Untrained and unready: Don’t overlook the value of training

A Pennsylvanian manufacturing company recently placed the following ad in the local newspaper and online job boards:

Now hiring material handlers for warehouse operation. Duties include the ability to operate a high-reach lift truck and experience with carton clamp and push-pull lift truck attachments. Must have one to two years of experience in a manufacturing warehouse environment. Position requires a high school diploma and the ability to work all shifts. We offer a competitive salary and full benefits package. Company-paid physical and drug screening included. Please apply to Generic Company Manufacturing, Co.

After the ad ran for two weeks, the hiring manager reported that not one qualified person had applied for the position. “Most were recent high school grads or had some retail stockroom experience,” said the hiring manager.

The warehouse manager, Bob Smith, contacted temp-labor service agencies and provided the same qualifications listed in the ad. The agencies also found limited success; qualified applicants were not available. Although one agency identified entry-level candidates who could become productive material handlers if properly trained, Generic Company Manufacturing had eliminated its training budget during the economic recession.

When the lead material handler at Generic Company Manufacturing announced his retirement after 29 years, Smith assumed that he could move other operators from their current jobs to fill the open position — but he was wrong. The second-shift material handler had 26 years of experience and recently applied for the receiving clerks’ job on first shift. The two most senior lift truck operators on the dock were not interested in operating a high-reach lift truck. Other stock handlers and part-time lift truck operators were not trained to operate a high-reach lift truck or use attachments.

“We have a bunch of box movers in this warehouse!” declared Bob Smith in his weekly staff meeting. “We are out of experienced workers and have been caught short on trained replacements.”

The value of training
Generic Company Manufacturing is not alone in its search for experienced, trained workers who show up ready to work on their first day. Many manufacturing companies are struggling to restore funding to their depleted training budgets. And temp-labor agencies that once had a readily available pool of trained, qualified candidates are finding themselves competing for workers to fill the open positions.

Unfortunately for Generic Company Manufacturing and companies that have not kept pace with advances in warehouse technology, the days of the “box mover” with a strong back are coming to an end.

Many factors are contributing to the modernization of the warehouse operations, including warehouse management systems and fleet management systems. As a result, the required skill level of the average material handler has significantly increased.

Training programs developed by material handling equipment manufacturers recognize the need for a workforce that is ready to operate the new systems efficiently and safely. These programs are available from manufacturers, local dealers and third-party training providers.

Operations with a well-trained and safe workforce realize the payback in a highly efficient operation that is adaptable to changes in the business environment — and are always more profitable than their untrained and unready competitors.

For more information, please visit www.raymondcorp.com.