Just as the new economic reality is causing people to postpone their retirement until well into their 70s, lift trucks are facing the same fate. In putting together a feature on maintenance for our December issue, I heard dealers and OEMs say they're seeing customers hang onto their equipment well past the usual 7-year-maximum service life expectancy.
When times were better, this was seen as a huge mistake—even if the truck was well maintained. Even if the user was extending his fleet's useful life, the reasoning went, he was still doing his company a disservice by going beyond its economic life. Any lift truck OEM will tell you there is a limit to their product's economic effectiveness past a certain point. When that point is reached, the cost to continue maintaining it exceeds the cost to replace it. That makes sense, considering that each new generation of lift trucks comes with features that make it more productive than its predecessors.
When the economy was slow, managers could get away with postponing fleet upgrades. Productivity wasn't the priority, cost savings were. But now that business is coming back, the question will be how well prepared end users and their fleets are to meet the growing demand for their products and services. Add this follow-up question for those who were faithful to maintenance: will they stick to their service-life over economic-life mentality?
It seems that for many, the answer to that last question is yes—and some lift truck providers have adopted an “if you can't beat them, join them” strategy to keep them as customers. I just received a press release from Decker Forklifts, a wholesale buyer and reseller of new and used forklifts, announcing a contest. This is taken right from the release:
“The â€˜My Classic Forklift' contest honors forklift owners and operators who have mature and durable forklifts still running in their warehouses, factories, plants and other facilities. … The contest, which ends February 1, 2011, is open to all used forklift and lift trucks that are at least 15 years old. All makes and models are eligible. Several prizes will be awarded, including three gift cards - $100, $75 or $50. All participants will receive an honorary â€˜My Classic Forklift' badge that they can place on their web sites.”
So in this new economic reality, assets don't get old; they become classics. I have to remember that when I turn 65. It'll look good on my resume.