Companies Behaving Badly-Customer Service?

 

Welcome back.

“When you blame, you open up a world of excuses, because as long as you’re looking outside, you miss the opportunity to look inside, and you continue to suffer.” ― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers

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Well folks, a lot has happened since last month.   It seems that the cost of a safety program is just too much for American businesses to bare as they believe it cuts into their ability to compete in the market place as well as profits and bonuses.  Then those damn EPA laws also have kept many a CEO, COO and other top executives from maxing profit goals and has forced them to live in a lesser luxury life style.  I am very glad to see that the sight of worker’s amputated limbs and other extremities, their blood, guts and corpses has not interfered with these execs ability to operate at all.   What is even more exciting and hypocritical, is that the U.S. Government is actively protecting me from those illegal bad hombres and other assorted terrorist groups but seem to have no problem if the company I work for tries to kill me.   I have always believed in American manufacturing and ingenuity and to buy American first, the quality and workmanship meant something.  But there is NO reason what so ever that makes it O.K. to sacrifice American workers by exposing them to hazards that have been proven to be needlessly dangerous and can be mitigated except under the delusional belief the money saved not protecting human life, our air, land and water will go to hire and expand the business when we all know it’s not going into the pockets of the hard working employees who do the day to day tasks but into the pockets of executives who sit behind a desk all day and only think, how can I make more money?

Which leads me to this observation made over the last few years.  The more computerized, internet savvy, social media conscience or cloudy we get, companies are losing the human touch and forgetting what customer service is really all about.  It’s not just about resolving problems that arise during or after the sale but ensuring that the entire customer experience is a seamless, smooth event.  This is not the fault of those on the front lines like customer service people, manufacturing workers, distribution drivers or pilots or clerks or other workers but is a result of the lack of planning and foresight by their leadership.  It should be no surprise about the incident that occurred on a United Airlines flight in Chicago when a passenger was pulverized and dragged off a plane for the simple crime of just wanting to get home.  It was just a matter of time.  Even though no crime was committed and the flight wasn’t over booked, the Airline decided it was perfectly fine to displace people by offering an arbitrary set fee for their inconvenience and disruption to their lives due to the airlines incompetence in planning.  What do you mean you won’t take the fee?  Everybody takes the fee!  Your life is inconsequential to us, you’re just a commodity we move.  

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Thats where leadership has failed the most and not just in the airline industry.  Instead of putting efforts into reviewing procedures and policies to improving the customer experience they’ve been looking through green tinted $$ signs and focused on finding ways to make even more money, with less staff and equipment while keeping the status quo in tact, because we don’t need to improve, we’re perfect.  So, again, how can we make more money?  What is the next thing we can attach a fee too where the trade off will be worth it?  Will the number of customers we lose be offset by the money we make for charging for luggage?  We know how that worked out.  To avoid the fee people carry on as much as possible to the point that overhead space is a luxury.  The irony here is when the airline knows a flight is overbooked and overhead will fill up, they wind up checking in your carry on for free.  

Then our friends at Well Fargo decided to enhance the customer experience by opening accounts for customers even though those customers never wanted, asked for or in some cases didn’t even know they had these accounts.  Did the workers begin this practice? NO!  Again it was the corrupt, greedy leadership that had run out of ethical ideas to bring in more money, so they found other ways to justify the means.  Over 5000 workers were fired for this, even though they were told by their bosses, wink wink, nudge nudge, it was fine.  By firing a handful of execs does not change the culture either.  Just as Fox News.  It however sends the message, if you do something to bring in more money, just please don’t get caught.

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The eroding of the customer experience can also be found in many retail establishments as well as they try to do more with less staffing to save money.  Now in my local supermarket you can find workers with large carts going around the aisles.  I’m not totally sure what they’re doing but it could be price and code checking on food items which is a good thing but they are so intent on getting their work done they are always in the way.  Mindlessly blocking aisles or a product you need to get too.  On top of this, add the vendors coming in to set up displays or restock soda, potato chips, bread and other assorted items who are not being supervised by Supermarket staff and who knows what the supermarket’s policy is or if it’s been explained to the vendors but the other day a potato chip guy was setting up and stocking a display at one end of an aisle, blocking access and then a soda guy on the other end restocking.  A person trying to make a purchase could not get through without having to ask one of them to move which gets you a dirty look for being so bold to interrupt them from their busy schedule as they forget YOU’RE THE CUSTOMER!!

