Optimizing Labor Management

Optimizing Labor Management to Improve Warehouse Operations

Take a moment to think about your top issues in warehousing. Available slots, cycle times, labor costs, supplier relationship management, transportation management, and dock management are only a few of the everyday challenges supply chain leaders face in managing warehouses. Unfortunately, the topic of labor management often falls by the wayside in favor of newer, bigger ideas—such as cloud-based WMS, robotics, and more. The reality is grim. Warehouses are experiencing a troubling labor shortage. Regardless of how many warehouses exist and the demand for your product, your workforce is essential to success. Yet, as explained by Material Handling and Logistics, labor shortages are contributing to stunted job growth in manufacturing and throughout supply chains. The problem is complex, but those that begin the processes of optimizing labor management, and therefore, its utilization, can navigate the uncertainty by incorporating the following steps:

1. Integrate Systems.

The first problem may be on the minds of your organization’s leaders. Disjointed systems lead to poor planning. Data is not shared accurately, and information could easily be outdated and useless. By the time changes are implemented, new data is available. However, until this data is applied, changes will only lead to continued inefficiencies. Supply chain leaders need to begin optimizing labor management by bringing all systems under one roof, or the single pane of glass in warehousing, to eliminate the visibility issues that lead to inefficiencies. 

2. Gain Employee Support for New Changes and Systems.

The next part of the solution to the labor shortage is due to your current employee satisfaction rates. High turnover, errors in picking, mishandling of inventory, and other adverse actions may indicate a growing sense of dissatisfaction among workers. If employees dislike the system, it will become evident with unexplained problems. Instead of just making random changes, work with employees to determine what is and is not working. If a new system is necessary, collaborate with team members to roll out the implementation with more support.

3. Select a User-Friendly System.

The user-friendliness of a system can make or break employee satisfaction. Today’s platforms have vast capabilities. Unfortunately, the added level of detail is often accompanied by an added level of stress in handling simple functions. When choosing a new system, select one that is intuitive and guides users along through processes.

4. Take Advantage of Robotics.

It’s time to discuss the elephant in the room of optimizing labor management—robotics. Robots may be the solution of the future, but they are not the solution for right this second. Robot implementations take time and extensive capital to increase your team’s current capacity. In addition, robots with a higher level of function and capability will only come with higher costs. Clearly, other alternatives must be used, including automated technologies that will support your workforce, like smart conveyors and pick-to-light or put-to-light systems.

5. Incentivize Your Workforce.

Any discussion on labor management must include millennials. Unlike the workers of the past, millennials embrace experiential workplaces, not just a position. In the supply chain industry, that is still often linked to stereotypes of the past, the importance of appealing to millennials increases. Offer more than just a paycheck. Offer a way to put millennials’ technology-driven experiences to work, allow them to contribute more than their physical skills, and obtain their feedback and apply it when possible.

6. Work With Third-Party Vendors to Optimize Labor Management.

Sometimes, the best way to continue optimizing labor management lies in working with an expert. Third-party consultants, such as Veridian, can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in your organization. Even in-house operations engineers may overlook labor needs accidentally, and another set of eyes can work wonders.

7. Gain Visibility and Control Over Inbound Freight.

Another factor in successful warehouse management goes back to managing inbound freight. According to Logistics Management, gaining real-time visibility and flexible planning are critical factors among 36 percent of executives seeking to boost labor management. [AL1] The introductions of sensors and AIDC technologies in inbound freight management allows supply chain leaders to better plan for inbound freight. This includes scheduling trailer unloading, ensuring enough workers are present, using technology, including robotics to streamline unloading, and more. Effective inbound freight management is the first step to managing all outbound freight successfully, and it necessitates integration with the all systems in use.

Put These Tips Into Action in Your Organization

Supply chain leaders mull over issues in labor availability, lacking capacity, slotting optimization, and more. The key to overcoming these obstacles is recognizing when they occur. Only by understanding the problems can supply chain leaders take the steps necessary, including those outlined above, to enhance productivity. Ultimately, keeping your workforce happy and implementing flexible management styles are essential to improve warehouse operations and optimizing labor management. If you need additional help in developing your labor management strategy, schedule your consultation with Veridian online to get started today.