When employing seasonal workers, ergonomics can be particularly important. In 2018, Loren Sweatt, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health at the Department of Labor, issued a statement about temporary workers:

“Whether employees are stocking shelves, packing boxes, delivering products, or selling merchandise, they have the right to a safe workplace,” Sweatt said. “Employers should focus on their responsibility to protect all employees during the busy holiday season.”

We would add that ergonomic protections don’t just satisfy OSHA; they also improve productivity. Creating a safe, comfortable workplace can help to make up the difference in output — which is just what it will take to get through the holiday season when you’re short on forklifts.


U.S. Department of Labor Focuses on Worker Safety and Pay During Holiday Shopping Season.DOL. U.S. Department of Labor, 20 Nov. 2018.