Let’s face it, leadership is not always right and especially when it comes to safety or ethical behavior you have every right to question it.  If the company ignores your concerns then it is time to either quit and find another job with a company that appreciates you or stand up and fight.  The choice is yours but when authority is not questioned that’s when the true atrocities come about.  Never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

STAND DOWN FOR SAFETY

 

 

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Companies Behaving Badly-Justified

Welcome back.
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We’re continuing on the theme from last month of “boys will be boys”, and yet trying not to beat a dead horse.  When it comes to the thought process of “boys being boys” there happens to be one major fatal flaw and that is the ability to justify all of their actions.  It takes a strong willed, determined, stubborn man to be able to ignore all his instincts and training just too save a few minutes in his life like it’s some kind of symbolic victory even though it can just as well be the last few minutes of his life.  The Stream of Conscienceness – By the time I get to the power box to LOTO the packaging machine and then back to clear the jam and back to the power box, OMG, that could take 15 – 25 minutes!  Or another scenario, by the time I have properly anchored the lanyard to my harness so I won’t fall it’ll take 15 – 20 minutes out of my day! 
The JUSTIFICATION – It’s not a bad jam, I bet I can clear it in between the bag fills, no problem or I can just quickly walk out and grab that sheet of plywood in seconds and be done.    TRAINING – becomes irrelevant, COMMON SENSE – Over-road by the adrenalin boost from the thrill of saving 15 minutes.  But, but your training!, the little voice insists. The good news is that 80% of you will avoid this process and go with your instincts and training and do a proper L.O.T.O. or properly anchor your safety lines and wear your harness.  The rest of you will put your fellow workers in the position of scrambling to find YOUR fingers so they can place them on ice for the ride to the E.R. or watch you get zipped into a body bag.  Aren’t your fellow workers lucky to be exposed to that trauma thanks to you and why accidents continue to be the number 3 killer of men or boys being boys?  (80/20 rule – This is according to the Pareto Principle by Vilfredo Pareto a man of many talents who discovered the 80/20 rule.  His birthday is coming, July 15) 
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As if that wasn’t enough, you also have to be aware of the deadly combination of the ability of “justification” with “the boss isn’t here”, which is a toxic and lethal mixture.  It appears that the excitement that young people get from hearing their parents will be leaving them home on their own for an extended period of time just never stops for some.  You remember how when mom and dad were gone for the evening or weekend, the house became your laboratory as you tried out all those awesome adult things but for some reason, our boys being boys have been able to transfer that experience to their boss not being around.  The combination gives a very intoxicating feeling which is nothing more then an open invitation to doing the stupidest, most immature thing possible with a motorized industrial piece of equipment.  Suddenly forklifts become multi-passenger, pallet jacks are midget racers and destruction of life and property never becomes a thought or concern, because the boss isn’t here to see it!
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In days of yore when brawn was more important in a warehouse/manufacturing then brains, horseplay was pretty common as screwing around kept everyone loose and laughing during the demanding workday day.  Along with the colorful language, graphic humor and crass jokes, scores were settled with a fist and the occasional medicinal nip was to keep your parts well oiled and ease the pain of the brutal working conditions.  Just in the last 40 years I’ve watched leadership evolve from verbal berating on the shop floor for all to see to you’re weren’t hired to think, to verbal encouragement, taking input from workers and free thinking.  The tendency for supervisors and managers, especially new ones is to be a nice guy and if the boys need to be boys, well who am I to stand in their way, except you allowing it to go on and not saying anything, in their heads condones their actions.  You can be a nice guy in so many other ways and that’s when true leadership comes in as it can turn around any challenge your facility may face. 
