Industry training body RTITB asks whether there is a place for familiar social networking and media sites such as Facebook and Twitter alongside the everyday tasks carried out in the materials handling world, and what impact these tools have on the way businesses operate and their effect upon logistics.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been so thoroughly absorbed into the national pscyche that they have become an everyday part of life for millions that is often taken for granted. Unfortunately, the negative effects of social media are reported more often than the positive benefits. Is there, in fact, an advantage to be gained from using social media for tasks beyond gossip and opinion? It’s a debate that has raged since the beginning of the social network revolution and it never fails to make an appearance when a footballer or pop icon puts their foot in their mouth.
While it is true that sites like Twitter and Facebook produce their fair share of inappropriate behaviour and controversies, businesses around the world have grasped the more positive implications of the social network over the last few years and many use it daily to promote their message and their products. After all, Facebook and YouTube now have a share in the search market equal to that of Google, making them more than just leisure time gimmicks; they are serious online forums. Did you know that, on average, people spend around 50-60 mins on Facebook every day? That’s an average increase of 35 minutes since 2008 when the inaugural Operator of the Year competition took place.
So what about materials handling? Is there a place for social networking alongside the tasks of storing, handling and delivering goods? For RTITB the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’.
Take RTITB's Operator of the Year competition for example. Aside from the obvious marketing and publicity benefits derived from running a competition Facebook page and Tweet stream, the social network presents a subtle but more powerful, more positive opportunity.
At the root of the Operator of the Year competition is a message of safety. Fundamentally it is a celebration of best practice designed to award the best in our industry. But like attending a training course, watching a video or reading the latest ACOP, it is an event that occupies a single moment in time. No matter how engaging or memorable the event is, it is a single instant, destined to be pushed to the back of the mind at best, or forgotten all together at worst as the hurly-burly of daily life takes over in the next instant. Social networking allows the event to ‘live’ longer, to remain in the public consciousness both in the lead up to and after the event. And while it’s in the public consciousness a dialogue can exist. While there’s an on-going dialogue, people are thinking about the implications of what they do.
But what about the inevitable negativity that all social websites seem to generate? Surprisingly, even this can be used as a force for good. In 2011 one of the finalists posted a video that showed him competing in one of the grand final challenges. As with any social media upload it wasn’t long before the comments came rolling in. Predictably there were those who approved of the technique shown in the video and there were those who obviously could have done it faster, better and in more style and were more than prepared to express their ‘expertise’. One commentator even went so far as to question the regularity with which the park brake was used. The operator who had posted the video replied to the criticism by commenting that the point of the process was to follow standard operating procedure and that speed wasn’t the point. And so a discussion was born. The simple act of uploading this short video was enough to spark a debate on best practice and safe operation. A great example of social media keeping the issues in the public consciousness.
Another benefit to using sites like Facebook and Twitter is that they provide a window into our industry. Materials handling is an industry that is very much taken for granted by most on the outside – after all, what does it matter how a laptop is manufactured and delivered as long as it is delivered on time? Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and a host of other services provide a public platform on which to demonstrate what we do, and the care and responsibility that goes into our part of the process of moving an item from A to B.
Like all things there are a number of sides to the social media argument, and there is no denying it has its darker side - it’s not particularly difficult to find examples of dangerous lift truck operation and horrific accidents on YouTube - but organisations like RTITB are increasingly putting the social web to positive use, as a tool to promote safety and training and celebrate the successes.
Visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/opofyear) to see the latest news, photos and videos of this Operator of the Year competition. You can also follow the latest developments on Twitter @opofyear. To see the highlights from the heats of the Operator of the Year competition held this year at the IMHX, visit YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSx1oQ4LkOw