17 January 2012

TPS and operator errors

The stark reality of today's business climate is that success is based on volume, profit and customer care. And since volume is driven by product quality and customer care by operating practices, then focusing on costs should be a priority.

Why, then, do I receive a text almost every day of the week, via our internal escalation process, notifying me of damage to a customer site or, worse still, to an individual? This is usually as a result of one of three things – poor operator practice, poor supervision in the workplace or, in some cases, lack of maintenance on customer-owned product.

Despite popular belief, the largest expense in the materials handling environment is neither the initial purchase price nor the equipment running costs. It is, in fact, the operator costs.

The Toyota Production System (TPS) incorporates processes which can be applied in any business, not just in production, and TPS principles could reduce operator costs considerably. If 5S and muda reduction were adopted in materials handling, for example, we'd also see lower product and damage costs – a goldmine for any business.

Operator error remains the single biggest influence on injury statistics and damage costs. Again, where we see businesses embracing good operator practice endorsed by good supervision and appropriate training, we see increased productivity and reduced costs.

As a forklift truck manufacturer, our responsibility extends way beyond supply of product, and we strive to offer differentiated training courses and specialist advice – but until legislation for operators is taken to a new level, we are all exposed.

We must remember that every day a person sits in a forklift truck they are operating equipment that can cause serious damage, major injury or, in extreme circumstances, even death.

I believe passionately that we can all make a difference. Test yourself right now: walk out into the warehouse or factory and check that every operator is wearing a seatbelt and that there are no visible obstructions that could cause injury or damage.

I hope you find nothing of note.

Tony Wallis, operations director at Toyota Material Handling UK

Supporting Information

Toyota Material Handling UK Ltd
Toyota Material Handling UK Ltd

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