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benefits of stretch filmWhen you think about it, stretch wrap is actually pretty amazing.

Hand and machine stretch wrap is one of the easiest, quickest and most cost-effective ways to protect products and loads for storage and transportation. It can be applied in just a few seconds and removed just as quickly.

Stretch wrap — also known as stretch film — can be applied with the most rudimentary of tools (such as a broom handle) or with sophisticated machinery (such as automated stretch wrappers). The film itself comes in a wide variety fo grades, gauges and colors to best fit the specific application it is being used for.

Stretch Wrap Protects Products

If you want to keep your products from being contaminated by environmental elements such as dust, dirt or moisture, all you need to do is wrap them securely with stretch wrap and you are worry free.

Because most stretch wrap is transparent, the products you wrap are completely visible. Or you can use UV stretch wrap when you want to protect products from the sun’s harmful UV rays, such as when you will be storing them outdoors in direct sunlight.

Stretch Wrap Reduces Product Damage

Another use for stretch wrap is to protect products from becoming damaged during transport by forklift or truck. Wrap your product to stabilize the load and reduce the chances of it shifting while being moved across your warehouse or across the country.

Wrapping loads more securely also increases worker productivity, allowing employees to get more done during their shift.

Stretch wrap can also allow you to increase stack height. Use it with angle boards and you can stack your loads higher on pallets in order to maximize your cube space during storage or shipping.

Plus, if you have to stack odd-shaped loads or hard to stack items, stretch wrap allows you to stabilize these loads when a neat square configuration is not an option.

Inventory Control Benefits

When you wrap products together, it makes it easier to inventory them more easily and accurately. This reduces the chance of product separation that can make inventory counts more time consuming. With transparent stretch wrap, you can see scan bar codes right through it with your scanning devices.

Another inventory control benefit is decreased pilferage. It’s harder for people to steal products when they can’t get at them. Using opaque wrap is even safer because it doesn’t allow anybody to see what is inside your load.

Environmentally Safe 

Most stretch films are 100% recyclable, which means they are good for the environment. Keep your used stretch wrap reasonably clean and it can even sometimes be recycled for cash. So not only can you help reduce your carbon footprint, but you can earn a little extra money at the same time.

Like we said, stretch wrap truly is a pretty amazing product.

 

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(Editor’s Note: In today’s Thursday Feature, we take a look at one possible solution to the current truck driver shortage: Allowing driverless truck technology that already exists to use the nation’s highways).

tractor trailer

Photo courtesy of Greg Goebel via Wikimedia Commons

The current shortage of qualified truck drivers is approaching crisis proportions.

But with companies like Google, Apple and Mercedes-Benz working to develop driverless vehicles could a high-tech solution be right around the corner?

Why There Are Fewer Truck Drivers Today

Being a truck driver has always been a difficult job. Sitting in a cab for days at a time takes a physical toll on the body. And being away from family and a traditional, stable home life can take an emotional one as well.

Plus, until recently truck driving has been a relatively low-paying profession, especially when compared with jobs that require more formal education.

Then there are new federal regulations which limit how long drivers can remain behind the wheel without taking mandatory sleep breaks. These can cut into a driver’s ability to make money.

Cartage Companies Seek Solutions

Some trucking companies is responding by offering drivers higher wages. Others are seeking to have the laws changed so that younger drivers — some still in their teens — can legally get behind the wheel of the big rigs.

But there’s another possible solution that may sound like science fiction but actually is closer to reality than most people might think: Driverless trucks.

Trucks that use global positioning systems, radar, and the Internet to guide themselves without the use of human assistance are already a reality. Google developed its first self-driven vehicle in 2009 and since then its driverless cars already have logged more than 100,000 miles.

And those miles aren’t just on closed testing tracks. Lexus SUVs equipped with Google self-driving technology are currently being used on public roads in Austin, Texas. They are equipped with cameras, sensors, detailed street maps that include lane markers and traffic signals, and “Keep Clear” zones.

For the time being, these vehicles are supervised by two live Google employees. But for the most part, they are simply along for the ride: The vehicles themselves do nearly all the driving.

