Order Selector & Forklift Driver – Responsibilities & Experience

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Welcome to another Episode of Warehouse and Operations as a Career!  I’m Marty and today let’s answer a couple of questions that came to me this week.  I’ve been working with several Job Boards in the social media world lately and we get asked all too frequently about the positions of Order Selecting and Forklift Driving.  I’m pretty passionate about both of these positions, and yes, they are the short-term goal for many of us.  They typically pay well & can offer us a good solid career, really long-term employment in many instances.  We’ve spoken to both of these positions in previous discussions but there seems to be a lot of interest in them now with job postings and advertisements hitting the classifieds and Recruiters offering interviews for them.  We’re going to kind of off our planned schedule of topics but hey, we got asked to talk about them so let’s dive a bit deeper into the hiring process for them and see if we can’t map out a plan and path to obtain our goal!

In the Distribution world, an Order Selector will probably be operating an Electric Pallet Jack or a Forklift, maybe even a Tugger or some type of Powered Industrial Equipment.  We haven’t spoken a lot about the Tugger, and its referred to by many different names but is really just a piece of equipment you can stand on, usually within a driver compartment that buggies or carts can be connected too and you pull them through the warehouse aisles selecting your orders of product, placing them on the carts or pallets on the carts.  As we’ve mentioned several times, yep I’m going to talk about Powered Industrial Equipment training again, here in the states the regulation is 29CFR1910.178 which put simply means that if we operate any type of powered equipment we must be trained in the safe operation of that equipment.  Please check out OSHA.gov for the complete reading, it’s honestly more interesting than you’d think!  Anyway, and I know I talked about it often, but please don’t get on or operate any equipment, don’t even attempt to move it if you’ve not been trained to do so, just stay away from it, it could be dangerous and its actually the law!  And we’ll be discussing short cuts, or lack of them here in a bit.  In my experiences, especially in the Position of Order Selecting you should have or will need at least 3 to 6 months, sometimes up to a years experience operating a piece of equipment to be hired on with a new company.  I know there is companies offering a certification card and equipment training for “X” number of dollars out there, and I suppose that’s all good and fine BUT that does not bring with it the experience that may be needed for the position.  Remember, almost all employers, at least every employer I know of will train and certify you for free upon hire.  You will need to be on-sited at the dock you’ll be working on, or observed by a trainer and the employer will, or should, be willing to do this for you as its in their best interest as well.  Almost every month I hear about a young man or woman that’s gone and paid for a course, then goes to an employer and is really disenchanted to learn they need experience to perform the job or to be hired on.  So let’s talk about short cuts, how does one get the needed experience?

We talked a bit about what employers or recruiters are looking for in an order selector Episode, let’s see, that was Episode 12 titled Order Selection and we went a little deeper I think with Episode 33 called A Few Thoughts on Order Selecting with James, where we spoke with James a Top Gun and really accomplished selector, check those two shows out, I think you’ll find them really interesting.  Oh, and we did a program with a Warehouse Trainer, let’s see, that was Episode 19 titled Warehouse Training Techniques & Advice from a professional where Anthony does a great job sharing his thoughts on training with us, we talked about Order Selecting and different training techniques there also.  There I go straying off subject again but those are good episodes to check out since we’re talking about order selecting!

OK, we talk about experience, so how does one get the experience. Dictionary.com helps and defines experience as “A particular Instance of personally encountering or undergoing something” It also states, “The observing, encountering, or undergoing of things as they occur in the course of time”.

I feel what our new employer is looking for or what they mean by experience is that we already know How to Operate the equipment and are proficient at it, that we already know the importance of selecting the correct products and quantity counts & that we know the meaning of productivity and can already produce at an expected productivity level.  These things aren’t hard to learn either, but we have to learn them.

We’ve spoken several times that our Warehouse education is like going to school or college, well kind of anyway, and we have been paid while investing the time to attend!  The courses in warehousing aren’t that long, there not measured in semesters or years of completion.  We can easily determine how long each course takes by paying attention to the instructor or trainer, following the directions given to us, being on time for our shifts, every scheduled shift and letting our management team know that we want another position with more responsibility and better pay.  I honestly know individuals, and I mean many individuals that has gone from a lower paying general labor position to Order Selecting in less than a year! That’s not a big investment of our time.  I know it’s hard to accept a position for a couple of dollars less than what we want, but if the company we’re looking at offers that opportunity to us and they have the Order Selecting positions we’re after I feel it should be a done deal, let’s take a g/l position, get our foot in the door, and learn all the jobs between us and that order selecting position.  All the way letting our managers know what we want and where we’re heading! I think that’s the only way, and the short cut to getting the experience and that order selecting position!

