Welcome to the October 1st issue of Warehouse & Logistics News, bringing you all the latest industry news, plus our scheduled features on Fork Trucks and Doors & Curtains.

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As reported in these pages, the Grand Finals of the RTITB Operator of The Year Competition 2011 took place at the RTITB’s headquarters in Telford on Friday 16 September, and proved a resounding success. Raising the standards of fork lift operators’ skills is a serious business, and so it should be. But RTITB’s Operator of The year Competition 2011, and in particular the Grand Finals, have proved that you can get the message across to the industry about the need to pay attention to fork lift operator skills, and do so with a smile.

As Media Partners to the 2011 Competition, W&LN has been keeping our readers up to date throughout the competition, starting with the on line operator skills test, then reporting the Regional Finals as they’ve been happening around the UK over the last few months. So after all that it was very exciting to go to Telford on Friday 16 September to the Grand Finals at RTITB’s headquarters, and see it all come together.

A big hand for the two ladies behind the competition, Laura Nelson, RTITB Operations Director and Ruth Hughes, RTITB Marketing & Events Co-ordinator. In between their normal jobs at RTITB, Laura and Ruth have been working very hard for the last eighteen months to make sure the RTITB Operator of The Year Competition 2011 was a resounding success.

The first RTITB Operator of the Year Competition took place in 2008, and was successful enough for RTITB to want to do it again, but bigger and better. Laura and Ruth announced the 2011 event to the world at IMHX last November, but they started the groundwork months before. And their efforts have certainly paid off handsomely.

Incidentally, as part of their preparation, eighteen months ago Laura and Ruth chose Warehouse & Logistics News to be their Media Partner. As the number one title for the industry they recognised our ability to help get the message across, over a sustained period, about the competition and how it underlines the importance of fork lift operator skills training to the people who need to hear it.

The Grand Finals were presented in RTITB’s training area, which Ruth Hughes and her colleagues decorated with a fairground theme. Devised by Simon Docherty, RTITB’s Standards Manager and Nick Welsh, RTITB regional executive, at first sight the tests looked fun, but tackling them called for every ounce of the finalists’ skill.

Surely one of the toughest tests, ‘Hook A Duck’ involved manoeuvring an eight metre carpet boom through a hoop to hook a yellow bathroom duck, and bring it safely through the hoop. Watched by hushed spectators, and calling for intense concentration and incredibly precise positioning, it was impossible to rush.

The Dodgem involved using a clamp to move a loaded pallet round a chicane of pallets and back again – as various finalists proved, it wasn’t easy! Smash ‘Em Alley challenged the finalists to use their fork lift to pick up balls and knock down skittles. Helter Skelter involved placing a ball on the top of a stack of ramps and catching it at the bottom. In Crazy Ghoul Dual finalists used a dual pallet attachment to pick up a double pallet load, place it on a lorry and unload the pallets again.

Other more formal tests, which readers will recognise as everyday good practice in the warehouse, included completing a pre-use inspection checklist and, to assess finalists’ safety awareness, putting stickers on a static truck to show which parts were safety-critical.

“Clearly this event can’t be like a day’s work,” Simon told W&LN. “As it’s the Grand Final, you’ve got to make it accessible and fun, especially for the visitors and spectators, but lift the bonnet and it’s a good reflection of what these guys have to do. All our tests are based on normal operator competence tests, and highlight essential skills such as moving with the load on the ground, observation and accuracy. The challenge for us is finding different things for the trucks to do, hence the carpet boom, the clamp and the double fork handling. These are attachments that fork lift operators have to use in their working life, so they’re all relevant.”

So what was it like for the finalists? During the day we spoke to Gary Maher from Jarrow, who won the title of Operator of the Year, and was presented with a brand new Toyota Aygo Ice, courtesy of sponsors Toyota Materials Handling. A National Finalist in 2008, Gary told us he thought the competition was “much harder this time round,” and we’ll take his word for it. All the contestants gave it their best shot, particularly Simon Bottomley, who was on crutches following ankle surgery but was determined to go ahead on the same basis as the others, with no extra time. His gutsiness was rewarded with the second runner up prize, £1,000 in shopping vouchers.

So congratulations to Laura and Ruth, and here’s to the next RTITB Operator of the Year Competition!

Warehouse & Logistics News

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