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Coming in to help a facility change it’s culture, the worst thing you can do is make immediate changes in a knee jerk reaction.  Yes, you’re under pressure from upper management, you’re under pressure from sales, customer service and the customers who want their orders delivered correctly.  The added pressure of poor moral and high worker turnover and HR is tired of the constant recruiting and interviews.  Remember, these problems didn’t develop over night and you have no idea what the root cause is. Is it their training, the process, the equipment, the recruiting or their supervision?  The best way to find out is allow the operation to continue as usual, walk around and engage and listen to the people.  Check over their training records and make a list of where the gaps need to be filled.  I’ve always started with introducing myself to the staff backed up with doughnuts and coffee and explain to them know my position on workplace safety and that is, because I believe everyone should go home in one piece and then stick to your position treating everyone equally and fairly.  Too further back up your commitment to safety begin having a 5 minute daily huddle at the beginning of the shift, a weekly tailgate/toolbox meeting and a monthly safety meeting.  Going this route hopefully you should be able to eliminate the term “boys will be boys” in your workplace.
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Even so every once in a while a dinosaur pops-up, like this coach who thought the best way to motivate a player was to mock him in front of all.   SF school coach in hot water for alleged racially charged mocking.  This was a style of management back in the day.  A good deal of my High School teachers and coaches were Korean War Vets and when it came to doing what you were told to do, there was zero tolerance if you didn’t.  Our electric shop teacher had a paddle he had affectionately named Bertha.  He didn’t hesitate to introduce Bertha to your behind if you didn’t follow the rules.  We didn’t question it.  We knew and understood the consequences if we didn’t do what we were suppose too and punishment whether corporal or otherwise was deemed acceptable.  When you’re leading or coaching employees there is no need to call them names or give them degrading nicknames, mock or bully their physical appearance to get the results you want, you’re actually going to build a wall and choke off all communication.  The best thing to do is build a bridge by explaining your expectations and what can you do to help them be successful and achieve their goals which should mean success for you and your team.
Have you heard of the skills gap?  That thing we created in 2008 when the financial crisis hit and companies kicked all the veteran high paid labor to the door with layoffs and downsizing without any thought to the future.  People opted for other career paths and now, we have a skills gap.  Well you and your company can take care of that and develop a sustainable supply of talented employees.  Employers Have An Important Role To Play In Closing The Skills Gap.  With a good training and mentoring program in addition to offering internships to high school and college students, you can develop your own intelligent workforce, greatly increase employee retention and improve safety and productivity.  
Even the best leadership at times can get lost in trying to do what they think is the right thing, like some of our board of supervisors in San Francisco.  San Francisco officials propose banning contractors that bid on border wall from city work I’m not going to get into the politics of “the wall”, we all have our opinion but what I don’t like to see is politicians making matters worse for the working person.  Maybe if our leaders stopped worrying about punishing who builds “the wall” and concentrated on fixing the infrastructure which is in much NEEDED REPAIR companies would be so busy they wouldn’t need the business of the wall to keep their company and employees working.
Since we’re on the bay area, an update on Oakland.  Last month we covered the Ghost ship warehouse fire and the loss of 39 lives.  The leadership in Oakland verbalized their fears and concerns over and over about this.  As usual, it was talk, talk and more talk and now last week, guess what?  Yep we had another fire.  It took 2 deadly fires to make Schaaf push hard for inspectors and 4 more precious lives were lost due to being talked to death by the cities leadership.  We’ll keep an eye on the body count for you readers as the talk and more talk goes on.  By the way, it’s not just the lack of inspectors but the process that needs to be reviewed and improved as problems keep falling through the cracks but that will take leadership to fix so don’t hold your breath.
With the news blackout going on at OSHA, because you know, information is a dangerous thing to have go around, people may begin thinking for themselves there has been on new bright spot.  Jordan Barab, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009-2017 has started a blog called “Confined Space”.   Follow it!!  It’s a great source of what’s going on in workplace safety.

