The impact of forklift downtime on business operations and productivity

Forklifts are essential equipment in the material handling industry, and any downtime can negatively impact a company’s operations and profitability. Forklift downtime refers to when a forklift is unavailable for use due to repairs and maintenance. 

While some downtime is unavoidable, it can lead to reduced productivity and increased repair expenses, ultimately affecting a company’s profitability and long-term success. 

Forklift downtime costs can be high, and therefore it’s crucial to ensure that forklifts are consistently compliant and in working condition. In this blog, we explore the impact of downtime on business productivity and profitability and discuss ways to minimize it to increase operational productivity and save costs.

Forklifts in a warehouse

Impact of Forklift Downtime on Business Operations

Forklift downtime can significantly affect a business in different ways.
  • Losing Money On Employees: One of the most immediate effects of downtime is losing money on employees. When workers cannot operate machinery, they can’t work, and the business loses money on labor costs.
  • Losing Money On Products: Manufacturing and distributing products require a lot of time and resources, and every minute of downtime can cost a business a lot of money. Fixed costs such as electricity, water, insurance, and other operating costs continue to run even during downtime, adding to the overall cost.
  • Customer Dissatisfaction and Loss of Revenue: Downtime in a distribution center environment can impact order fulfillment, leading to dissatisfied customers and loss of revenue. Catching up with orders can also result in increased overtime costs. The stress can impact the business owner and employees, leading to an environment of tension and human error.
  • Affects Business Reputation: Customers expect timely delivery of products, and when a company cannot fulfill orders due to downtime, it may lose customers to competitors. This can result in long-term effects on the business, such as decreased stock returns and shareholder wealth.

Impact of Forklift Downtime on Business Productivity

Forklift downtime can severely affect business productivity, as it is an essential piece of equipment in the material handling industry.
  • Inability to Move Goods and Products: Forklifts are used to transport heavy items, and without them, employees may have to carry goods manually, which can be time-consuming and inefficient. This can cause a bottleneck in production, delaying the completion of tasks and projects.
  • Performance of Other Equipment: Downtime can also affect the performance of other equipment and machinery. For example, if a forklift breaks down in a warehouse, it can limit the ability of other equipment, such as conveyors, pallet jacks, and loading docks, to function correctly. 
  • Delays in Receiving and Shipping Products: Without the ability to move products quickly and efficiently, it can be challenging to meet customer demand, resulting in delayed shipments and missed deadlines.
  • Employee Morale and Productivity: Forklift downtime can also impact employee morale and productivity. Employees may become frustrated with the downtime, leading to decreased motivation and productivity. It can also lead to increased stress levels and tension in the workplace, resulting in a negative work environment.
Man operating a forklift

Forklift Downtime Cost Calculation

Calculating the forklift downtime cost is crucial for any business, as it can help identify lost productivity and revenue costs. However, it can be complicated to determine the exact cost of downtime, as it includes several variables.

For instance, if a forklift breaks down, repair costs would include the parts and labor needed to fix the equipment. Additionally, the wages paid to the operator would need to be considered, as they could not work during the downtime. 

If the business had to incur overtime hours to catch up on lost production time, that cost would also need to be considered.

Furthermore, expedited shipping fees and other expenses incurred to ensure orders arrive on time must be considered, as downtime can delay shipments and affect customer satisfaction. 

If the business lost customers or revenue due to missed deadlines, that cost would also need to be considered.

Moreover, wear and tear on other equipment and operators who had to fill in for the missing equipment would also need to be considered, as it can cause further disruptions and delays. 

Businesses can make informed decisions on minimizing downtime and improving productivity by determining the downtime cost.

Forklift parked outdoors

Tips to Minimize Forklift Downtime

Forklifts are essential pieces of equipment for warehouses and material handling operations. However, downtime can be costly for any business.  To minimize downtime and ensure high productivity, companies can follow several basic practices for operations and maintenance.
  1. Keep Track of Your Machinery

Keeping track of your forklift machinery and maintaining records is crucial. This includes tracking purchase or rental price, date of purchase, brand, model/serial number, maintenance logs, and engine hours.  Maintaining a forklift maintenance sheet in the truck’s file can help access the information quickly when required.
  1. Enhance the Forklift Replacement Cycle

Enhancing the forklift replacement cycle based on performance profiles for each vehicle is crucial.  It is recommended to replace forklifts every three to seven years, depending on their application. A forklift will typically last 10,000 hours.
  1. Having Spare Parts Handy

