News Briefs

OSHA Reviews Seat Belt Policy

OSHA’s current policy regarding seat belts on powered industrial trucks is under review for possible change. The Industrial Truck Association (ITA) has made its opposition known in a recent letter to OSHA’s director.

Currently, OSHA guidelines state that employers must train operators to use seat belts, and employers must require operators to use seat belts. Employers that do not train operators in the use of seat belts will be cited for violating the Operator Training Rule and employers that do not require the use of operator restraints will be cited under the “general duty clause,” section 5(a)(1) of the OSHA Act.

OSHA’s unambiguous policy regarding the use of seat belts is based upon OSHA’s findings that lift trucks are particularly susceptible to tipovers and that “failure to wear the seat belt that is provided in the lift truck increases the risk of injury to the operator in the event of such an accident.”

However, a draft revision of the enforcement policy would require the OSHA inspector, before issuing a citation under section 5(a)(1), to “first determine whether a tipover hazard exists under the particular circumstances of the workplace,” using “relevant considerations” listed in the draft. The draft concludes: “When an evaluation of the above factors, and of any other factor determined to be relevant, indicates that the possibility of a tipover is remote, and in fact there is no history of tipovers or near misses, a citation for failure to use an active operator protection device or system will not be issued.”

In his letter to OSHA director Richard Fairfax, William Montwieler, executive director of the ITA, pointed out that some of OSHA’s reasons for issuing the proposed revision are not disclosed in the draft itself, and they include: (1) the inability or perceived inability to prevail in administrative proceedings where the compliance officer has not identified the risk of tipover, and (2), the claims by automobile manufacturers that restraints present ergonomic concerns. Neither of these “unofficial” reasons justifies the course that OSHA has proposed, Montwieler says.

“As to the alleged enforcement problem,” says Montwieler, “it provides a poor reason, amounting to abdication, for relaxing an important safety requirement.

“If there is an enforcement problem, it arises not because there is no risk of tipover, but because compliance personnel have not adequately identified the risk. Given the dozens of identified factors that increase the risk of tipover (risk that is already present in every work site, simply because employers and operators are fallible), inspectors can always identify conditions, or potential conditions, warranting the use of operator restraints, especially given the severity of injury if tipover occurs. If OSHA wishes to modify the compliance directive in order to win a larger percentage of cases, the proper approach is to better document the citations, not to stop issuing them.”

An OSHA spokesperson told MHM that it routinely reviews directives and that in this case it was approached by some industry groups that asked it to look at their concerns. OSHA is currently reviewing comments on the draft. “It’s not a proposal — only a directive that was sent out for comments,” the source said. “When it comes to the use of seatbelts, there’s no specific standard at this point, just the general duty clause.”

As to the alleged ergonomic concerns, Montwieler concludes that OSHA has performed no analysis as to whether restraints present ergonomic issues, much less an analysis comparing the obvious benefits of restraints against their alleged drawbacks. “Thus, OSHA is not in a position to justify this change in policy,” says Montwieler, “on the grounds that operator restraints present a greater hazard than they protect against.”

For more information on both sides of the issue, visit osha.gov, and indtrk.org.

Material Handling Online

Check out the new TOTALsupplychain Evaluation Center — called the “Rolls Royce of decision support tools.” This new addition to Penton’s supply chain portal provides a collection of templates that will assist buyers in making educated supply chain system selections. Complementing the TOTALsupplychain SOURCE online directory, the Evaluation Center speeds the decision-making process by making system selection data readily available through the Internet. IT decision-makers and software solution providers alike can rely on the menu of knowledge bases of leading software product’s features and functions. See “Resources” on totalsupplychain.com.

Read the new industry Report Spending Analysis and Supply Chain ROI. This timely report describes the process of aggregating, cleansing and analyzing corporate spending data to reduce costs and improve operational performance. Included are responses to an industry survey conducted by Aberdeen Group Inc. and TOTALsupplychain.com. It’s now available in our “Online Store” at totalsupplychain.com.

