Back in the 70s, the forklift that our predecessors maintained were “sledgehammers” and not very good at protecting themselves nor the operators. They used heavy duty contactors and high amperage resistors to control motor directions and speeds, levers for hydraulic controls, and bulky masts to elevate loads, which caused line-of-sight issues with your load. Troubleshooting errors on these trucks required a reliance on visuals and the sounds of each component to isolate the failed factor. Most backyard mechanics could troubleshoot this type of truck.
In the 80s, we began to see the start of a new technology: SCR (Silicone Controlled Rectifiers) for motor speed control, but we still had contactors for directional control. The hydraulic control system did not change much in the era. Even with this updated transition, the backyard mechanic still had the ability to troubleshoot by sight and sound, and sometimes smell, but it was all still fundamentally easy to troubleshoot.
Then in the 90s, we began to see the influx of design of the “Solid State” lift; this was the start of using a contactor for power control and transistors for motor and hydraulic controls with solenoids. With this change, the backyard mechanic wouldn’t suffice; technician training was now required to be able to accurately troubleshoot these trucks.
With the evolution into the 21st century, we welcomed the age of the rolling computers! Fork trucks are ergonomically designed to the benefit of the operator, faster and self-protecting against practices that could ultimately destroy components of predecessor trucks and drive up maintenance costs. The new trucks are designed much like a computer network, depending on the manufacturer and options. It can have more than five different “smart” components, all controlling their world and communicating to all other “smart” components as to the status of the variables for different operational characteristics.
Technician in the 21st Century
With the revolution in technology, there has to be a change in the technician and the training in order to accurately troubleshoot and repair, as most components are now “modules” without the ability to test the inner works. The key is to be able to troubleshoot, not just change expensive components- in the worst case all of them that could cause the problem
There are three things that make a great technician:
- Need to know how the truck thinks
As with computer network troubleshooting, a technician must understand how a “Closed Access Network” works. And what happens when there is a failure.
- Process of elimination
The technician must have the understanding of how to eliminate each circuit, one by one, that would cause the issue, except now you are looking for the circuits that are working, and by eliminating the working circuits, isolating the cause.
- Analytical troubleshooting
They must have the ability to develop IF/THEN, AND/OR logic statements for each function of the truck to understand what inputs a “Smart Unit” needs in order to activate a function or output, if one is missing then nothing will happen.
Continuous Improvement Contributes to Success
The Raymond Corporation, in order to keep up with changing technologies, has developed the award-winning Technical Development Program (TDP) consisting of three sections, The Technical Primer (TP), Schedule Maintenance (SM), and Troubleshooting and Repair (TSR).
This program is designed for not only the entry level technician, but also one that has made repairing PIT vehicles their careers.
A new technician starts with the Technical Primer, designed as a self-paced “learning thru discovery” program. It’s designed to teach without lecturing. Each technician must prove understanding of the materials by one-on-one skills checks with a Course Manager, proof by hands-on exercises, or group skills checks. The Technical Primer gives the technician the foundation.
Then they complete the SM program, which once completed, the technician will have a complete understanding of the requirements. The SM program gives the technician the building blocks.
Finally, they will complete the Troubleshooting and Repair, in which each technician is once again tested for understanding of how systems operate and the way they do what they do. The TSR program is what completes the house of understanding of the Y2K Raymond forklifts’ systems, teaching technicians how to think like the truck that is efficient and effective in the maintaining all of these rolling computers.
Are your Forklifts in Good Hands?
Regardless of whether you maintain your fleet internally or outsource service, be confident your forklifts are getting the service they deserve. And if you ever need assistance, give us a call. We’ve got you covered.
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