Ken CookKen Cook has built a career around helping equipment manufacturers spread a message regarding the need to operate machinery properly and – more importantly – safely.

Doing so requires both awareness and discipline, and the equipment industry is trying to do its part to produce and distribute materials to promote operator product safety and compliance. And in his role as president and CEO of Ken Cook Co., a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based provider of technical manuals and training programs for major manufacturers, Cook is committed to helping ensure equipment manufacturers get both best-in-class aftermarket product support and leading-edge training solutions.

“We have produced a lot of operator safety programs for a number of equipment manufacturers, and also handled the messaging for safety in the manuals training for those companies,” said Cook, who also supports the equipment industry as chair of AEM’s Product Safety & Compliance Seminar Planning Committee and has been involved in planning the annual event for more than 20 years.

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done,” he added.

Back Where It All Began

After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University and a Master’s in business economics from Claremont Graduate University, Cook began his career at the General Dynamics Missile Division in Pomona California. There he spent his days preparing procurement specifications for component systems and test procedures, as well as crafting reports on climate issues.

Cook eventually moved on and joined Ken Cook Co. – the company founded in 1944 by his father – as a project manager. In taking over the role of vice president of sales and marketing some years later, Cook was involved in the creation and dissemination of marketing materials.

After leaving Ken Cook Co. for a while to work for a Dutch technical communication company as its vice president of U.S. operations, Cook eventually returned to his family’s business in 1975. He took on the role of executive vice president, ascended to the position of president in 2001, and eventually secured full ownership of the company in 2005.

All in all, Cook possesses more than 50 years of experience in the technical communications field as a writer, editor, executive and consultant.

Impacting Product Safety and Compliance

The equipment manufacturing industry has evolved considerably in recent years. Advancements in technology have led to an increased emphasis on product safety and compliance. According to Cook, many of the efforts to positively impact the proper use of equipment have been inspired by hazards that have been identified, accidents that have occurred, and harmonization efforts put forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

“They have their own committees that work together to harmonize various messages and symbols,” said Cook. “It’s been an evolutionary process, and it helps standardization. If you’re in one country and go to another, the same symbol, message and caricature is identified easily.”

Ken Cook Co. has worked with a number of international equipment manufacturers unfamiliar with standards in the United States, helping to improve their operator manuals in order to inform equipment operators of the dangers associated with certain procedures.

“We’re now warning operators to avoid certain procedures and be aware of the risk factors,” explained Cook. “International equipment manufacturers appreciate the work we do to help them, and they embrace a message of product safety and compliance.”

Inspiring Change

Both Ken Cook. Co and its founder are wholeheartedly committed to coordinating with the equipment manufacturing industry to provide manuals and training to keep operators out of harm’s way. The company currently produces technical manuals and training programs for a number of prominent manufacturers, including Volvo, Deere, Doosan and Terex.

But despite all the equipment industry has accomplished over the years, according to Cook, there is reason to look ahead to the future with optimism. In the coming years, he expects an accelerated transition from printed operator manuals to onboard manuals, improved operator safety training, as well as increased adoption of disruptive technological advancements such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

“And it’s all for the best,” he added.

More than anything, though, Cook said he hopes to see safety become a prominent educational theme in high schools, universities and technical schools across the U.S. and beyond.

“Young people are learning it by osmosis once they are in organizations,” he said. “I’d like to see it be more of a focus on the education side.”

Involvement With AEM

Cook and his company have supported AEM’s efforts to advocate for the safe operation of equipment for decades. In the 1990s, Ken Cook Co. was tasked with developing safety programs for Doosan Bobcat, and eventually decided to join an industry group called the Equipment Manufacturers Institute (EMI) – an earlier iteration of what became AEM.

Eventually, the company became involved with EMI’s Council on Rough Terrain Forklift Equipment Operator Safety, as more than a dozen equipment manufacturers were in need of a generic operator safety program at the time.

“All of this was being driven by an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate for operator safety,” said Cook. “So we met with the council, and eventually won the bid to develop the program with EMI, as well as create custom operator safety training for each of the members working on the program.”

Ken Cook Co. ultimately became more and more engaged with the members of EMI over time, which eventually led to Cook being asked to join its operator safety and compliance seminar.

“And I’ve been a member ever since,” said Cook.

In terms of his company’s involvement with what was EMI and – eventually after the group’s merger with the Construction Industry Manufacturers Association (CIMA), AEM – Cook is most proud of the fact that much of the messaging for safety in manuals eventually is now incorporated into the association’s present library of industry safety manuals.

“That is our leading position in terms of operator safety, whether it’s to review manuals from international companies that are trying to get into the U.S. market, helping them with their manuals, to make sure their messages are there, as well as provide training,” said Cook.

“Again, we’re very proud of the work we’ve done with those companies and continue to do with AEM,” he added.

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