Every facility is focused on achieving the highest levels of safety, but no two facilities face the same challenges. That’s why Dave Norton, vice president of corporate quality and customer care at The Raymond Corp., says his company’s policy is to listen before offering any safety-related suggestions.
“That said, a fairly common response is that the customer is looking for better visibility: what operators are doing, fleet utilization, and how those factors might make an impact on safety,” he says.
Telematics solutions are an obvious approach, and can uncover things like congestion that are not otherwise apparent. Of course, telematics can also help determine whether a facility has enough—or too many—chargers, equipment and operators. The number of potential improvements can be overwhelming, but starting with a focus on safety is a good way to dodge the “drinking from the firehose” effect while reaping maximum benefits from data collection.
“The entire industry is going toward data, and being able to use it to make good decisions that help everybody, from operators to trainers and technicians,” Norton says. “It feels like the pace of change in materials handling is moving faster than it has in 30 years—the speed at which technologies, data and training are all coming together.”
Given the rapid advances, perhaps the biggest danger is assuming a fleet and its operators are already at optimal safety levels. “Even a customer who tells us they have a good handle on things is typically shocked by the amount of waste in their processes when they connect to a telematics system,” Norton says. “The data shows quite a significant decrease in g-force impacts immediately after the product is implemented. Operators quickly realize they can’t do the things they did in the past.”
He offers the example of a customer who gained visibility into a particularly nasty habit: operators driving over 4-inch curbs inside the facility. But not all dangers to operators and equipment are the fault of an operator. Customers might recognize that some expansion joints are too big, and those cracks in the floor are jolting both the operator and the lift truck.
“With telematics, now the customer can see and fix those problems,” Norton says. “As for visibility into operator behaviors, customers appreciate improved accountability. Nobody can simply blame something on the third shift anymore.” Norton adds that virtual reality training tools have emerged as a powerful way to help establish or reinforce safe driving habits. By immersing operators in real-life operating environments and capturing detailed records of their performance, customers can train, remediate or further develop operator skills.
“Many customers are very excited to allow associates the opportunity to advance,” Norton says. “It’s a tool to learn a new lift truck and be ready for that opportunity when it arises. Studies show it’s a great way to complement classroom training. Hundreds if not thousands of people have used this system, and all of them have fun.”
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