Executive Briefings

Managing an Aging Warehouse Workforce

As warehouse workers get older and heavier it becomes harder for them to meet the physical demands of their job. Dr. Volker Schmitz, president of Schmalz Inc., a material-handling equipment manufacturer, explains how low-cost lift-assist equipment can alleviate this problem, while improving productivity.

In the next couple of years, the number of U.S. workers age 55 or older will reach 25 percent of the entire workforce - 40 percent in Europe - and many of them will be overweight or obese, says Schmitz. "Both of these trend lines are going in a bad direction and companies will have to address them at some point," he says.

That time may be now for the warehousing and logistics sectors, because many jobs are very physically demanding. “The turnover in the warehouse area already averages 50 percent a year,” says Schmitz. “The most physical jobs usually are done only by young, fit males and even they don’t necessarily like the work. They prefer alternatives where they don’t come home at night very tired and with an aching back.”

Fortunately, there is a way to make these jobs easier and more attractive, says Schmitz. “We make lift-assist devices, which are a lower-cost solution that allows a worker to pick up a 40-lb. box or bag and move it as if it were weightless,” he says. “They can de-palletize or re-palletize that carton and manipulate it in all sorts of ways without any strain.”

This technology, he adds, is the key to enabling older workers to stay on the job and be more satisfied. It also can make the warehouse more efficient by opening these jobs to women and other warehouse workers. “When you have many more people who can qualify for that job, you can call on them during peak times or improve worker rotations, he says. “And there are some employers who want to keep long-time workers until retirement, but are having to let them go because they can’t do the work,” he says. “The answer is to make the jobs less physical.”

To view the video in its entirety, click here

In the next couple of years, the number of U.S. workers age 55 or older will reach 25 percent of the entire workforce - 40 percent in Europe - and many of them will be overweight or obese, says Schmitz. "Both of these trend lines are going in a bad direction and companies will have to address them at some point," he says.

That time may be now for the warehousing and logistics sectors, because many jobs are very physically demanding. “The turnover in the warehouse area already averages 50 percent a year,” says Schmitz. “The most physical jobs usually are done only by young, fit males and even they don’t necessarily like the work. They prefer alternatives where they don’t come home at night very tired and with an aching back.”

Fortunately, there is a way to make these jobs easier and more attractive, says Schmitz. “We make lift-assist devices, which are a lower-cost solution that allows a worker to pick up a 40-lb. box or bag and move it as if it were weightless,” he says. “They can de-palletize or re-palletize that carton and manipulate it in all sorts of ways without any strain.”

This technology, he adds, is the key to enabling older workers to stay on the job and be more satisfied. It also can make the warehouse more efficient by opening these jobs to women and other warehouse workers. “When you have many more people who can qualify for that job, you can call on them during peak times or improve worker rotations, he says. “And there are some employers who want to keep long-time workers until retirement, but are having to let them go because they can’t do the work,” he says. “The answer is to make the jobs less physical.”

To view the video in its entirety, click here