NEVER KEEP QUIET ABOUT SAFETY my friends, for the life you save may be your own.Until next month, be kind to each other and be safe.

Hello Baseball and the NBA playoffs.  Great time of year.

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Companies Behaving Badly-Leadership Lost

Welcome back.

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” —Arnold Glasow

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“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu

It appears of late that everyone wants to be in charge but want nothing to do with accepting the accountability that comes along with it.  Leadership is not about making the most creative excuses or formulating alternate facts.  Leadership knows that whether it’s being used in a warehouse facility, manufacturing plant or any city USA, that maintaining the facility/infrastructure and fair and consistent enforcement of regulations is critical to the continuous success of everyone involved.  Roads and bridges to keep commerce moving, mass transit to move people to their jobs and the utilities to power it all. However, over the years, the across the board robbing of Peter to pay Paul began as cities began playing a dangerous shell game of who gets what funding and attention and for how long which would prove to have fatal consequences.  Instead of dealing with big ticket items like Police accountability,  housing, fair wages, maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure, the buck passing continued from administration to administration each promising that this is the time it will get done.

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The art of leadership was soon eroded as it deteriorated into more of a caretaker role protecting the status quo and defending your lack of action with excuses.  It’s everyone else’s fault and not mine.  Infrastructure!  The cost is enormous but we still have time before it’s critical.  Housing for the poor? Relax, we have lots of unsafe vacant warehouses available.  We’ll look the other way, wink, wink.  Fire, police, homeless. Relax, we have the community in a dialogue over how we’re busy trying to keep our baseball and football teams in town. That’ll then solve all our other ills.  Until then, just wait.  The leadership vacuum continued and now, well, we’ve all seen the headlines.  Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire, 39 die! The problem was there, they knew about it, it dropped right through the cracks.  For a little while the plight of the homeless and affordable housing was the focus as their deaths would hopefully lead to something.  The voices faded.  Oroville Dam Spillway collapses followed by the sequel, the emergency spillway is not working either!  Hundreds of thousands are evacuated!  People’s lives severely disrupted!  The Governor gave his dog and pony show on how we’ll fix it, now.  Hmmmm, it got quiet again.  The Coyote Creek in San Jose unexpectedly floods it’s banks as the Anderson reservoir that is allowed to hold only 68% of capacity due to fears it’ll collapse in an earthquake was at 104% and needed to purge.  Yea, I know, but if you think that’s stupid how about the fact the water district sat on $22 million dollars the people had approved to spend on fixing the flooding issues.  The citizens of San Jose near the creek lost everything!  Thousands of them had to be evacuated. The city  and the water district never saw them as people, just collateral damage.   Since we’re on the topic of stupid.  BART has plenty of staffers at station with no trains or riders.  That’s right!  The new station had 5 full time agents and 1 full time train dispatch supervisor standing around doing nothing for 5 months.  The hold up, the new stations computers couldn’t communicate with the much older system that operates BART.  It seems there are issues with communication between the generations no matter where you go.  The punchline is BART now telling us they’re running out of money.  Who ever said incompetence is cheap?

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When you are placed in charge, BE in charge!  Your success is in your hands so have a plan. First, get the basics.  Budget, staffing, equipment, goals.  Then plan on consistently doing a monthly walk around your facility, which can also be combined with a Pop-In once in a while.  You’re looking for what needs attention?  Does the emergency lighting work, emergency exit signs light up, fire extinguishers, potholes, lighting, racks, equipment, charging station, tin cats.  Those are just a few and you’ll come up with items that are specific for your operation.  When you find issues that need to be addressed, deal with them right away.  You saw above what happens when you put it off.  It winds up costing you more money in the long run as well as employee trust and your reputation, which I hope still means something, as you can’t keep telling them to eat cake, forever.

Even though it ended on March 10th, I wanted to mention this event in Canada,  Road Safety at Work Week kicks off.  The government is making efforts to raise awareness and the adoption of road safety practices for company drivers.  They’re on the road almost every day representing your company and whether you like it or not, they are advertisements good or bad.  Make sure to throughly explain your expectations for job performance and level of professionalism.

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In the February 20th issue of Companies Behaving Badly I mentioned the challenge of dealing with boys being boys.  Continuing on that subject of “boys will be boys” we should point out that St. Patrick’s day is this Friday, which is a good thing, bad thing.  Good since it means no sicks calls during the workweek but bad since the filters will be off as there is no worry as most don’t work on Saturday and it’s exasperated by the NCAA  tournament.  This is another semi-holiday we’ve perverted into nothing more than an excuse for a drinking frenzy along with Cinco de Mayo.  They’ve become the alcoholic version of The Purge except the only killing is not to ones own brain cells, but from head on collisions in cars.  If you’re going to drink, keep your car at home, take public transit in and back.  There are also real Taxi cabs available out there as well as those internet alternatives.  You don’t really want to spend the weekend in lock up and most definitely want to come back on Monday.  St. Patrick’s day was a great holiday to be a cab driver in NYC, which I did for 2 years while in college.  It’s not just the many runs you get taking people from one bar to another but the riches to be found in the form of small change that gets lost in the back seat. Intoxicated people tend to fumble around and inadvertently drop things and they tip well too.  Thank you to those who jumped into my cab and helped put me through college as I listened to and helped you solve your life’s problems within a 15 minute ride.

