Driving Supply Chain Safety and Engagement

Foodstuffs North Island celebrated the Co-op’s Manual Handling Equipment Operators in its inaugural MOOTY (Machine Operator of the Year) competition last week at its Landing Drive Distribution Centre in South Auckland. More than 16 MHE operators from across the North Island Co-op's, DCs, and Transport teams donned their best hi-vis and put their safety and technical skills to the test in a hands-on competition recognising the brightest talent in two categories: Reach Truck and Counterbalances. Reach trucks are vertical forklifts used in warehouses, where Counterbalances are a more traditional forklift.

The competition is intended to build on a positive safety culture, and comes after an unprecedented year in supply chain, with Foodstuffs North Island processing an average of 29,600 pallets a week, and numbers peaking at 42,800 the week prior to New Zealand’s level four lockdown.

“Our Supply Chain team was delivering Christmas-level volumes for seven weeks straight during our first lockdown period in early 2020,” said Chris Quin, CEO of Foodstuffs North Island. “Lumps and bumps in the road were expected, but overall, because of the team’s talent, commitment and skill, we were able to move product seamlessly and safely into stores to deliver for New Zealanders and get them their grocery essentials.

The launch of the MOOTY competition celebrates our Transport and Warehouse DC teams who are responsible for ensuring customers’ favourite foods are on shelf when they come into store. It’s an opportunity for stronger health and safety practices and workplace performance through enhanced operational efficiency and damage reduction.

As one of New Zealand’s largest employers, it’s important we invest, recognise and upskill our people across the business so we can have a higher productivity future – this is exactly what the MOOTY competition achieves,” finished Quin.

MOOTY puts MHE operators through their paces at Foodstuffs North Island Distribution Centres, with the competition involving more than 50 competitors. At the final event, a panel of six judges judged each MHE operator on a list of tasks including equipment safety, accuracy and forklift operations, and demerit points were issued even if the right vehicle checks weren’t performed or if the machinery wasn’t operated to its safety standards. Nerves ran high and there were often only millimetres to spare as competitors negotiated tight turns and undertook activities like placing rugby balls onto cones with skill and precision.

Shane Harrison, who is an Operator at the Grenada Distribution Centre in Wellington, won the Counterbalance category with the highest score of the day at 194 points, and Junior Ioane, Trainer at Foodstuffs Landing Drive Distribution Centre, won the Reach Truck category with 187 points.  According to the judges, Shane and Junior showcased a high level of personal skill and training to do their jobs safely and efficiently, and they both walked away with a brand-new 40” TV, a trophy and bragging rights.

“Coming together to compete in the first MOOTY competition was a rewarding experience for the entire team,” said Shane Harrison. “We received valuable feedback on the operations and tasks we complete every day as we’re always trying to improve. I feel incredibly grateful to have taken out the Counterbalance category and look forward to seeing more people enter next year’s evolution of the competition.”

Wesley Kahu and Pepa Taenai from Landing Drive Distribution Centre placed 2nd and 3rd in the Reach Truck category, and Richard Simpson from CTD (Chilled Temperature Controlled DC) and Tama Herewini from Fresh, placed 2nd and 3rd in the Counterbalances Category.