Productivity is “one of the hottest topics” in the warehouse industry today, says Danner. And labor planning is becoming “a huge component” of that issue. Facilities need to be able to track a worker’s output, and determine whether that individual is functioning at maximum productivity. In the process, warehouses can answer the larger question of how many people are needed to do the work.
Surprisingly, many companies don’t plan for their actual needs after coming up with initial staffing requirements. Medium- to large-sized facilities, dealing with highly complex operations, need to adopt labor-management software that will help them to place the appropriate people in the right jobs at the right time. They must also take into account seasonality.
“It takes a pretty sophisticated approach to really doing it well,” says Danner. “You need to know how much of your workforce you should be using on any day.”
A modern-day software application can also help to bring new workers up to speed more quickly. Contingent labor groups should be placed in roles that are easily learned, says Danner.
Warehouse-management system (WMS) software has been around for a long time. Still, companies have been reluctant to incorporate engineered labor standards into their distribution-center operations. Only 18 to 21 percent of the market has adopted true engineered-labor programs. “We’re not hearing of mass adoptions,” says Danner, although the technology is picking up traction. “People are starting to understand that it’s a critical component of being an effective operator.”
Barriers to adoption, he says, include a lack of knowledge and fear of new systems.
When implementing engineered labor management software, it’s important to avoid negative connotations. Workers will reject a “Big Brother” approach to monitoring their activities. “It all comes down to the culture of the business,” says Danner. “If it’s approached the right way as a coaching tool, applying incentives and better communications, then you take that fear away.”
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