Important information you Welders should know about. Washington University study raises questions about current welding safety standards.  The study examined the long-term effects of airborne manganese on welders and found that symptoms associated with parkinsonism — a neurological condition that causes tremors, muscle stiffness and other movement abnormalities — increased over time.  It may be a great time to upgrade your equipment.

Cone Of Silence On Enforcement News From U.S. Labor Department – Apparently there are those out there in charge who fear the exchange of ideas and information.  Some countries like North Korea, Russia and Iran control what information goes out to the public masses because they fear that information may cause independent thought, discussion and then lead to change.  Change scares narrow minded people.  The U.S. Department of Labor, including OSHA has become silent.  No news on companies behaving badly and their violations and fines.  I personally don’t understand the silence and fear and am very disappointed as one of the best things in this country is the freedom to speak your mind. But just because OSHA has become deaf and dumb doesn’t mean you do too!  Keep treating your workers with respect and give them a safe place to work.  It will benefit you in the long run.  NEVER KEEP QUIET ABOUT SAFETY for the life you save may be your own.

Until next month, be kind to each other and be safe.

 

Hey, did you do it? Come on you can tell me.  Did you really change the batteries in your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors this past Sunday?  No!  What are you waiting for?  

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RBMB-What’s Wrong With Having Fun?

 

 

It was finally shut down day.  After 10 days straight of production on graveyard, it was over and the only thing standing between me and some much needed sleep and family time was the morning production meeting. This rotation, I would be in the first group out the door, smiling and waving on my way out the door to those who still had to deal with finishing the plant shut down.  As the meeting ended and handed the operation off to day shift it was full speed out the door when my boss uttered those words you don’t want to hear, stay back a minute.  Ugh!  I was so close.  The lead superintendent, myself and our boss  were the only ones left when he said.  “Your crew produced some exceptional numbers this rotation and after last night, really put us in excellent position for a smooth shutdown.  You did a great job this shift.”  I smiled, thanked him for the complement, and then added, and they had fun doing it!  As soon as the word fun left my mouth the lead superintendent exploded with, “There it goes again!  What is all this fun nonsense?  They’re not paid to have fun, they’re paid to do a job!”  

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For the record, I never did like this man at all, ever.  He was old school, he told off color jokes, he bullied workers, he was mean just for the sake of being mean.  He was very disruptive to the whole operation at times but had been with the company for a long time and knew where all the skeletons were buried which worked to his benefit, that is until we were bought out by another company.  He didn’t last long, but I digress.  The lead continued, “I heard you also bought them pizza last night?” Yes, I did, they earned it and turned to our boss and said, do you have a problem with our production numbers and pizza?  He smiled back, put his feet up on his desk and answered, “Have a great shutdown and have some fun, you earned it.”

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There is nothing wrong with having fun at work. The manufacturing and food processing industries don’t have to be depressing and stifling.  If your employees really enjoy not only what they are doing, but are also appreciated for what they contribute within a positive environment, confidence in themselves grows and safety and productivity soars.  You should know that fun doesn’t mean having forklift races or burning rubber in the warehouse but it does mean you can have a yearly forklift rodeo to recognize and reward the safest operators in your facility.  Fun can take the form of handing employees a token each time they’re observed doing a safe act or wearing all their proper PPE.  Workers can later redeem the tokens collected for snacks, lunch or favorite team’s hat or shirts.  Fun doesn’t involve micromanaging staff to the point where no one cares anymore about what’s going on but you can have fun listening to employee ideas, improved productivity suggestions and safety improvement recommendations.  Fun can also include a monthly potluck meal and recognition of workers for their contributions on all shifts.  These are just a few simple ideas to keep fun in your workplace.  What are some things you do?

Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly – Backup Failed

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There has been an alarming rash of workplace accidents recently, involving vehicles backing up resulting in the deaths of workers.  Even though poor weather conditions were partially to blame, complacency also has a hand in this.  We’re all guilty of rushing around and under constant pressure to get the job done so we tend to make assumptions that unfortunately can prove to be fatal.  These accidents could have been prevented with a little communication between the driver and the area around him instead of assuming it was clear to proceed. 
Let me put this as simply as possible for you all!  Whether you’re operating a bus, truck, car, forklift or a X-34 landspeeder, after you jump behind the wheel, before you slap it into gear, take that one lousy second out of your life and possibly save someone else by LOOKING behind you before backing up!!  Can I be any clearer!?  I’ve pulled drivers off of forklifts if I observed them backup without looking.  Immediately suspended their forklift license until they completed their re-certification via video tape, instruction and road test.  Why?  Because it’s a skilled job and a privilege earned to be a forklift driver.  
It is all not on the driver though.  Back-up injuries are like a tango, it takes two to dance and it only takes a spit second for either of you to be distracted, be complacent, drop your guard and boom.  Don’t ever assume the driver knows you are there.  Don’t stand behind a vehicle especially if the motor is running.  That should be a clue it could sudden move at any time. Drivers, if you’ve been idling for a while or you have poor visibility get off your ass and make sure no one is behind you or honk your horn and yell, backing up!  But for you to assume that no one is behind you is just asking for an accident.
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 Don’t ever put yourself between a rock and a hard place.  Maintain eye contact with the driver at all times so you each know where you are and avoid a life time of regrets.  Here are some recent stories.
Highway 17 mudslide worker killed in construction truck accident –  A horrible accident that occurred on Highway 17 in Northern California.  They were working on clearing a mudslide caused by the rains deluging California.  
 Sheriff’s deputy hit by bus at East Bay jail dies – Another horrible incident.
Hurricane city worker dies after being crushed at construction site – Driver spun backhoe around but didn’t look first and now worker is dead. 
I think you get the point. Always be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on.  If you’re a driver working in an area where a lot of workers are on foot, slow down.  Use your horn and let everyone know you’re there.  If you’re a pedestrian working in the same area where there’s traffic and people, don’t become complacent and tune out.  You need to watch for moving vehicles and stay off your cell phone, it’s a deadly distraction .  Wear bright colors and stop and wait if you don’t make eye contact with the driver.  By working together you can get the job done and no one gets hurt.  
It’s that time again boys and girls.  That pain in the butt time change.  The biggest issue is the disruption to your sleeping cycle which may cause you not to be as alert as you usually are. This is demonstrated by the increase in the number of accidents the Monday after the time change.  So plan according, get more sleep Sunday if you can and you also might want to have a huddle Monday morning reminding your staff to be careful.  Also put off any new projects or training that day as well.  Please don’t gamble with the the lives of your family and also change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, especially if you didn’t do it last time.  With fresh batteries you know your alarms will work when needed and why wait for that annoying beep, in the middle of the night, to remind you?  Be a hero.  DO IT!
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Thanks for stopping by.  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

