|Name: Doug Barton
Company: Thompson & Johnson Equipment Company
Location: East Syracuse, NY
Years on Job: 32
I’ve been working with electric vehicles since the technology was in its infancy. During high school, I worked on cars with electronic ignition systems. After serving in the U.S. Navy and training with electricians, a family friend recommended that I apply to work at Thompson & Johnson Equipment Company because they needed someone to work with the emerging electric forklifts. Now, more than 32 years later, I still work with electrics, although they are hardly recognizable compared to the ones I worked with in high school. There have been major advancements—high-speed components and computer chips have changed the whole face of the electric truck industry.
Most of my day is spent on the road doing preventative maintenance and repairs on electric lift trucks. The most common issues I run into are normal wear on items such as contact tips, wheels and hydraulic hoses.
Going to customer sites all day means I must be able to communicate effectively. Being able to listen and communicate with customers is key. I have to put things in terms they can understand and explain things calmly and effectively if any issues arise. Once I do that, I’ve gained their confidence forever.
Because the technology is continuously evolving, I constantly read to train myself and remain current. If there is a problem that I wasn’t able to resolve the day before, I wake up early and research it in a manual or on the manufacturer’s website.
Success requires good mechanical abilities, but I also rely on a good set of wrenches, ratchets and other tools, the ability to read schematics and a set of manuals to consult.
As with any profession in material handling, safety is vital. I sometimes travel up to 300 miles in a day across my area. It makes for a balancing act—I’ve got to do things quickly, but I can’t sacrifice safety. I wear safety goggles, steel-toed boots and other equipment as needed.