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The Supply Chain field has been in the spotlight for many months and attracting the attention of many talented professionals. With career options ranging from truck drivers to salespeople, customer service reps to industrial engineers, this industry has room for people of all backgrounds. For professionals looking to get hands-on experience, great pay, and the possibility of significant professional advancements, the role of lift truck operator is a solid place to start. While not often deemed a corporate position, lift truck operators are at the center of all things supply chain, and more and more managers are finding great value in hiring and promoting employees with related experience. 

What Does a Forklift Operator Do? 

According to Zippiaa forklift operator is responsible for lifting and transporting heavy equipment. They are tasked with loading and unloading products from trucks, rail cars and containers to be delivered to a secondary location, like a warehouse. The operator is required to ensure the safety and efficacy of the product, cargo, and machine equipment. Also, they need to identify damages, deficiencies, and shortages. The operator plays an integral role in any supply chain, not only focusing on the receiving, storing and transporting of your goods, but also the safety of your staff and products. Successful organizations have realized the importance of lift truck operator positions and have created paths for professional growth and advancement in the role.  

Forklift Operator: Advancement Opportunities 

There are several opportunities for lift truck operators and material handlers to advance within a relatively short amount of time. Individuals displaying a great work ethic and leadership skills can quickly become good candidates for roles such as:

  • shift lead
  • building lead
  • facility supervisor
  • inventory control coordinator
  • assistant facility manager

For those seeking further advancement, there are many other options for continued growth in the field. Here are a few examples:

Facility Manager 

A critical position within the supply chain, a logistics manager is responsible for the management of purchasing and distribution. This includes overseeing all inventory management, material handling, and technology to create a more efficient logistics operation. Forklift operators are perfect candidates for a logistics manager position due to their experience and in-depth knowledge of the daily activities in a warehouse. Having worked throughout the warehouse, forklift operators know firsthand what it takes to get a job done and any deficiencies within the operation. They are able to step up as leaders to create strategies and procedures to drive growth.  

Transportation Manager 

Managing the transport of goods is arguably one of the most critical roles in the supply chain. Shippers of choice, route optimization, last mile delivery, and handling disruptions are just some of the areas that transportation professionals have to thrive in. These positions focus on agility, requiring teams that work “in the now” and can quickly pivot when circumstances arise. Transportation managers are ultimately responsible for the delivery of the goods for the business and the quality and speed at which deliveries are received. Managing load size and weight, safety precautions for drivers and operators, and the latest on qualifications and certifications are at the forefront of transportation. With the increase in delivery demands this past year, transportation managers are needed now more than ever, and professionals with experience as forklift operators are great candidates for these positions. 

Forklift Fleet Manager 

The pressure to reduce costs and improve productivity is a constant within any industry. Warehouse and material handling managers are tasked with saving money without compromising the quality of the products or customer service. Forklift fleet management consists of the collection, analysis, and use of relevant fleet information to reduce costs and improve operator and truck productivity. Visibility into operations can help answer critical questions, like how much is being spent on fleets and if the costs are being distributed evenly. These managers have valuable insight into technologies that can help improve efficiency. Whether it is making recommendations for new technology or optimizing current programs, forklift fleet managers track and analyze valuable equipment. 

Service Manager 

A service manager is typically responsible for effective order fulfillment, customer service, and supply chain solutions specific to operations. It’s easy to see how this is the perfect stepping stone for a forklift operator. Already efficient in processes and procedures, this leadership role takes that knowledge base and builds on it to manage strategy and sourcing throughout the warehouse, as well as third-party vendors. These positions strive to reduce costs while increasing efficiency through inventory management, distribution strategies, and collaboration with transportation and procurement. 

Takeaway 

Forklift operators are a vital part of supply chain organizations. They are in the warehouse with a pulse on inventory, production, transportation, and even customer service. These positions are crucial to the success of a growing company, so it’s exciting to see professional growth opportunities for these roles. Understanding the key requirements and responsibilities and working to demonstrate these skills are the starting point for movement up the professional ladder. While advancements in the supply chain continue to evolve year over year, so do opportunities for growth for forklift operators. 

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