3rd Party Audits and our Opportunities / A Forklift Audit & the AHA Benefit Tournament

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Hello, I’m Marty and I’d like to thank you for listening in today with Warehouse and Operations as a Career.  We’re actually out on the road again this week, visiting a Production facility in Arizona and attending a golf tournament benefiting the American Heart Association a bit later in Nevada.  When I say attending I’m referring to working a Tee or Vendor table, by no stretch of the imagination could I be considered a golfer.  I’ve tried taking it up several times but to no avail.  I can drive almost any type of Industrial equipment but I can’t drive that little ball down the fairway.  Belmar Integrated Logistics has sponsored a hole on the course for the cause and they’ve invited WAOC to present it with them.  With any luck I may just be able to grab one of their executives to chat with us a few minutes during the episode.

Last week we discussed getting noticed by our management team, how to insure it & use it to our advantage.  We briefly mentioned the audit process, probably should have gone into it a little deeper or talked a bit more about it as its one of the things we can really help our supervisor with.  As we spoke of last week, if we bring up something that can make our supervisor’s job a bit easier we will get noticed and that’s not easily forgotten.  With just a little self-taught knowledge and a good keyword tossed into a conversation we can get their attention.

Ok, I believe every warehouse in all industries are open to at least yearly audits.  I’d think all cities would have an inspection program or facilities inspector, and I’d bet at least a Fire Inspector or Fire Marshall may stop by annually.   Some heavier equipment buildings may have a regulatory agency such as OSHA or an agency involved within the particular industry could be required to visit each year.  If you’re in the food service industry you could have other state and federal agencies come by such as the FDA or USDA, and there’s a host of other agencies, again, depending on your business and industry that could be required to visit, and many could make surprise or unannounced visits throughout the year. These days a lot of customers and vendors that you deal with could stop in unannounced, checking on their products, how we’re handling them, storing them etc.  It can certainly be over whelming on our management teams to keep up with all the regulatory concerns and any special requirements and demands of their accounts.  That’s where the experts come in, or as we spoke too last week the 3rd party auditors.  These are simply, well not simple I guess, but these are companies that know the regulations and probably more importantly know the documentation needed to insure we’re following all the best practices and rules, and in many cases the laws that the different agencies are tasked with enforcing.  Remember, these city, state and federal inspectors and inspections are important.  They’re not here just to impose fines on our companies but rather insure our safety and the safety of the public.  I’ve taken part in and walked many facilities with auditors of all types and I can honestly tell you I’ve never met an official that wasn’t more concerned with sharing and teaching or instructing rather than fining and criticizing a company’s staff.  Now of course you have to really care and have been following the rules and regulations and more importantly keeping up with your documentation but barring any flat out negligence on our part I believe you’ll find them a wealth of information & that they will do their best to help you get in line with the programs. I kind of veered of topic again, but one more point I’d like to make about an Auditor, don’t lie or try and mislead them, answer every question even if the answer is “let me check on that or I’m not certain, let me get that for you”.  Know that this is not their first walk, they’ve heard it all and know what’s what.  Don’t strike up a conversation with them but answer their questions, all of them.  You don’t need to offer up answers to questions not asked but answer their questions honestly.

Alright, no more ranting and back to the 3rd party Auditors.  Like I was saying, these are companies that knows the rules and laws and how all these different agencies want to see our paperwork or documentation.  Our company or employer can hire these companies to come in and perform an audit just as a regulatory authority would or our customer or vendor may.  Yep, it’s usually a bit expensive but boy can it be money well spent.  It’s much better to be corrected by them than to find we’re off the page and doing something wrong or being negligent by not knowing the rules or not documenting things properly and ending up with a large fine or worse. So how can we as General Labors, order selectors, forklift drivers, unloaders and loaders help our Supervisors with things like this you ask?  Easy, by just doing our task and jobs as taught and directed.  If we see something or someone else not following direction we need to bring it up.  Last week we spoke about GMP’s, these aren’t just guidelines or rules that your Supervisor wants you to follow, there part of your companies regulatory concerns.  Depending what industry you’re in it can be things like “No glass containers outside the breakroom and No gum chewing or candy on the warehouse floor.”  These things are actually written into your companies programs.  The company is stating that all these rules are followed by each employee and that the employee is aware of the rule or procedure.  Our auditor will be asking to see where the associate has been notified and the rules explained to them & be looking for any infractions during their walk through.  An important thing for us to remember is all those things we’ve signed during our orientation & all the information discussed at our pre shift meetings are part of a bigger picture and not just an idea by our supervisor.  So an easy way to get noticed by our management team is knowing all those rules or guidelines and bringing them up from time to time.  GMP’s are pretty Warehouse 101, meaning many of them are practically standards really, never place product on the floor, always place on pallets, do not stand wood or pallets on their ends, always lay flat, do not operate any powered equipment you have not been trained to do so, wear assigned and proper PPE’s at all times when on the floor or work area, keep work areas clean and safe, do not block emergency exits, never jump out of a dock door, utilize employee exits always etc.  These are written procedures and so there part of the audits, the auditor will want to see the documentation and will be looking for infractions.  It’s not unheard of for an auditor to walk up to us and ask us a question about our GMP’s, shouldn’t be a problem, we’ve typically signed off on them and we’ll know the answer right?  We all get busy doing our jobs and its sometimes easy to start taking these procedures for granted or we get in a hurry and forget about proper product and pallet handling but it’s important and part of a much bigger picture as you can see.  Bring up during a startup meeting, in a nice way of course, that your noticing a lot of foot prints on cases or pallets being stood on ends and your supervisor will spring board off what you’ve said and they will reinforce it with the rest of the shift & You will be remembered by them, noticed if you will.  The more often and frequently we mention something or bring up a point the more our supervisor will recognize that we are interested in the company, the procedures and they he or she will gravitate towards giving us more, more thought, more time and possibly our goal which is more responsibility!

