Never micromanage a tech and other tips from one who’s seen it all

Rosie Clifford -
Forklift Diaries
- 13 Jun 2024 ( #1183 )
5 min read
Dedication to the work has led to an interesting and varied career in materials handling for Garland.
Dedication to the work has led to an interesting and varied career in materials handling for Garland.

Garland Moore has seen many faces of the materials handling business. 

He entered the industry in 1999 as a forklift technician with Dougherty Equipment at its Chesapeake Virginia branch in the United States, after a 20-year stint in the military. 

His dedication to the work then paved the way for multiple career progressions. 

He advanced to service manager then later filled in as branch manager with Dougherty. 

Then after the company was acquired, he progressed his career to field service supervisor with Gregory Poole Lift Systems.

Last year, after just one year in retirement, Garland returned to work as a trainer for technicians, allowing his branch to handle repairs and training simultaneously. 

According to Garland, and echoing sentiments by many in the industry, good techs are hard to find. Forkliftaction’s Rosie Clifford asks him why this is and how the role of technician has evolved over time.

Rosie: How did your two decades in the military prepare you for working in the materials handling industry as a technician?

Garland: Throughout my time in the military each location I was assigned to would bring a change of duties and different equipment types to work on. At my first duty station I maintained lawnmowers and weed eaters. At the second, I was in a battalion where we went through different rotations to overseas locations, from Guam to the Philippines to an island called Diego Garcia. Each location required me to get acquainted with different types of equipment. Jeeps, forklifts and front-end loaders, right up to 50 T cranes. 

Rosie: What types of equipment have you worked on throughout your career as a tech?

Garland assembling a mighty Combilift straddle carrier with the help from two other techs.
Garland assembling a mighty Combilift straddle carrier with the help from two other techs.

Garland: I have worked on everything from lawnmowers, outboard motors, construction equipment and now forklifts. I have repaired or assembled jacks, gas and electric lifts. From small forklifts to port lifts that handle empty and loaded containers. I have even assembled Combilift straddle carriers, with help from two other techs, and I enjoyed every moment!

Rosie: What are the challenging aspects of being a technician and how has changes in the industry influenced these aspects? 

Garland: When I started out there were many technical advancements either taking place or in the works. 

I did not own a computer in 1999. Now I have learned just enough to get into trouble and have multiple laptops for work and training. From EV1 to EV100 to Curtis controllers. I need multiple programs to check or repair equipment. I have had to learn how to use each of these programs.

This also includes internal combustion engine (ICE) forklifts, with the industry now needing to update engines to meet government standards.

From year to year changes are constant, and as technicians we must keep up. 

Rosie: What are the most challenging aspects of being a trainer to techicians?

Garland: I’ve trained five techs over the past six months, only one is still employed. The ones that make a go of training often don’t have enough drive out in the field to put forth any real effort. They want to check a phone every two minutes or play games on it. I always try to keep my eye on the one that is still working.

Rosie: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a technical trainer?

Garland: When you instruct a student on a certain subject and then find them using that same information later to complete a repair. This lets you know someone’s paid attention!

Rosie: Why do you think it is so hard for companies to attract and retain new techs?

Garland: Nationwide in the US technicians are in short supply with a demand of over 600,000. New technician recruitment has dropped over the past ten years. 

I suspect the innovations and the advancements made by manufactures, alongside the cost of tools, make it overwhelming for people just to get started. 

Another problem we have is when other companies try to poach techs by offering them more money. After you invest a lot of time in training them, they’ll walk away for a good offer. It’s a dog-eat-dog world! Very few techs in my experience have loyalty to any company, they will be drawn to the best offer. 

I also think the population today wants everything done for them without making any effort of their own. No one wants to get dirty, greasy, and lay on their back for hours or lay across an engine to install components. 

Society today is use and throw away. Technicians will be extinct in another 20 years.


Rosie:
How would you ‘sell’ a career as a forklift tech to someone who is just starting out?

Garland: For new starters it’s great to explain all the many aspects of the materials handling industry. 

Outstanding techs will enjoy a varied career since there are so many different types of lifts to work on. Each piece of equipment is different, for instance propane and gas lifts are completely different to electrics. As technicians they will get to repair everything from small lifts to big. 

Explain that their training will be ongoing and necessary to keep up to date on all the new developments. 

Rosie: You’ve worked on the side of management and as a technician, how can dealerships best look after their techs?

Garland: It’s important for management to make sure that all their technicians receive training for most lifts, although there’s always a certain few that will need more specific training. 

Make sure you evaluate everyone each quarter. This way, the techs know what improvements they need to make, and the supervisors understand what their techs require from them. 

Small changes can keep your employees happy and are essential to keeping good techs. I’m not necessarily talking a pay rise. Maybe give them hard hats, safety glasses or new boots.  

Above all do not micromanage a tech! 

 

Work in materials handling? We would love to hear your story!

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