Chain of Thought

Your Presence is Your Most Powerful Statement

National Forklift Safety Day is ticking well beyond its designated 24 hours. That was the day established by the Industrial Truck Association for its members in the forklift industry to visit their representatives on Capitol Hill and discuss matters of vital interest to them and their constituents. By constituents, I mean both voters and customers, so both sides of the table had a stake in what they discussed.

From what a couple of the Fly-In participants told me, this was more than just a photo-op. Some real next steps were planned in these meetings. For example, Jeff Rufener, president of Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., met with Indiana members of Congress, including Senator Dan Coats, Nick Catino (a congressional aide for Senator Joe Donnelly) and Congressman Luke Messer. During the meetings they discussed forklift safety and trade policies. At the same time, Rufener made sure his representatives were aware of Toyota's significant investment in Indiana.

Jeff Rufener, left, with Senator Dan Coats of Indiana

"Safety is a top priority for our industry,” Rufener said. “We are glad to be a part of this industry-wide event to create greater awareness and look forward to seeing the event and safe practices continue to grow."

James Radous, executive vice president, Americas, for UniCarriers Americas Corporation, had mixed success meeting directly with his representatives. The Senators his team was scheduled to meet with were in a heated session on the student loan debate, so they had to meet with staffers. However, they did have two face-to-face meetings with Congressmen important to his company’s region, including Bill Foster, who is both a scientist and businessman representing the 11th Congressional District of Illinois. 

Mark Manninen, senior director of business and channel development, UniCarriers (left) and James Radous, executive vice president Americas for UniCarriers (right) meet with Bill Foster, representing the 11th Congressional District of Illinois.

“In both instances, we received positive feedback on our ‘asking’ for support for the pending trade agreements,” Radous told me. “In a couple of cases, the legislators asked that we keep in front of them on issues important to us, so we’ve established an open-door for future discussions.”

In fact these senators and congressmen were invited to visit Unicarriers’ offices in Marengo.  Radous is even trying to extend his company’s outreach to legislators who participate in trade policy discussions—even those who are not direct representatives for them. 

This event proved the power of face-to-face communication. By showing up at the legislators’ workplace these business people proved their seriousness about—and passion for—the health of their industry and of their people.

This was an important example for these OEMs to set for their customers, too—especially those at the executive level. I don’t just mean by taking a trip to Washington, but out into the operations of their own plants and distribution centers. The upper management types in any organization send a strong message to their employees with their presence.

Jim Shephard, president of Shephard’s Industrial Training Systems, made that point clear during our webcast on the Top 10 Enemies of Forklift Safety (Click HERE to view it), part of MH&L’s National Forklift Safety Day coverage. One of those enemies is failure to do equipment inspections. How do we make sure those happen? With a manager’s morning walk-through.

“If you don’t conduct a morning walk through, then you have a problem—and you may be it,” Shephard said. “I suggest stopping an operator every day and revisiting his or her pre-use inspection.  This will put an emphasis on the inspection.  The results are amazing. In a very short period of time your equipment will improve in condition, as long as they follow up with maintenance repairs.  Let’s not forget, if you require lift trucks to handle your product, downtime and equipment condition will affect your bottom line.”

So will the compromised safety resulting from lack of supervision. One of the most important lessons coming out of National Forklift Safety Day was how powerful and persuasive in-person supervision can be—especially for managing our employees in Washington, DC. 

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