One of the most defined and most documented audit points or area is with our Sanitation Programs.  What is cleaned daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly.  What chemicals do we use and at what solutions.  We’ve all been in a restaurant and noticed a sheet of paper in the restroom where a restaurant employee has written a time the restroom was last cleaned and initialed off on it, that’s part of their Sanitation Program.  They’ll be a file with something like the last quarters daily sheets filed away somewhere so when an auditor asks if this procedure is being followed the company will be able to show it is and that it’s documented.  Little things to us as employees but very important things to our management teams.

If our facility handles and stores chemicals there could be a lot of storage concerns and procedures written, each of course needing its own documentation that the procedure and process is being followed and adhered too.  Oh, and food facilities, wither production of food or storing food products and the distribution of food products there can be a lot of procedures and their documentation.  As we’ve discussed in earlier episodes things like trailer inspection reports, temperature reports and product integrity reporting can be required to document.  Again, these things can seem time consuming to us as employees but there important and a very important part of our tasks.  Mentioning just these types of things, just bringing them up in conversation like, “How long do we keep these trailer inspection reports on file, there for things like audits right” will get us noticed and probably respected by our management team not to mention it’s really a part of our job!

These are the kinds of things our company may hire a 3rd party company to come in and audit ourselves just to be sure we’re ready for an actual city, state or government entity audit.  Money well spent in my opinion.

As I mentioned I spent some time in Arizona this week, I actually performed an observation audit at a production facility.  They have a great group there, a very impressive team.  I was auditing their forklift operations as a whole, the certification files, equipment pre-trip & post trip reporting, maintenance records, incident investigations and spent some time just observing the operators.  I spoke with several of them about what topics were discussed at their Safety meetings & if they had any ideals they’d like to see implemented or looked at, just things like that.  These could be the kinds of things a Safety Auditor may look for and bring up during an actual audit. I’m happy to say there were no infractions found and the team is doing a great job at facility.

Well, here at the end of the week I ended up in Nevada where as I mentioned Belmar Integrated Logistics is sponsoring a hole for a great cause, the American Heart Association.  This is a yearly fund raising tournament and it’s so exciting to see all the local businesses and vendors participating and helping support such an important organization.  All the sponsors have a team on the greens and most of them have tables set up at their sponsored tees with water and shade for the players and some fine conversation with individuals such as myself.  I’ve ran into John Riddile here and he’s been gracious enough to give us a few minutes.

John, I want to thank you for taking the mic for a few minutes today Sir.  So, tell us about this tournament, how’d you end up here today?

Well Marty, as you’ve said, the American heart association is a great cause and we have been blessed to be able to participate in this annual golf tournament fundraiser for the past 6 years. As a partner with one of our large national accounts. I’m certainly not a great golfer either, but again, it’s for a great cause and we are having a lot of fun doing it every year!

Any thing you’d like to share with us here at WAOC, anything going on in the business?

You know Marty, one thing that I have been thinking about a lot late lately, is just how big our industry really is! If you consider how distribution, warehousing, operations and logistics is a multi-trillion dollar business, it really opens your eyes to the immense opportunities available to job seekers in this business. I always think of distribution as the massive set of events that happens behind the curtains, that nobody really even thinks about.

Case in point, Just take a look around you….. every single thing you see was manufactured and distributed through the supply chain and probably through several distribution channels by the time you buy it. As long as people will continue to buy things, there will be demand for the distribution industry. Just look at food service distribution alone…. whether the economy is doing good or bad, people still have to eat and as long as humans still need to eat food, there will be warehouse distributors.

Food service and liquor distribution are two recession proof industries that will always have inherit demand regardless of any economical situation. Like I’ve said in previous episodes, if your listeners will follow the principals and tenets of what you cover and address each week, they can easily build a path to prosperity, if they are willing to commit themselves to the discipline of self-accountability.

The distribution industry is one of the largest on earth and it is certainly a dependable and stable career choice. You know Marty I have never in my life worried about job security because of this very fact. If you are a trained order selector, you will always have a job available to you if you want it. Warehousing and operations as a career is a great choice!!

John that’s some great thoughts, you know operations is a tremendous industry.  You are absolutely right, the jobs are there, will always be there in my opinion.  I feel the Industry is just a great opportunity and can offer us great careers.

John, Thanks for taking a few minutes with us today, I know a Hotel Lobby isn’t the best place to visit but hey, we learn where we can right!

And I appreciate all of you that listen in to us each week, I hope we’re bringing some value to your careers or at least sparking some interest within Operations.  Keep those questions and emails coming and we’ll keep sharing our experiences and getting you some answers.  Keep growing, learning and sharing with your teams and as always Be Safe doing it!

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