Keeping spare parts handy can help reduce forklift downtime. Regular reviews of repair trends can help businesses design a budget and stock the ideal quantity of spare parts.
  1. Knowing Your Forklift is Essential

Study your quirky machines inside out. Understanding the equipment is essential to handle forklift maintenance schedules effectively.  You can consult the user manuals for information on forklift operation and maintenance.
Woman inspecting a forklift
  1. Aligning the Forklift to its Appropriate Function

Matching the forklift with the application is critical for optimum productivity. The specifications of forklifts need to match the job and load requirements.
  1. Training Forklift Operators

It is crucial to conduct forklift operator training. Operators who have received proper training are more likely to take good care of the forklifts and identify problems early.  Routine retraining on forklift handling and safety protocols can save costs.
  1. Carry Out Pre-shift Forklift Inspections

Pre-shift inspections are an essential part of any forklift operator’s routine. They help identify potential issues with the forklift before they become significant problems. Operators can replace worn components before they break, minimizing downtime and ensuring the forklift remains in good working order. According to Morrison Industrial Equipment Co, proactive maintenance can reduce downtime by 30-50%. To carry out a pre-shift inspection, the operator should follow a comprehensive checklist covering all aspects of the operation of the forklift, including the tires, brakes, steering, hydraulics, and safety features such as lights and alarms, according to the machine guide.
  1. Planning Maintenance

Performing planned maintenance after specified usage hours is necessary to keep your vehicles running smoothly. During scheduled maintenance, tasks like oil changes, filter inspections, and battery recharge must be completed. A forklift costs about $2.10 per hour in operations. Preventative maintenance costs significantly less than the repair cost you have to shell out when your machine breaks down.

The Bottomline

Forklifts play a crucial role in many businesses’ material handling and supply chain operations. They are essential in moving heavy loads from one point to another, and their efficiency and reliability directly impact a company’s productivity and profitability.  The impact of forklift downtime on a business cannot be underestimated. When a forklift breaks down, it creates a backlog in the material handling process, causing production, shipping, and delivery delays. This can lead to missed deadlines, unhappy customers, and decreased profitability. Additionally, businesses may have to pay overtime or hire additional workers to compensate for lost time, further increasing operating costs.  Therefore, it’s crucial to address the downtime promptly to prevent a domino effect on productivity, leading to delays, missed deadlines, and decreased employee morale. If you are looking to buy forklifts or an agency to maintain your forklifts from time to time, Southern Lift Trucks can be the one-stop solution for you. Southern Lift Trucks is an authorized retailer of Hyundai construction equipment, offering its customers quality industrial equipment, parts, and services. We deal in used and new forklifts and other equipment such as excavators, loaders, and compactors. Southern Lift Trucks provides a wide range of lift types and models to fit the specific needs of each business. Great Southern Wood, maker of Yellawood Pine, with 14 plants across the southwest, converted our forklift fleet to Hyundai. Our new Hyundai forklift has been a “huge morale boost” for the employees at Great Southern Wood, according to Josh Volking (Production Manager). Procure Hyundai forklifts for your business from Southern Lift Trucks now!


  1. Why is forklift downtime a critical issue for businesses?

Forklift downtime can significantly impact business operations and productivity, leading to delays in material handling, reduced throughout, and increased costs. This can result in missed deadlines, reduced customer satisfaction, and even lost business opportunities.
  1. What are the common causes of forklift downtime?

Forklift downtime can be caused by various factors, such as equipment breakdowns, maintenance issues, operator errors, lack of training, and accidents. Addressing these issues and identifying their root causes can help minimize downtime.
  1. How can businesses minimize forklift downtime?

To minimize downtime, businesses can
  • implement preventive maintenance programs,
  • conduct regular inspections,
  • train operators on proper equipment usage and maintenance, and
  • establish protocols for addressing equipment breakdowns and accidents promptly.
  1. What are the benefits of minimizing forklift downtime?

Minimizing downtime can lead to increased productivity, reduced costs, improved safety, and enhanced customer satisfaction. It can also prolong the lifespan of equipment and prevent potential hazards caused by equipment failures.
  1. How can technology help in reducing downtime?

Advancements in technology, such as telematics, sensors, and predictive analytics, can help businesses monitor equipment performance and detect potential issues before they result in downtime. This can enable timely maintenance and repair, improving equipment uptime and overall productivity.