Terminal operations manager for TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, Bennett’s “simple yet innovative” changes added up.
TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico (TMPR) Terminal Operations Manager Joseph Bennett is the 2019 Saltchuk honoree for Innovation in Safety. His years of experience working in warehousing and stevedoring served as a knowledge base for the “simple yet innovative” changes he spearheaded at TMPR, despite his short tenure with the company.
Bennett grew up in Yulee, Florida near Jacksonville. He joined the Marine Corps when he was 18 and has worked in logistics for the past 15 years.
“I’ve only been with TMPR for approximately a year and a half, but I worked for (the company’s) stevedore provider for 14 years prior, so I’ve had direct interaction with the operation for quite some time,” Bennett said. “During those years, I built relationships with so many people at TMPR, long before I began working for the company.”
Redesigning a yard, lashing material, and refueling procedure
According to his nominator, TMPR Director of Operations Nic Zoretic, Bennett “brought a plethora of safety knowledge and experience to bear… finding simple yet innovative solutions for a variety of needs.”
Bennett led an initiative to flip the layout of the Jacksonville terminal’s auto/lashing yard 90 degrees to better segregate semi-trucks and container stackers from on-ground personnel working on lashing flatracks and auto frame containers. The redesign saw concrete barricades placed to block vehicles from coming into the pedestrian area of the yard. Trucks are now routed around the pedestrian area instead of running through it.
“This is a great example of how to design out safety hazards from being present in the first place,” Zoretic wrote.
In addition to the redesigned yard, Bennett also sourced a new lashing material, Thorstrap, in response to customer pushback on TMPR’s flatrack lashing requirements. The one-time-use Thorstrap is cut to length and tensioned similarly to traditional ratchet strap – but at half the cost, greater securing load strength, and because it’s cut from a reel, it reduces lashing material wastage.
“This new lashing material was well received by customers, which has led to more freight and revenue,” Zoretic continued. “More importantly, it has vastly improved safety. Chain and binders are used less, saving pinch points and binder snap-back hazards. This safety innovation has been shared across sister companies and has been used as a marketing highlight to gain more flatrack cargo. Reducing costs, pleasing customers, and increasing safety – what a great trifecta with this innovation.”
Finally, after a near-miss where a fueling attendant was nearly struck by a semi-truck, Zoretic said Bennett lead the initiative to revamp the procedure of how TMPR fuels refrigerated container generator sets. New confirmatory procedures and barriers were put in place to ensure that no semi-truck could move until all services were complete and personnel verified clear of the vehicle.
“‘Safety first’ isn’t something we just say at meetings; it’s something that’s at the heart of who we are,” said Bennett. “Safety to me is making sure everyone goes home in the same condition that they came in. It’s also ever-evolving – we should never stop looking for safety improvements. Continuous improvement in safety is the most important aspect of our jobs.”
The freedom to collaborate
Looking back over his innovative career, Bennett said he only wishes he would have learned to manage some of his interactions better at an earlier age.
“I think over time the old saying, “you catch more flies with honey” started to make sense,” he laughed.
Though he’s most proud of his family, his time in the Corps is a close second.
“I loved the Marine Corps,” said Bennett. “If I could do one thing over, I would have retired from the Corps, though my plans for the future are to remain within the Saltchuk family and continue to grow professionally and personally. I hope to retire from this company many years from now.”
Bennett’s wife, daughter, and son take up most of his free time.
“I like to play pool with my daughter and chess with my son. My wife is a robotics and engineering teacher, so I’ve inherited that hobby through my kids’ love for it. Mostly I watch them build and code the robots – I really have no idea how they do it.”
He said his favorite stories about TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico all come down to the company’s history of perseverance and dedication.
“I’ve been here in times of sorrow and in times of joy and watching the way people come together here to overcome adversity is a remarkable thing to see,” said Bennett. “It is, I think, rare in the business we are in. Being able to work here during the Hurricane Maria relief efforts and seeing everyone on all teams give their very best to ensure that Puerto Rico received the much-needed cargo that was on our vessels and barges was admirable, to say the least. The way the company gives back to the community is also inspiring and it instills a sense of pride in all of us.
“Although I appreciate receiving this award, it’s a team effort on all projects and initiatives,” Bennett concluded. “Nothing here done by anyone is done by that person alone. I think the entire TMPR team deserves an award for the work and dedication they show daily to the company, customers, and each other. We all work together every day to provide the best quality and service for our customers. I’m also very appreciative of the company for providing an environment that promotes change and ingenuity. This environment allows freedom for all employees to express and collaborate together to change and improve processes and services.”
Read about the 2018 Saltchuk Safety Innovation Award Winner: Edilio Brito received the President’s Award for Innovation in Safety for his commitment to improving forklift visibility.