Penton’s Supply Chain Group will launch a new monthly electronic newsletter, EXTENDING THE ENTERPRISE, focusing on issues related to trends, technologies and business strategies that affect manufacturing enterprises. What realistic business goals and what business strategies are actually working? What initiatives and technologies are changing the world of manufacturing, from the boardroom to the plant floor? Who are some of the companies responsible for moving best practice standards forward? These are some of the topics that will be discussed by our cadre of field experts working in the industry — and writing for the industry.

Companies Making News

MeadWestvaco Corporation announced that it is closing its Westvaco Brand Security (WBS) business and merging the wholly owned subsidiary’s brand-protection services into the company’s core packaging business.

WBS, as well as other company business units, has found strong market interest in brand-protection initiatives, particularly for packaging applications. MeadWestvaco determined, however, that WBS’s services can be provided more efficiently and effectively through existing corporate channels, rather than through a stand-alone business model.

The Raymond Corporation announced that its Greene, New York, facility has met the requirements to upgrade its quality systems to the ISO 9001-2000 standard. Fewer than 10 percent of ISO 9001 registered companies in the U.S. have met the ISO 9001-2000 standard.

Retrotech Inc. has acquired Woodson Inc. Under terms of the agreement, Retrotech will own all of Woodson’s system drawings, software and PLC code that are unique to its product lines.

Manhattan Associates has acquired certain assets of Logistics.com from Internet Capital Group for a one-time cash payment of approximately $20 million.

S&P Report Card on Capital Goods

Despite signs of recovery in the U.S. economy, the capital goods sector is still mired in a recession that began in mid-2000, with the timing of its recovery uncertain, according to a Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services report published in January. Unlike consumers, businesses have curbed their spending in the face of excess production capacity, continued profit pressures, and a potential war in Iraq, the report notes. While economic forecasters expect a modest GDP growth of 2.5 percent for 2003, poor visibility for industrials in turn blurs the timing and magnitude of recovery for capital goods, according to the report.

“Standard & Poor’s best estimate is for some improvement in capital goods markets in the second half of 2003, gaining momentum in 2004,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Robert Schulz.

“Sector firms should show some year-over-year earnings growth in 2003, largely driven by cost-cutting actions, and a modest market recovery starting in the second half of the year,” Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Dan DiSenso added. The report includes comments on 92 rated firms and a summary of recent rating actions. Industry Report Card: U.S. Capital Goods is available on RatingsDirect, Standard & Poor’s Web-based credit analysis system, at ratingsdirect.com.

More Companies Join Smart and Secure Tradelanes

The Smart and Secure Tradelanes (SST) initiative to improve the security and productivity of ocean container shipments now has about 35 partners, including major multi-national manufacturers, carriers, best-of-breed technology and service providers. The latest to join SST are technology providers Sun Microsystems, EXE, Manugistics and Intermec. Recently, more than 100 containers holding products have been transported between ports in Asia and ports on the U.S. Pacific and Atlantic coasts, which are monitored in real-time through Internet software uniquely integrated with automatic identification technologies, including electronic bolt seals that transmit alerts as certain events occur, such as tampering.

Rite-Hite Receives Award

At the Preventica trade show in Marseilles, France, a jury of regional Sickness Assurance Board professionals awarded Rite-Hite Corporation the Innovation Award for its Global Wheel-Lok vehicle restraint. According to Danny Mulder, European marketing manager for Caljan/Rite-Hite Corporation, “This award is recognition of the safety issues in the material transfer zone.”

CEMA Reports Slight Increases

The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) reports that its October 2002 Booked Orders Index was 131, up two points (an increase of two percent) from September 2002’s index. The October index, however, represents a decrease of 29 percent from that of the previous year.

December Business Conditions Improve

The packaging machinery sector improved during the November 15-December 20, 2002, time period, with all four measures rising above 50, and two staying above 60, according to the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute’s (PMMI) Business Conditions Index (BCI). Shipments rose 16.7 points to 69.9; New Orders rose 2.3 points to 63.2; General Business Conditions fell 2.8 points to 57.6; Quotations fell by 20.9 points to 54.8 from its record high of 75.7. The report, specifically the growth in shipments and new orders, echoes the recently released Institute of Supply Management’s Report on Business that indicates manufacturing activity rose to 54.7 from 49.2 in November, the largest increase since June of 1991.