Self-Driving Cars

But Google isn’t the only big name seeking to get into the self-driving vehicle market. Mercedes-Benz has already begun advertising a new S550 sedan that can drive itself on freeways. The car can automatically center itself within a lane, keep a safe distance from other nearby vehicles, and brake and steer on its own to keep pace with traffic.

Not to be outdone, Daimler is developing a new Mercedes-Benz Future Truck, which is slated to be introduced into the market by 2025.

While the truck will have a human operator, once it reaches a minimum speed of 50 mph on the highway, the driver can activate an automated “Highway Pilot” that acts as a sort of auto-pilot for the vehicle.

The driver can then pivot the seat to face an office workstation, where they can perform normal business tasks, such as checking emails, doing invoicing, or dealing with other paperwork. The human then becomes more of a “transport manager” than a truck driver.

Automated Loading and Unloading

But it’s not just the truck drivers whose jobs may soon be taken over by robots. There also have been dramatic technological developments in automated unloading of trailers.

Caterpillar has offered driverless, semi-autonomous trucks to the mining industry for years. These vehicles can be operated remotely from a centralized control tower.

Earlier this year, Peterbilt demonstrated a driverless Class 8 heavy truck at the Texas Motor Speedway that uses cameras and sensors to operate with an accuracy of just two inches.

So Why Aren’t They On the Road Now?

The biggest obstacle to using driverless vehicles isn’t the technology. That already exists and has been demonstrated repeatedly to be more efficient and practical than using human operators.

It’s the push back automakers anticipate from their buyers that are slowing the introduction of automated vehicles into the marketplace.

Manufacturers want to  build trust with the public so that they don’t fear this new technology once it’s introduced. That’s why they are slowly rolling out elements of the technology in small pieces — such as cars that can parallel park by themselves or trucks that can take over the driving on the highway.

It won’t be long before driverless trucks replace truck drivers permanently — probably within the next five years and definitely within the next decade. In the meantime, trucking companies will have to find other creative ways to deal with the current driver shortage.

 

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Loading Dock – III

28 Jul 2015

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Loading Dock (Courtesy: Ray Forster, Flickr.com)

Loading Dock
(Courtesy: Ray Forster, Flickr.com)

In previous articles I have discussed the different elements of a loading dock design including safety, apron space, truck bays, and the various styles of docks and dock approaches.

In this article I will discuss dock height and door sizes.

It should be obvious that proper dock height is an essential part of a well-designed loading dock. It ensures a smooth transfer of products to and from delivery trucks.

Things to consider when designing the proper dock height of the loading dock area include:

·      The type of trucks that will be utilizing the dock.
·      The grade capability of the material handling equipment on the dock.
·      The dock leveler and board length that will accommodate the height differences that occur between truck and dock and truck and trailer “float” when items are unloaded or loaded onto a truck.

Most loading docks feature a height between 48-inches and 52-inches. The exact height you select should be based on the height of the various truck styles that pull into the dock. Calculate the average truck bed height and if the difference in dock height for the trucks is too great, consider using wheel risers and other options to ensure that all trucks that use your loading dock are properly accommodated.

Keep in mind that the maximum grade capability of a pallet jack is 3 percent, maximum grade capability of an electric pallet jack is 7 percent; maximum grade for an electric lift truck is 10 percent, and the maximum grade for a gasoline forklift is 15 percent. Go for the least incline/decline approach for the loading and unloading of vehicles to assure a longer life for the material handling equipment and dock leveler.

The proper door width and height is just as important as the proper dock height for the same reasons. The maximum legal width of a truck is 8-feet, 6-inches. So the width of your door should be able to accommodate that length.

There are three specific heights of a loading dock door –- 8-feet, 9-feet, and 10-feet.  The 8-feet height will accommodate several high pallet uses, but does not accommodate for the maximum height of a trailer. The 9-feet height accommodates the maximum height of a trailer. The 10-feet height will accommodate the maximum height of a trailer, but it may be difficult to achieve full access to the back of the truck. To assure access to the back of the truck in the design of the dock, subtract the dock height from the maximum trailer height, and then round to the next foot. For example, subtract the 4-feet dock height from the 13-feet, 6-inch height of the maximum trailer height. That gives you 9-feet, 6-inches. So in this case consider a 10-feet high door so that you get full access to the back of the truck.

There are 12 styles of trucks and each feature their own bed height ranges.

Type of Truck                                                 Truck Bed Height Total Range

Double Axle Semi                                                   45-inches – 55-inches
City Delivery                                                            45-inches – 48-inches
Container                                                                 55-inches – 62-inches
Flatbed                                                                     47-inches – 62-inches
Furniture Van                                                         23-inches – 36-inches
High Cube Van                                                       35-inches – 43-inches
Low Boys                                                                 19-inches – 25-inches
Panel Truck                                                             19-inches – 25-inches
Reefer                                                                       50-inches – 60-inches
Stake Truck                                                             42-inches – 48-inches
Step Van                                                                  19-inches – 30-inches
Straight Semi                                                          48-inches – 52-inches

Next Time: Dock Bumper Issues

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Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find this week on the Bahrns blog:

  • Stretch wrap is something we all take for granted. But when you think about its benefits, it’s actually pretty amazing. We’ll explain why …
  • In this week’s Thursday Feature, we’ll take a look at one possible solution to the current shortage of truck drivers: Getting rid of truck drivers altogether and using driverless trucks …
  • Working in trenches is dangerous without the proper protective equipment is dangerous … and potentially expensive. We’ll tell you about three construction companies that learned that lesson the hard way thanks to OSHA.

All this and much, much more can be found this week on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined three companies a total of more than $169,000 in connection with incidents in which workers were not properly protected from trench collapses.

Two Colorado companies — K.R. Swerdfeger Construction and Pate Construction — were fined a total of $101,200 for failing to provide workers with cave-in protection at job sites. Swerdfeger also was cited for placing workers in a trench deeper than four feet without a safe exit.

In South  Carolina, DS Utilities was fined $68,600 for exposing workers  to trenching hazards while they were installing sewer lines. Workers were reportedly working in a nine and a half foot deep excavation without cave-in protection.

The company, which is based in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, also was cited for failing to provide a safe entrance and exit from the trench, allowing workers to operate an excavator too closely to the opening of the trench, and exposing workers to tripping and fall hazards from an open hole.

Rules for Trenching

OSHA trenching standards require all excavation deeper than 5 feet to be protected against collapse.

Soil is extremely heavy and can be fast moving if not supported. As single cubic foot of soil weighs about 114 pounds and a cubic yard weighs about 1.5 tons, or about the same as a Volkswagen Beetle.

A worker buried under only a few feet of soil can be crushed by so much pressure that the lungs can’t expand and suffocation can occur in as little a three minutes. Soil that is wetter and heavier can crush the body in just a few seconds.

Protective systems reduce the likelihood of soil cave-ins that can fall or roll into an excavation. They also are used to support nearby structures to prevent collapse caused by the excavation.

 

Rules for Trenching

OSHA trenching standards require all excavation deeper than 5 feet to be protected against collapse.

Soil is extremely heavy and can be fast moving if not supported. As single cubic foot of soil weighs about 114 pounds and a cubic yard weighs about 1.5 tons, or about the same as a Volkswagen Beetle.

A worker buried under only a few feet of soil can be crushed by so much pressure that the lungs can’t expand and suffocation can occur in as little a three minutes. Soil that is wetter and heavier can crush the body in just a few seconds.

Protective systems reduce the likelihood of soil cave-ins that can fall or roll into an excavation. They also are used to support nearby structures to prevent collapse caused by the excavation.

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File:HIBIYA OKTOBERFEST 2011 (5742441941).jpg

Photo courtesy of Evan Blaser via Wikimedia Commons (Used with permission)

With the Fourth of July’s fireworks still ringing in our ears and Memorial Day not too far off in the distance, many companies are busy planning their annual summer employee picnics.

One question that frequently comes up regarding corporate-sponsored events such as company cookouts, holiday parties, and other business-related celebrations is whether or not alcohol should be served.

Some companies shun alcohol consumption for moral reasons. Their owners may have strong religious beliefs that prohibit the consumption of alcohol or that they simply don’t approve of drinking.

Others are more liberal with the booze, rolling in the beer trucks and letting the suds flow extravagantly.

Risk vs Reward

So which approach is the best? Like most things in business, it boils down to a risk/reward analysis.

The law regarding serving alcohol is clear: If you pay for somebody’s drink, you can be held liable for what they do afterward.

There are countless legal cases in which companies have been sued because their employees drank at a company-sponsored event then were involved in a car crash in which they or somebody else was injured or killed.

Even if the event is held somewhere off-site — such as a banquet hall or a bar where the outside management is technically responsible for monitoring the guests’ alcohol consumption — employers are not safe. The rule of thumb among personal injury attorneys is that if somebody is hurt or killed in an alcohol-related accident, everybody from top to bottom will be named in the subsequent lawsuit. The courts can sort out who has to pay what.

Benefits of Serving Alcohol

On the other hand, allowing workers to socialize, fraternize and blow off some steam together while enjoying a few beers can help build comradery and reinforce positive feelings toward the company.

So employers need to measure the risk that they could be held responsible should something happen against the potential reward that allowing workers to have a good time on the company’s tab will improve morale.

‘Bring Your Own Bottle’?

One possible solution is to host “BYOB” events in which employees who choose to drink must provide their own alcohol. While there potentially could still be some liability to the company should an accident occur, it may be less than if the company were to pay for and provide the alcohol altogether.

Another option is to host “family-friendly” events in which no alcohol is served.

The money that would otherwise go towards beverages can then be applied to more entertainment, such as live music, bounce houses, or renting out an amusement park. You still get the benefit of building good feelings among your employees without the risk that they are going to do something stupid while drinking.

‘Laissez-Faire’ Approach

In today’s litigious society, many businesses are opting for a more “hands off” approach when it comes to serving alcohol at company-sponsored events. They are opting not to take risks, even when it comes at the cost of possible resentment among workers.

Still, attitudes are changing. Drunk driving has become more of a “hot button” issue. And even line-level workers understand that if their company has to pay out a huge legal settlement, eventually that will mean less available funds for benefits and payroll.

While in the past many workers might expect their employers to tap a few beer barrels at the company picnic, today there’s a growing understanding of the risks involved, both for the employees and the employers.

 

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chemical spill

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society via Wikimedia Commons

A little more than a year ago, Zachery Boland was standing on the podium in his cap and gown at Granite City High School receiving his diploma. Last week, the young man was killed in a tragic forklift accident that didn’t need to happen.

Last month, Boland, 19, got a job as a forklift operator at Saddle Creek Logistics, a company located in a little out-of-the-way industrial park in Pontoon Beach, just outside of St. Louis on the Illinois Side of the river.

Loved to Drive a Forklift

According to family members, Zachery loved using his job as a forklift operator. He would use his forklift to pick up and haul appliances, loading them into and out of semi-tractor trailers on the graveyard shift. Always a hard worker, he held two jobs, working as a day laborer for Five-O Construction as well as taking grave shifts at the warehouse.

But Zachery’s brief life came to a tragic end last Wednesday during a routine shift in the middle of the night — while most people were still sleeping.

About 1:24 a.m. that morning he was finishing up a job, loading appliances into the back of a semi when the driver of the truck somehow got the idea that the load-in was all finished, according to news reports. He put his rig into gear and started to pull out — with Zachery’s forklift straddling the distance between the dock and the truck bed.

The forklift fell and Zachery’s head struck the door plate of the loading dock. Emergency workers were called to the scene and tried to save his life, but he was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:08 a.m.

A Brief Life Remembered

Friends and family gathered to remember Zachery last Saturday at the Irwin Chapel, in his hometown of Granite City.

They remembered a man who just a few years ago had been an enthusiastic athlete, playing on his school’s soccer, baseball and hockey teams. He loved the University of Missouri’s men’s basketball team and was the self-declared “number one fan” of the St. Louis Blues NHL hockey team.

Recognizing how much Zachery loved sports, his family encouraged those who gathered to remember his memory to wear the jerseys of their favorite sports teams. And they asked that any donations in his memory be made to the high school club hockey team he played for just last year.

He is survived by his parents, Michael and Cynthia Boland, of Mitchell, Illinois, and his three brothers — Josh, Brad, and Eric — and his sister, Amanda.

The accident is being investigated by Pontoon Beach Police and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But so far, no charged have been filed.

 

 

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Loading Dock – II

21 Jul 2015

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In the first story on Loading Docks, I discussed the loading dock design of apron space and truck bays.

In this installment I will cover Types of Docks and Dock Approaches.

There are five types of docks –- Cantilever, Enclosed, Flush, Open, and Saw Tooth.

Cantilever Loading Dock Design

This particular style of loading dock features a dock face that protrudes past the outside building wall. This configuration helps to prevent damage to the building wall if dock bumpers fail.

 
Enclosed Loading Dock Design                                                                                                                                                                            

This style of loading dock guards against theft and improves efficiency and comfort. Commonly used by package handlers using box trucks, the design also doubles as space for overhead cranes loading/unloading flat bed trucks. The design is very costly because greater initial investment is necessary to construct it and extensive maintenance is necessary when in use. This particular dock requires ventilation and sufficient air-exchange because of the exhaust emissions of the trucks.

Flush Loading Dock Design

This style is the most common loading dock design. Its features include the sharing of the foundation of the wall. The design requires a dock bumper that projects from the metal and other finishing materials that are used to extend the wall past the foundation. The bumper should be protruding a minimum of 4-1/2-inches from the wall and at least an additional 1-inch if the wall projects 1-inch past the foundation where the bumpers are located.

Opening Loading Dock (Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loading_dock )

Opening Loading Dock
(Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loading_dock )

Opening Loading Dock Design

The United States Postal Service uses this type of loading dock design for its delivery trucks. The design features an overhead canopy covering the dock. These docks cannot be heated or cooled and offers limited protection for materials, packages, and employees. Good floor drainage is essential because the dock is open to the weather. Because of its height, OSHA may require edge markings, run-off protection and handrails.

Saw Tooth Loading Dock Design

This style of loading dock is commonly used due to limited space for the dock apron. The staging area between docks is commonly unusable.

There are two dock approach designs –- Level Dock and Declining and Inclining.

Level Dock Approach

Design experts suggest that the loading dock approach feature a grade of about 1 percent to 2 percent incline. This will help locate the trailer farther away from the wall and channels water runoff away from the facility and products.

Declining and Inclining Approaches

Time must be taken to properly design this type of loading dock. First, the declining dock has a tendency to move the top of a trailer toward the wall of the building. This could lead to damage to the facility and equipment. This is also true for the inclined approach. The ICC bar comes closer to the wall under the bumpers. Second, if the incline or decline is too severe, then you may have safety issues concerning employees, equipment, and products. Design experts point out that steep grades wear on loaders and can result in equipment like motorized pallet jacks becoming unworkable.

In later blogs I will discuss dock height, door size and dock bumper configurations, thickness, and installation.

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Here’s a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find this week on the Bahrns blog:

  • While many companies are planning their annual summer employee picnics, some are reconsidering whether or not alcohol should be served. We’ll tell you why …
  • A teenage forklift operator was working a routine graveyard shift in a suburban St. Louis warehouse when tragedy struck unexpectedly. We’ll tell you what happened and how it could have been avoided …
  • Continuing our ongoing series on loading docks, we’ll look at some different options you have when it comes to types of docks and approaches.

All this and much, much more can be found this week on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

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File:Dollar General.jpg

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia and in the public domain.

Editor’s Note: In today’s Material Handling Feature, one of our regular feature writers takes a look at the challenges of managing low-wage workers. The opinions expressed in this Opinion article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of those of Bahrns or any of its subsidiaries.

Running a business that employs low- or minimum-wage workers can be challenging. They are often unskilled, undereducated and unmotivated to do a good job.

Many retail managers are familiar with the challenges of working with a staff that seems as if it doesn’t want to do a good job, doesn’t care about the business, and isn’t all that afraid of being fired.

In these types of situations, turnover is high, customer complaints are frequent, and day-to-day management of the business can be a real headache.

