What moves 7-10 mph, weighs many thousands of pounds, has a switch called a deadman, yet almost anyone is often allowed to drive? Answer: a forklift of course. But can anyone really drive one?
After some time in the field, working with operators of class I, II, and III material handling equipment, I can answer that: no. Not everyone is capable of efficiently and safely performing the job. I’ve identified the different players and listed what to look out for:
- The timid operator: Without confidence in the steering, throttle and braking of the equipment, this operator is likely to really slow down your facility. Warehouses are often tight spaces. A skittish operator is likely to errantly travel in the wrong direction, or hit a lift/lower control by mistake. They also tend to overuse the deadman and then fail to use it when required.
- The overthinking operator: Confident, but slow to grasp the controls and their function. I’ve met very nice individuals who, before traveling, hit lift and lower every time. And some operators who step on and off the deadman too early and often. These are often first-timers who can sometimes get over it quickly, but not everyone can.
- The delayed-reaction operator: Distracted by moving objects and generally not able to focus on the task at hand, these operators are sometimes hard to pick out of a crowd; watch out for them. They sometimes show themselves within a few weeks by hitting objects, or over traveling the lift when picking pallets. It’s best to re-deploy these people quickly.
- The road-rage operator: Watch for aggression with other material handling equipment (MHE). Getting too close, too fast, tailgating, tapping, horn blasting without properly slowing and stopping. An incentive program may be fueling this individual’s hard driving ways.
- The cowboy: Typically young, can be male or female. Their smile is too big when they first get behind the wheel, and though careful at first (like getting to know a new bronco), will quickly start taking risks that are unnecessary.
Make the most of your coaching time
With any sport, there are naturals; those who can spin on a dime, confident in a quick straddle and lift, pushing the limits of the vehicle to make it look easy, fearless yet cautious, aware of their surroundings, and happy to be doing this very important job. If you’re lucky and you’ve hired a group like this, your job as a warehouse manager responsible for the safe operation of the MHE equipment is easy. There’s little need for coaching and no need for referees. Here’s where the sports analogy really hits home: imagine a playoff game without coaches and referees! Even those seasoned professional athletes would not be able to get through the game without a breakdown in game efficiency, fairness and safety.
But we’re talking about new-to-the-sport athletes who can’t possibly know and understand all the rules from a short 8-hour OSHA-required safety class and a few hours of hands-on training with the equipment. We’re talking about all kinds of operators you put out there without really knowing how good they are. We’re talking about your current workforce, experienced but unmonitored. How do you know who your best players are or, for that matter, who should even be on the field?
There is a way to have your coaching staff take down the stats as your team goes about their day. There is a referee that will monitor for impacts and warn the operators, or stop the game if it’s serious enough. These assistants and referees are electronic, monitoring the forklift’s every move and providing the coach with the stats you need via intuitive reports.
The winning game plan: Raymond iWAREHOUSE
You’ll be in a position to coach each and every operator to better performance. You’ll get more out of each player, while reducing risk of injury and damage. Here’s the plan for your lineup.
- Timid: Start this operator off with lower speed controls. Monitor for impacts. Monitor for times on-off the deadman. Monitor for times hitting lift. Coach and encourage. Very often, with practice and positive feedback, this operator can be a consistent producer. Tracking overall activity time and comparing to your material move metrics will show this operator’s progress, or lack thereof.
- Overthinking: This operator typically gets better on their own over time. Best to make them aware of the habit, and monitor the metrics of deadman and lift, then coach for improvement.
- Delayed reaction: This operator is similar to the timid operator, except with confidence. When working with this person, it’s best to have immediate feedback of impacts. This helps them anticipate and learn to shut down the function at the right time. Sometimes these operators shouldn’t make the final cut if they don’t pick it up quickly.
- Rage: You may have an entire crew of this genre. Aggressive people are drawn to large, powerful pieces of equipment. When working with this operator, they need to know the rules and what will happen when they are broken. They also need to know they are being monitored electronically for impacts and other metrics. Consider using the speed-limiting function to control this operator’s top speed. This can be a very powerful motivator to operators on incentive programs.
- Cowboy: Same as above except the incentive pay isn’t their key driver. They are more likely to just be horsing around. If they like their job and know they’re being watched, they’ll keep the rodeo outside of work.
Running a warehouse is kind of like running a sports team; each player is different; each needs to be coached to bring out their full potential. Today, you as a coach can have a team of electronic assistant coaches and referees on the field to monitor and help the operators learn new skills and follow the rules of the game. You then can focus on coaching those players that will benefit the most from your time for improved productivity.