Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!



Lift trucks and labor retention

By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
July 22, 2011


Zut alors! Lift trucks are going European!

That’s one of the takeaways from the nearly dozen interviews I did with lift truck OEMs last week about the latest features on today’s trucks.

Now, that doesn’t mean you’re operators will be wearing berets, smoking skinny cigarettes and requesting espresso breaks. Rather, it’s that lift truck OEMs are beginning to get requests from their North American customers for the kinds of ergonomic technologies that are already common on European trucks. Those would include finger tip fork controls, swivel seats and technologies that make the operator’s job easier.

Jonathan Dawley, vice president of marketing for NACCO Materials Handling Group, the manufacturer of Yale and Hyster products, believes that labor retention at industrial companies is driving the trend.

“US companies have traditionally looked at labor as a transactional relationship,” he says. “What can you do for me. We valued things like an operator with strong arms and backs.”

European companies, in contrast, develop long term relationships with their operators. As a result, there has long been a different approach to the work environment in European DCs. “We see some US and Canadian manufacturers and distributors moving in that direction,” Dawley says. “Instead of a stronger worker, they’re Looking for a smarter operator. As we work with smaller and more frequent loads, the DC is about becoming more efficient, understanding where the material needs to be, and then getting it there.” When you get operators who understand that system, you want to retain them. That, in turn, is leading to lift trucks that are less taxing to operate for an 8 hour shift.

A second catalyst to this trend is the increasing globalization of business. “As companies purchase operations globally, they begin to share aspects of their operations,” Dawley says. That cross-cultural pollination leads to North American companies to adopt the best practices of their European divisions. Lift truck OEM, especially those that operate globally, are responding with more ergonomic designs that emphasize the mind of the operator and not the brawn. “The end user will have a wider selection of products they may not be familiar with,” Dawley says. 

Berets are optional.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE Company, a world leader in 3D design software, 3D Digital Mock Up and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, today announced the signing of a definitive share purchase agreement for Dassault Systèmes to acquire Quintiq, a leading provider of on-premise and on-cloud supply chain and Operations Planning & Optimization software, for approximately €250 million

During this complimentary webcast you'll learn the 6 reasons your operation could benefit from voice and multi-modal solutions and exactly how The Container Store did it. They were able to improve efficiency, safety and accuracy, without a complete WMS overhaul and their employees find it faster and easier to use.

Study suggests solutions for filling the talent gap, including the development of robust ties with the education system.

Global business optimism reaches highest level in survey history.

Mentor-based program aims to help students develop STEM skills and foster innovation, self-confidence, communication and leadership.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. Contact Bob Trebilcock.


© Copyright 2013 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA