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Five things your lift truck operators wish you knew

If you have a warehouse and in that warehouse you have product, then chances are you have material handling operators. These are the folks that do the heavy lifting. Often, they toil away in anonymity and without much regard. And, just as often, not many seek input from these valuable resources.
Five things your lift truck operators wish you knew
Because of what I do for work, I’m in warehouses almost every day. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve talked to forklift operators and asked them what it is they want others, especially management, to know about what’s important to them. Some of the answers may surprise you. Here are five things that your lift truck operators wish you knew but were afraid to say. The list is in no particular order of importance.

1. Safety matters.

Most forklift operators do their best to balance productivity with safety. They all want to go home at the end of the shift with all ten fingers and toes intact. They also want everyone who comes into their warehouse to be instructed on the company’s safety practices (assuming a company has safety practices). This includes not only visitors to the facility but especially fellow employees who occasionally wander into the warehouse. These people may be the unsafest of all since familiarity may create a lackadaisical attitude.

2. Forklift operators have pride.

And, they take offense when one of their own operates a lift without the proper certification or training. The good operators want to be recognized for their skill. They also want the bad ones weeded out, even if it means more drug testing or productivity/skills auditing.

3. New equipment is nice to have.

Yes, you can keep a reach truck running for years and years, but a new (or newer) piece of equipment is nice to have, too. I swear I didn’t make this one up just to sell more lift trucks! Everyone likes driving something new just because it’s new. However, there are other, more practical reasons, too. New equipment has new technology. Like AC motors versus DC motors, which helps an operator be more efficient with their time. New equipment is safer (there’s that safety concern, again) to operate. Not only does newer equipment have more safety features, but they are less prone to breaking down at the most inopportune time, too. Has anyone ever been stuck twenty-five feet in the air on an order picker that’s just quit working?

4. Forklifts and rack systems need to be able to work together.

It’s a good idea to have the rack salesperson and the lift truck salesperson talking to each other. Having racking that’s too narrow so pallets overhang is a great way to give an operator a headache, figuratively and literally. Also, being able to only have one reach truck at a time go down a row because the base legs are too wide doesn’t work, either.

5. Warehouse lighting.

We need them for a reason. Please replace or repair lights that are burned out or damaged.

There were other things I could have shared here because it seemed that once some operators got to talk, they could come up with a whole bunch of things they’d like people to know. I’m sure you could use your imagination on what some of those other things were. If your company is not engaging operators and actively soliciting their opinions, you might be missing out on a huge, loyal and knowledgeable resource.

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