After the nasty economic drought we've had for the last couple years, it's heartening to hear that lift truck OEMs are not only expecting better times for themselves and their customers, but they're pumping out new product to prove it. In my last blog I told you about my visit to Toyota's Columbus, Indiana, manufacturing plant to both tour it and to witness the unveiling of the new Series 8 four-wheel AC electric. In his remarks during the ceremony, TMHU's president, Brett Wood, gave some numbers that indicated the economy was moving in the right direction.
“At the beginning of this year industry analysts predicted a modest 3-10% growth in 2010, but industry is doing so well so far this year that our forecast and that of the industry has been revised to 26% growth this year,” Wood told his audience of journalists. “We estimate the North American market will end up with more than 123,000 unit sales this year.”
That increase doesn't just reflect high-end models. Wood expects an increase in the number of low cost lift trucks imported into the US from the Far East, as well. Variety will also grow, with fuel cells and hybrids making their presence known. Even automated lift trucks and AGVs will get more attention as labor costs grow. These will help some employers—especially those in manufacturing—reallocate workers to more value-added tasks.
The prospect of automated lift trucks is exciting, but living operators will never go away. And just as automation needs to be improved every once in a while, so do we humans; especially humans who operate lift trucks. Training must be factored into every lift truck investment if you expect a good return on it. But even if you don't factor in training's ROI, factor this in: lift truck operators are required by law to receive training and certification before they are authorized to operate a lift truck.
So while you contemplate the kinds of lift trucks you might need for your operations, here are ten components to factor into the training package that should be part of your investment. These considerations are courtesy of Steve Cox, training instructional designer for The Raymond Corporation. He says training must be …
1. Designed to satisfy all state and federal government requirements for lift truck training.
2. Conducted by a person with knowledge, training and experience to train lift truck operators and evaluate their competence.
3. Part of a comprehensive lift truck program that focuses not only on training, but also lift truck selection and maintenance and facility design
4. In alignment with company policies. Every company has its own policies, and training should reflect those ideals and operational requirements.
5. Supported, promoted and reinforced by management to ensure proper operation.
6. A combination of theory and practice. It is important to understand the technical aspects of lift truck operation, which can be conveyed in a classroom, and to receive the opportunity for hands-on training.
7. Appropriate and pertinent to the trucks the operator will use.
8. Relevant to the environment where the operator will be working. Every workplace is different, so training should be customized to the actual conditions the operator will experience.
9. Reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changes in the workplace.
10. Inclusive of valuable skills that will help the operator do a productive and efficient job.
If lift truck buyers make sure their managers and operators follow this list, their investment will be returned as much by their safer, more efficient environments as it will be by their shiny, more efficient equipment.