The Pallet Runner Position & The Pallet Jack

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Thanks for reaching out and catching Todays Show! I’m Marty with Warehouse and Operations as a Career. One of the most utilized and versatile pieces of equipment in operations is the Pallet Jack.  Wither it’s a Manual Jack, which by the way helped revolutionize the movement of freight, the first models, around 1918, were operated with mechanical linkage only.  Today’s manual jacks use hydraulics for lifting.  The Electric Pallet Jack can be used for much heavier loads and over the years have become an important item in today’s productivity driven warehouses.

I was asked about the position of Pallet Runner, “what are their duties and does every operation use them”.  Not all warehousing operations use this position, it’s an In-Direct expense position and sometimes difficult to justify unless there’s quite a bit of distance to cover.  A Pallet Runner can be utilized by the Receiving Operation, a person that takes the pallets of received product from the dock and runs it across wide docks and into the storage aisles for the forklifts to put-away or place in the racks for storage.  In many instances it’s much more productive to bring the pallets to the forklift instead of them navigating the docks and eating up all that travel time.  A pallet runner can navigate the environments much safer & quicker than the fork lift operators can, their machines are much larger with obstructed views and they have to really use caution when operating in high traffic areas.  The same holds true for the Shipping Operations, the freight can be brought to the docks after selection for the loading process, in the larger facilities its actually the order selector, with their pallet jacks, that are responsible for bringing the product from the aisles, across the docks and to the staging areas for the loading process, I’ve seen them actually responsible for wrapping and loading them into the trailers as well.  Many of today’s operations may use a single jack or a double and even triple pallet jacks for moving freight across the docks from the receiving areas to the aisles, carrying up to three times the cube or volume with each minute spent in travel time.  We’ll be discussing travel time, a huge expense in our industry by the way, when we get into the Supervisory Positions in later episodes.

It’s not a position that every warehouse probably has a need for, especially in the Production buildings as the movement of freight needs are quite different from a Distribution Facility.

Generally the electric pallet jacks are our first experiences with powered industrial equipment, many times they can be the first added duty, or step if you will, while working at the General Labor task.  There may be an pay increase given to us if our job will be involving a substantial portion of our day operating the equipment but remember, we’re just interested in this position for the experience and education being given to us, it’s like school but we’re getting paid and NOT paying for it!  The Electric Pallet Jack will probably be our first step or goal in our career path!

Since we’re here and talking so much about the pallet jack let’s explore it for a bit.  The modern EPJ, LOL a term used by people that don’t really use them is really a great piece of equipment.  There many different types, you may use a center drive, a unit with a compartment you stand in and a handle that swings towards you that you turn with and a throttle bar that rolls away from you for forward and towards you for reverse.  Many models have a Deadman or emergency brake that you hold down with your foot, once released the machine comes to an immediate stop.  For regular braking you PLUG the machine, known as plugging, or reversing the motor.  When going forward and you wish to slow or stop you would simply roll back on the throttle bar reversing your motion.  Another type of unit is the End Control, there’s a platform you stand on with a handle that swings away from you that you steer by extending and moving from left to right, again utilizing a throttle bar or flipper type controls.  Then of course there’s the various models of Walkie Jacks, jacks you do not ride but walk with.  A quick search on the Internet will produce a wide array of specialty units, a few I’d even reference as hand controlled lifts.  Each model has its own unique uses and productivity usually determines what you’ll be using to perform your assigned tasks.

As with any piece of Powered Industrial Equipment we’ll be using there will be training involved.  These units aren’t all that difficult to operate but we have to be trained on them.  As with any machine or piece of equipment with moving parts they can be dangerous, we can hurt ourselves and others if not properly operated with Safety being our focus.  As we know there will be a 29CFR1910.178 class given to us and some training and do’s and don’ts for the individual tasks that are assigned to us.

One thing to mention is your toes & ankles, if you cruise Twitter at all you’ve probably seen a tweet about pallet jacks and toes.  Many a bruised, crushed or injured toes and ankles are up and down the feeds! I strongly suggest, in ANY warehouse environment, utilizing Steel Toe boots or shoes.  They can be cheap ones or name brand’s but get a pair!  Be careful and keep your feet away from the jacks and from under pallets at all times.  Fingers too, I’ve heard of many a busted finger, even wrists hands, It’s easy to get your fingers and hands injured by running the steering handle into something.  Be careful and put your training to practice.  Oh and skateboarding, don’t skateboard on manual jacks, we’ve all seen it done & you will eventually hurt yourself or someone else!

Oh, I just thought about a gentleman’s Safety story I’ll share real quick.  When you have any type of accident or even a small incident, actually even if you’re just observed operating any type of powered equipment in an unsafe manner you have to be removed from using the equipment until your retrained on it.  I know of a person, he had been operating the pallet jack for several years, was what I’d call very proficient at it, and he had 2 different minor incidents, neither caused a lot of damage and no one was injured but he had been taken off the equipment and retrained after the first one, He had just possibly gotten too comfortable with his job, maybe had some outside of work things going on or for whatever reason wasn’t focused on Safety and had the second incident like a month later.  He of course had to be removed from his position, he was placed in a job that does not use equipment AND pays almost $2/hr less.  An employer cannot over look negligence and unsafe acts in the workplace.  It’s for everyone’s safety and it’s just the rules.  Please pay attention and practice what we’re taught in training, it’s part of being the professional we’re wanting to be right?

Manual & Electric Jacks may be assigned to most all G/L Depts for use, Sanitation may use them for moving trash bins and pallets out of the way for sweeping, Inventory Control may need to move pallets around for counting purposes, Unloading or Lumpers will use them for staging products and in the Production Warehouses typically one or two people in every dept may be trained on their use as there’s always a need to move products around to the different work stations.  Remember, we want to be the one that raises our hand if asked, and let our Supervisors and Managers know that we want to learn them, we want to take on that added responsibility as it’s a step in our long term Plan, it’s kind of our 2nd short term Goal, the first of course was get our foot in the door right?  The following step may just be the Forklift positions and this will help prepare us for its use as well.

I think we’ve answered our question about the Pallet Runner position and I really enjoyed talking about the Electric Jacks today.  It’s so interesting, as I travel around to the many different types of warehouses to hear all the different names and terminology that are used when talking about the equipment we use daily, your facility may call them by other names but their uses are really all the same.  If you’d like to see all the different models available today check them out on-line or on YouTube, there’s some really interesting ones out there.  Remember it’s a part of our Plan to educate ourselves, learn those keywords and actions that will get us noticed by our management team & BE that employee that’s asked to take on more duties and responsibilities!

Please send us any questions, comments or suggestions by email at host@warehouseandoperationsasacareer.com or post them on our Twitter or Facebook Pages or the Comments section on the website.  Participation is education and that’s all our Goal.  We all get busy with our Jobs and our personal lives, but let’s be sure to include Safety and Learning in our daily routines, make it a habit, we all have Family waiting on us at the end of our Shifts!

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