I mentioned Responsibility and better pay.  Order selecting pays more because it carries with it more responsibility.  You will work hard, it’s hard work, it’s typically a productivity position.  You’ll have Loaders or Drivers waiting, standing by to load those orders.  And believe me, a front dock can get backed up in a hurry when orders or batches aren’t coming out of the aisles in a timely manner and in the proper order.  In a large Distribution facility, it has to happen like clockwork or every task happening after us is going to be affected. And it’s our sole responsibility to make sure the customer or account receives the right item and the correct quantity.  Selection Systems or computer driven scanners or audio units may be giving us the slot number or location to select from but it is still our duty to verify the correct item is in the slot and we know what we’re pulling.  I’ve yet to hear of a system where our supervisor or manager doesn’t explain during our training to read the screen or label & check the product information on the box.  A Receiver could have tagged the wrong item or a fork driver may have placed it in the wrong location. It’s still our responsibility to see that the customer gets what he or she has ordered!

It’s a tough job, we need to go into it realizing its productivity based.  We’re going to get frustrated sometimes, especially if we’re selecting with 30 other selectors all waiting for a slot or location to be replenished with product.  Time is our enemy in the production environments. As an order selector, our travel time or drive time is not counting in our cases per hour number or our percentage level so we have to think ahead, plan our routes through the warehouse so we drive the absolute least we can.  If we don’t have a pull or a box to grab in an aisle don’t drive down it.  Those kinds of things we’ll learn with experience!

I just mentioned Fork Life Driver, it’s another position we’ll probably be told we’re looking for people with experience.  More often than not I see people moving to the forklift from another piece of equipment.  Maybe in smaller environments we could be trained to operate forklifts early on in our employment but if in the larger production or distribution environments where productivity is stressed it will actually help us to come from other tasks and positions.  Think about it, if we know every item by sight and know how the receiving or inbound department works and the shipping or outbound side of things happen we’ll be much more proficient at our tasks!  The two basic positions involving fork lift jobs are called Putaway, meaning we’re in the Receiving side of things and Replenishment or the Shipping of goods.  If our job is a Putaway Driver we may be responsible for hauling pallets of product off the dock once it has been received and placing it in its Pick Location, where the Selectors will be looking for it OR placing it in a reserve location where it will be stored until it’s needed for selection.  This brings us to the Replenishment Driver task.  Its will be our responsibility to replenish or replace the pick slot once the product has been removed or the pallet has been emptied by the Selectors, retrieving another pallet of product from the reserve system and replenishing the slot or location. Again, we’ll find it’s our responsibility to confirm we’ve retrieved the correct items when pulling them from the reserves and again before or as we place it into the pick location for the Selectors.  Imagine for a moment, the wrong pallet is placed in the pick slot and we have 100 cases on it, 30 selectors stop there and select 1 case for their order and does not catch that it’s the wrong product.  Potentially 100 customers could receive something they cannot use and did not order! That’s not a good thing. Something like that is called a misship or misspull and it can count against us, even cost us money in the productivity world.  Another not so great error is called a Short or Not on Order or Not on Truck.  That’s where we as Forklift drivers or Order Selectors did not pull the item or correct quantity, or it could have fallen off our pallets as we turned a corner or maybe we just placed in in the wrong zone or part of the pallet and it was buried within the load and overlooked by the driver.

And let’s not forget the heaviest responsibility we’ll be carrying with either of these jobs is that of Safety.  We’re operating Powered Equipment to perform our jobs, we’re driving it in close proximity to people and other equipment operators.  As we would have been trained in its operation it is our duty to operate it safely.

As you can tell I think both Order Selecting and the positions of Fork Lift Driver are great and rewarding job’s and both can be strong Careers or excellent stepping stones to other positions.  If you have any specific questions or thoughts please just shoot us an email to host@warehouseandoperationsasacareer.com and we’ll contact you and get them answered, I’ll put you in contact with someone that knows the position like the back of their hand and help you in any way they can.  Don’t let the stress or frustration or the lack of experience hold you back from either position, there both worth the investment or the time to learn.  You can get that needed experience, you just have to get your foot in the door and communicate with your management, let them know what your goal is and what you want to do!

If your enjoying our programs, finding any value in our discussions please remember to check out our Facebook and Twitter feeds, we can be found on both @WhseandOps.  We share job board information quite a bit on Twitter and pose the occasional question with our Facebook page.  A quick Like or Follow would be greatly appreciated!

Until next week, please practice Safety and work and home both, it’s so important to our family members and co-workers as well as ourselves!

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