Companies Behaving Badly-The Art of the Pop-In

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The art of the Pop In –
One of the most valuable things I learned as an employee through years of observation is that boys will be boys at any age, so when I joined the ranks of management I made sure to implement another concept I learned, the Pop-In.  You may have heard this referred to in other terms like Gemba walk,  Genchi genbutsu,  walk about, safety walk, walk or a stroll.  Whether your warehouse is a multi-shift operation or you oversee several different sites, the pop-in, what ever you want to call it is a great tool to use.
My experience has been that companies are very cavalier about their graveyard shifts.  It’s a time when the workers have free run of the place since 99.9% of management is not on the premise.  No nosey executives poking around, no office people getting in the way, no sales/marketing staff with inane questions about products, usually just one supervisor or manager with maybe a lead and a crew entrusted with millions of dollars in equipment and inventory.  The challenge of keeping everyone focused through the night on the job and not wandering off on tangents is rigorous. 
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I perfected my Pop-In technique as a supervisor.  I would constantly show up on the shop floor but always from different entrances and directions.  I would do what ever it was I had to do at my desk for 15-20 minutes and then go for a Pop-In from the office door. Sometimes I’d Pop-In from the break room and sometimes from the dock entrance, not keeping to any set walking routine.  You get to see the whole operation from different points of view which give you the opportunity to see if there are repairs or other things that need to addressed as well as being available to employees for a chance to bend your ear and of course, it keeps everyone on their toes.
When I was hired to manage my first three-shift distribution center the Pop-In became even more critical of a tool.  I always knew what was going on during  day shift since I was always there so several times during the month I would tweak my schedule so I could Pop-In on other shifts.  Sometimes I’d stay over to be with swing shift or come back in the middle and the same on graveyard shift.  Except for my assistant, no one else knew when or where Phil was going to pop-in.  As a DC manager, when you’re always on days you don’t get to bond with other shifts supervisors or their staffs like you do on days. and that can make them feel left out of the loop or worse, that no one cares but you can alter that perception by seeing what they go through on their shift and listening.  When I would pop-in, like any good visitor, I’d never show up empty handed when I did the Pop-In. Sometimes I’d bring dinner, snacks, a safety meeting or an impromptu evacuation drill.
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Now I’m going to share a personal Pop-In story that should hopefully demonstrate how important a tool it is.  As with any new job you spend the first few days learning the lay of the land as well as being trotted around in a marathon dog and pony show.  Everyone wants to speak with you and share their opinions and air their grievances on the operation you’ve just inherited.  Your staff good or bad,  your operation dependable or not, the long history and so on and so on.  Most of it you just take in with a smile, an occasional head shake and a thank you.  A few weeks into it as things settled down, the day shift warehouse lead came to me and said, you told us you have an open door policy, can I speak with you?  Of course you can.  He started with, I know I can get fired for going over my supervisor’s head.  He then told me he had pointed out an issue of discrepancies on what graveyard shift said they picked and staged and what was actually being done to the previous DC manager, but he didn’t seem to care about it.  I asked him if he had spoken to his supervisor.  Yes, he was about to stop and suddenly got emotional but he just puts up with it and doesn’t want to rock the boat and I’m tired of watching him work his ass off and not getting the credit for what’s getting done!  I thanked him for his concern and passion, reassured he wasn’t going to get fired and promised that I would get back to him within two weeks.  
After I had finally settled in to my routine for day to day activities I turned my attention to those daily shift reports and alleged discrepancies.  The reports were simple, number of orders completed, number of cases picked, number orders shipped, staffing, equipment issues and any other problems that occurred.  According to the supervisor’s report, graveyard was picking an astronomical numbers of cases and completing orders in record times!  Wow!  I was impressed.  Is there a problem?   However, one thing I also noticed was something that was missing from the report.  There were never any equipment issues noted on graveyard shift but day shift had them almost daily and their reports showed just slightly more cases picked over the course the whole shift.  Now what did our WMS have to say about what was being done?
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The numbers told me that graveyard was doing about half of what their reports indicated and that day shift was doing the bulk of the work as well as dealing with repairs and cleaning.  I spoke with my day shift supervisor on how things were going and that’s when I was told that he knew the lead had come to me and that his crew could be even more productive if they didn’t have to spend an hour each morning cleaning up after graveyard which surprised me since per graveyards report they should have had plenty of time to do this.  I kept all this info to myself and knew it was time to do a Pop-In.
They exceeded my expectations.  I entered the building through the offices, since they should have been locked preventing warehouse entry, arriving an hour after the shift had started figuring things should be in full swing and they were.  The first two I ran into was the shift lead and he was half dressed along with a female employee.  I can still remember vividly the expression on their faces.  I had to stifle myself from laughing.  Told them to either go home now or wait for me in the lunchroom.  As they got themselves together I went to the lunchroom and found employees smoking pot, playing cards, reading a newspaper and a whole lot of nothing else.  Morning all.  Why don’t you all wait here until I get back and then entered the warehouse.
The quiet was deafening, well except for the loud boom box, there wasn’t the usual noise of a functioning warehouse.  The first section I came upon was the small package processing and the lead of that area was enjoying greatly whatever he was listening too on his cd player.  As I gave him a few moments to finish his air guitar solo I noticed the naked young woman on his computer screensaver.  It looked very much like the young lady I found with the shift lead in the office.  In fact, it turned out it was.  Finally we made contact with each other and got another priceless expression.  I asked, where’s your shift supervisor?  He stalled, there was a long pause and I began to ask again but was suddenly interrupted by the sound of hoots and hollers and loud screeching as a worker on an electric pallet jack was doing a full speed spin as fast as he could go on the loading dock. He looked at me and shook his head and finally pointed to the shipping office.  I invited the lead to wait for me along with the stunt drivers and others in the lunchroom.  I headed for the office as word must have started to spread that I was here as people began to emerge from the nooks and crannies and the sound of forklifts grew.  The small shipping office had all the shades down and was dark inside as I opened the door.  There was my shift supervisor, soundly asleep in the fetal position on the couch.  Flipped on the lights and before I could say anything, with his back to me he shouted, this better be important!
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I responded, oh I think it’s pretty damn important.  He slowly rolled over and saw my happy face.  I remember being thoroughly impressed with the list of excuses that flowed as he defended how it looked in between justification of his actions.  I had enough by the fourth one and simply told him, give me your keys, go home and wait for H.R. to call you. Then I called everyone to the lunchroom so I could face my merry band of workers with a choice.  You can stay and get back to the job you were hired to do and I’ll stay for the remainder of the shift to help or you can go home.  All those I had previously left in the lunchroom had already left the building and the others  did go back to work as each and everyone of them apologized at one point during the rest of the shift
When the HR manager arrived and found me waiting for her, she knew something was up but even she was not prepared for this scenario.  After the HR investigation some workers were terminated, some suspended and or put on probation and everyone else went back to work all having learned a valuable lesson.  The eager and determined day shift lead was promoted and given the graveyard supervisor position and it’s nice having all the numbers line up correctly.  So if you haven’t done it in the past, get up off that butt, grab your 3×5 pad and go pop-in.  The exercise is great, you get your blood to flow faster and you get to see things your WMS will never show you.  
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 Thank you for stopping by and taking the time out of your busy day.  Until next month my friends, stay safe and never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.
 