“Companies spent considerable time and energies on new quotes and proposals following the PackExpo International trade show” says Charles D. Yuska, president of PMMI, “and we are now beginning to see the results of these efforts. Shipments are nearing 70 points and activity across the sector is relatively strong, despite the holiday season.”

An index of more than 50 indicates an expansion in the period and an index below 50 indicates a slowdown in activity. The December BCI tabulates the input of approximately 100 of PMMI’s 500 member companies. The BCI is based on PMMI’s “How’s Business” survey, a weekly poll of member companies. PMMI’s Business Conditions Index (BCI) collects data on four business indicators: general business conditions, new orders, shipments, and quotations/proposal activity on a weekly basis.

Managers Making News

David D. Petratis has been appointed president and COO for the U.S. business of Schneider Electric.

ITC Manufacturing and Powder Coating has named Jim Bradshaw company president. He joined the company two years ago as vice president, sales and marketing.

Brian Lamb has joined Lift-Tek Elecar as vice president of sales and business development in the Americas. Tim Sevick has also joined the company as vice president of engineering, responsible for managing engineering resources and projects. In other appointments, Russ Johnson has been promoted to director of OEM and aftermarket field sales, and Rick Paddock has been promoted to director of product marketing and development. He also takes on Asian sales responsibilities.

Roadway Corporation has appointed John T. Hickerson president of its wholly owned subsidiary, Roadway Next Day Corporation.

KWS Manufacturing Company has new leadership. Mark Osborn has been appointed president; Bill Mecke, P.E., vice president; Jarod Pratt, national sales manager; and Lola Haught, sales manager, catalog sales.

FDI Dissolved

Food Distributors International (FDI), which has served the food industry for 96 years, is gone. According to John R. Block, president, wholesalers will become part of “an even more vigorous Food Marketing Institute [FMI], and foodservice distributors will embark on their own, through the International Foodservice Distributors Association [IFDA], headed by John M. Gray, former executive vice president of FDI, and IFDA’s president for many years.” Block, former Secretary of Agriculture in the Reagan administration, will continue as president of the wholesale division of FMI.

Middle-Market Executives Optimistic

According to a survey by global accounting firms Grant Thornton and Wirthlin Worldwide, eight out of 10 (79 percent) U.S. middle-market companies are optimistic about the future of their business over the next six months, and half plan to increase hiring.

“To survive and thrive in the current economic climate,” says John Desmond, partner-in-charge of the Grant Thornton Business Owners Council, “middle-market businesses are tightening their belts and getting back to basics. With clear goals set for the future, these business leaders are preparing for business growth — both financial and headcount.”

Additional findings of the survey include:

• 84% are optimistic about the growth of their business over the next 12 months;

• 54% expect their business’ growth to be organic;

• 50% expect to hire more employees over the next six months, with 7% expecting to reduce work force;

• 73% approve of President Bush’s performance.

To request a copy of the survey report, visit Grant Thornton’s Web site, grantthornton.com/boc.

Orders for Material Handling Equipment Improve

Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing (MHEM) shows new orders down 13.5% for the 12 months ending November 2002 and virtually even for the quarter ending November 2002 compared to the same periods in 2001, as released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) releases the forecast of Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing each quarter. The MHEM forecast looks 12 to 18 months forward to anticipate changes in the Material Handling and Logistics marketplace.

MHIA is an international trade association that has represented this industry since 1945. MHIA members include material handling equipment and systems manufacturers, integrators, consultants, publishers, and third-party logistics providers. Member companies come from all areas of material handling and various parts of the world, making MHIA a strong national and international representative for the material handling industry. Much of the work of the industry is done within its product-specific sections, councils and affiliates. The association also sponsors trade events, such as ProMat and NA 2004, to showcase the products and services of its member companies and to educate industry professionals on the productivity solutions provided through material handing and logistics.

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