There isn’t a distribution center or logistics operation in the country that doesn’t claim safety to be its number one priority. It’s not just idle chatter either; most reputable companies invest significant capital into safety education programs. However, they still struggle with keeping employees free from harm. There are countless regulations implemented by groups like OSHA to help establish safety guidelines, but they can be cumbersome and difficult to understand. Thus, as evidenced by the Top 10 OSHA violation lists this year, many well-intentioned companies struggle to comply. What they really need is a partner that can help them navigate the regulations and create the safest possible warehouse environment.
That’s where the MHEDA member comes in. You are the experts. When it comes to a warehouse or a distribution center, you know where the hidden danger resides. What’s more, for you, that hidden danger is also hidden opportunity. It’s in that spirit that MHEDA Edge took to the social Web asking MHEDA members on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and The MHEDA Edge Editor’s Blog for their ideas on how to use safety as a tool to solidify customer relationships and ultimately close more sales. The Edge editorial staff then took the best of these ideas and turned them into three member-inspired ways to make safety sell.
Improving a Customer’s Improvisation
Concept suggested by Matt Guye, MH Equipment Company (Mossville, IN) via The MHEDA Edge Editor’s Blog
We’ve all done it at one point or another. Something around the house or the office breaks and we’re forced to improvise. We don’t have time to perform a proper fix so we rig something up to temporarily do the job. Admit it, we’ve all shoved a book under a wobbly table leg at one point in our lives. Your customers are no different. Often times, something will go wrong at their facility and they’ll come up with a quick fix. Guye noticed an example of this phenomenon at a customer location where he spotted an old forklift attachment that had clearly been fabricated “on the back lot.” Guye casually mentioned the safety risks associated with the attachment and convinced them to let him fabricate a new, more compliant attachment. They did and since then, he has sold close to 20 custom attachments nationwide based entirely on the older attachment’s non-compliant design.
Simplify Their Safety Compliance
Concept Suggested by Scott Eggenberger, KMH Systems (Dayton, OH) via LinkedIn
One of the best ways for a company to endear itself to its customers it is to take something that’s complicated and make it simpler. If there’s one thing that drives warehouse and distribution managers nuts, it’s OSHA operator checklist compliance. Before any operator can fire up a forklift, there’s a series of checks that have to be made and recorded. Making sure these forms are properly filled out and filed can be quite laborious. However, over the last few years, a new type of system is picking up steam in the industry. These “lift truck monitoring solutions” automate the OSHA operator checklist for end-users, ensuring operator compliance. In fact, many of these systems won’t even let the truck engine start until the checklist has been properly completed.
That’s not all these systems do. They also provide impact detection and other specialized reporting. It lets the manager know which operator did what and when it happened. What’s more, all the data are stored in one organized computer system. This holds operators accountable for their actions and can ultimately help reduce accidents. If you can get your customers to see beyond the initial investment, they might just thank you in the end.
Provide Value without Pushing Products
Concept suggested by AK Material Handling (Maple Grove, MN) via Twitter @MN_Pallet_Rack
Sometimes the best way to prove your value to the customer and build loyalty for future sales is to offer them something that doesn’t cost either of you a cent—advice. They know how to run their business, but they rely on you to help them run their warehouse safely. There are countless little things you can suggest or offer that will help them run safer.
For instance, AK tweeted this suggestion: “Help your customers enforce monthly pallet rack inspections, complete with checklists and signatures.” If you want to go the extra mile, you can make these checklists for your customer at no charge. Give them these checklists and then instruct them on how to properly perform an inspection. This serves a two-fold benefit. First, your customer will be more likely to use the checklists, thus, they’ll be safer. Second, when some-thing needs to be replaced, they’ll know about it sooner. This, of course, means that you’ll be getting called in to fix the problem quicker. It helps create a safer workplace for your customer and more cash flow for you—talk about a win-win.
When it comes to a warehouse or distribution center, there’s danger around every corner. Your customers want to keep it to a minimum, but they can’t do it alone. They rely on their distributor partners to point out the pitfalls that they’re not able to spot. If you can do this effectively you could not only save your customer money, but you could even save a life—imagine the kind of loyalty that can create.