RBMB-Exceeded Limitations

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We all deal with limitations of one sort or another and at times we have depended on machinery of some type to help us compensate for those limitations.  However, we tend to become enamored by their speed and strength and forget that those pieces of industrial powered machinery have limits themselves as we take them for granted and push them beyond the tasks they’ve been designed for.  That means it falls upon us humans to protect the machinery and make sure they don’t exceed their capabilities so they can keep us safe at the same time.

It really burns my butt that workers are being injured and killed due to mis-information or lack of communication on what task their machine can do safely or the weight capacities of equipment.  By following the steps below, you can protect yourself, prevent accidents or serious injuries at work if YOU know what to look for when it comes to equipment limitations .

Step 1 – Certification:  When you were hired and your job involves the operating of any kind of industrial powered trucks/equipment you should have first received a general safety orientation and then been trained and certified by the company to operate that piece of equipment.  If you were certified on a powered pallet jack and you need to operate a forklift, you need to be certified again for the operation of that forklift as well.  

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Step 2 – Data Plate:  During the certification process you were introduced to the “data plate”.  This plate is very important since it’s an I.D. the manufacturer has put together to tell you how much weight you can move safely in the facility without having to worry about tip over.  It will also come in handy and help you for those times you may have to operate a different type of forklift.  The weight you can move with a diesel powered forklift is more then an electric and you would learn this by reading the data plate.  In fact, the data plate is so important that it is a OSHA violation to operate any powered vehicle without a date plate.  So if your industrial powered truck is missing the plate, immediately inform your supervisor via the daily checklist and verbally.  

Step 3 – Seatbelt:  Always wear a seatbelt when operating your forklift.  The manufacturer has designed your forklift to protect you within it’s cage, so if you do unfortunately experience a tip over, the seat belt will keep you within that cage and safe so you don’t wind up under a 8,000 pound forklift.

Step 4 – Modifications to any piece of equipment should be approved and done by the manufacturer of the equipment only!  They know how to safely add any modifications so the equipment will continue to operate properly.  As soon as the modifications are completed it is critical to have retraining of operators so they know how the modifications affect operation.

Step 5 – New Equipment:  When ever you get any new piece of equipment, before anyone is allowed to touch it, training needs to be given.  Why?  Where is the emergency shut off, what are the weight limitations, are there exposed moving parts?  I always reccommend that the manufacturers representative do the initial training to management and staff so questions can be asked by all on the equipment and then later you can develop your own training for in-house use.  

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Step 6 – Quick huddle:  When you find that your crew has to operate equipment that hasn’t been used in a while, like seasonal equipment such as a snow plow or large industrial vehicles like a boom lift, take the few minutes and have a quick huddle to go over and remind everyone on proper operation, it’s limitations and any safety reminders related to operation of the equipment.  Those few minutes taken to explain and remind can avoid hours of accident investigation and/or a trip to the E.R.

Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment beyond it capabilities, limitations and safety limits.  Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment in need of repair and unsafe to operate even if it’s “only this once”.  If it doesn’t sound right to you, ask questions and if you don’t get answers and still being bullied to do the wrong thing, call the OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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