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Forklift Life Lesson #8: Insanity’s a Costly Management Style

April 22, 2014
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes but expecting different outcomes. This approach to forklift fleet management keeps money flowing to OSHA.

Most companies could make $120,000 go a long way by putting it into warehouse improvements. Others choose to make that kind of money go a long way by flushing it down the toilet. Universal Concrete Products Corp. of Pottstown, Penn. chose the latter route—paying in two installments.

That company is actually paying that money to OSHA, which just put out a press release about it. The first installment was imposed a couple years ago. $61,286 was the price this company was told to pay for committing 17 serious and two other-than-serious violations. The second installment—a proposed $58,753  in penalties—is for the luxury of repeating many of the same mistakes since then—including failure to provide workers with training on the safe use of powered industrial trucks. Think there will be a third installment?

Jim Shephard, president of Shephard's Industrial Training Systems, has seen many such companies throw their money away like that. At least it’s fast—which is how such companies like their forklifts and training programs to run. It’s that philosophy of fast but ignorant that will get many more companies in trouble over the next couple years, Shephard believes. What’s spurring it is that while companies are losing seasoned operators to retirement, they’re also bringing in a younger bunch without giving them adequate training. Training in this new environment consists of a two-hour safety presentation with a short video. What’s missing in such training is an appreciation for the elements of physics—how actions cause reactions. That can only come from site-specific training—which takes more than two hours. That’s the kind of training qualified trainers offer. But too often they don’t get called in until such companies learn an important lesson the hard way.

“Last week I spent night and day for several days at one company, going over things they never heard before,” Shephard told me. “Many operators think they have to run fast, but they fail to realize that steady gets more done at less cost with less damage. Costs go up exponentially when you run fast. Many don’t have the skills their predecessors did to run that way because they don’t know how to react to conditions. A steady person will get more done with less cost and maintenance.”

And maintenance is another problem. There often isn’t any in such an environment. Companies like these manage by reaction. One company Shephard visited recently has a policy of drug testing any forklift operator who has an accident. But one lesson this company had to learn is that accidents aren’t always the fault of an operator. The company’s mechanic identified one of their forklifts as destined for failure within a short time. The manager decided to run it anyway. The forklift fulfilled the mechanic’s prophesy and the operator was forced to go in for a drug test. His system proved to be clean but the company’s was anything but. The problem is, with the constant churn in operator and management personnel, problems that don’t maim or kill may not get fixed.

That explains why OSHA is able to put out new press releases every day about companies making the same old mistakes.

It also explains why our galleries of dumb things people do with forklifts and other equipment keeps growing. Take a tour of our galleries by clicking on each one listed below.

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