OSHA Violations at Delaware Store

Unfortunately for the business owner, the results can be disastrous. Consider the case of Dollar General, the discount chain that has more than 12,000 stores in 43 states and employs thousands of workers, most of them low-wage.

Recently the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company $122,100 for violations inspectors discovered one of Dollar General’s stores in Bear, Delaware. Boxes and excess merchandise were found blocking emergency exits, a violation of federal law.

It’s not the first time Dollar General has run into trouble with OSHA. In fact, it might seem as if the chain is one of the federal agency’s favorite — and easiest — targets, given that it has been cited more than 40 times since 2009, frequently for blocked emergency exits and electrical panels, and improperly maintained fire extinguishers.

While it’s now known in this specific instance if low-wage employees were responsible for leaving the boxes in front of the emergency exits — typically in cases like this nobody volunteers to take the blame — the issue isn’t just the safety violations.

Uncaring Workers, Poor Supervision

These type of dumb mistakes can be indicative of a workforce that just doesn’t care, lack of structure and training, and supervisors who are doing a poor job of controlling their operations.

And while these types of violations are potentially dangerous, it’s hard to blame the supervisors and managers of these types of low-wage retail businesses, especially since many of them are often hourly employees themselves. In many instances, it comes down to an issue of motivation.

So how do you motivate workers who have very little financial incentive to do a good job?

More Money, More Problems

Paying them more money isn’t necessarily the answer. The federal minimum wage currently is $7.25/hour, but President Obama has proposed increasing it to $9. In Chicago, the minimum wage has been risen to $10/hour and the city council has passed an ordinance that will increase it to $13/hour by 2019.

That may give low-wage workers more buying power — or not, depending on inflation and the cost of living in an expensive city like Chicago — but it doesn’t do anything to pull them up from the lowest economic class.

What low-wage employees really want — and all workers, for that matter — is to feel appreciated as a valued part of the organization. If you can find ways to do that, you often don’t always need to offer workers a higher wage.

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Often, the type of surly and uncaring low-wage workers you frequently encounter working the cash registers at fast food restaurants, movie theaters, and other retail operations are simply playing their scripted part in the drama written by our society. Managers and business owners expect people holding these entry-level jobs to be stupid, unmotivated and disconnected from the business’s core values, so that’s exactly how they behave.

But by changing employers’ attitudes towards the low-wage workers who their business depends on — in other words, by changing the culture of the business so that all workers are appreciated, recognized and rewarded for a job well done — it’s possible to change the attitudes of the front line employees.

Very few people go to work wanting to do a bad job. But if that’s the expectation of them once they arrive there, usually they will respond in kind. Bad attitudes are contagious, so one or two workers grumbling about the way they are being treated can often have a landslide effect within a business culture.

A Different Approach

Not every business that employs low-wage workers faces this problem. Consider the Mexican-themed fast food chain Chipotle.

If you have every been to a Chipotle restaurant, you probably were greeted by smiling, enthusiastic workers who took your order and prepared your food efficiently, usually while chatting with you in a friendly manner.

So what’s the difference between Chipotle and other business that employ low-wage workers who aren’t friendly, motivated or efficient?

Companies like Chipotle spend a lot of time and energy nurturing a culture in which workers are valued, appreciated and recognized.

Training, Motivation, and Reinforcement

The company’s expectations are clearly defined for workers during training. Customer interactions are scripted and supervisors observe and coach workers to meet the company’s standards. Daily pre-shift meetings are held in which the company’s goals are reinforced and workers who exceed them are celebrated.

Perhaps most importantly, managers are promoted from the inside, so there both a financial and a status incentive to do a good job.

Retail, fast food, and other businesses often can’t afford to pay workers more than the minimum wage. The profit margins are simply too low.

But that doesn’t mean that they have to settle for having an unmotivated and disconnected workforce. Comprehensive training, engaged supervisors who genuinely care about the success of both the business and its workers, and a culture in which all workers are appreciated and celebrated can turn around the attitudes of low-wage workers and motivate them to strive for both individual excellence and the achievement of the business’s goals.

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