The most overlooked DC performance strategy

The most overlooked DC performance strategy

At one point in my career, I worked in a large distribution center in Southern California. This experience helped me understand the importance of a healthy workplace culture.

At the time, my employer’s intent was to pay a higher-than-market rate for our warehouse roles. To achieve this, the company compared our pay to national retail jobs versus jobs in local warehouses. Consequently, the math was not in our favor. For our very physically demanding warehouse roles, we were paid an unsustainable salary while living in an area of ​​the United States with one of the highest costs of living. To make ends meet, many colleagues also took on second jobs. As might be expected, physical and mental fatigue took its toll and work took a toll. After all, it’s a defeat to constantly load trailers in 110 degrees of desert heat for a minimum wage.

But wages are just a lever to attract and keep good employees. Businesses also need to offer a healthy workplace that Listen to their workforce and offers modern tools that make workers happy as well as being productive. In fact, a LinkedIn study found that 70% of employees wouldn’t work at a leading company if that meant having to tolerate a bad workplace culture.

The role of technology in helping employees thrive

Technology can play an important role. Today’s young workers are tech-savvy, so companies that offer technology to help new employees in their jobs can improve their ability to attract the best candidates. For example, in relation to warehouse technology, a recent Lucas Systems industry study found that 89% of respondents agree that the implementation of AI-based software within distribution centers can provide a competitive advantage. Technology represents an opportunity for a company to differentiate itself and improve its working environment. Additionally, technology can also play a significant role in relieving the physical strain so often associated with warehouse work.

In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the process of using technology and automation to improve the culture and environment in the workplace. Instead of viewing technology as a pure productivity solution, companies can benefit from exploring ways to use technology for employee retention. This requires creativity – and empathy.

Let’s explore how:

Use automation to ease workers’ tasks

Examine the warehouse and ask which activities are significantly boring, boring, confusing, painful, or repetitive. Do you have a complex workflow that needs to be followed by a T otherwise it breaks? Does it require manual data entry? Does it involve the same repetitive motion? All of these traits present great automation opportunities. Not only do you get the benefits of the process, but you also gain employee trust by improving their daily activities.

Consider employee happiness in your ROI calculations

To truly determine the ROI on automation solutions, you may want to consider returns outside of traditional calculations. For example, the introduction of new technologies is an opportunity to show employees how the company has chosen to automate low-level or repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus on higher-value responsibilities. Examine how certain tasks can be moved and rearranged for ideal use. Many of the best automation solutions don’t eliminate staffing. Solutions such as robotics, conveyor belts, artificial intelligence software and others work alongside people, improving productivity while positively impacting employee satisfaction. For example, one of our Lucas customers, Apex Tool Group, found a 63% reduction in picking errors, but also said employees “liked the system” and said that “a new system is rarely implemented. and users tell you, “It made my life a lot easier.” Improving the process for employees makes them more productive. And that’s better for business. “

Another customer experience from Lucas also illustrates this point. Working closely with the customer, we integrated with Packsize, a custom box mounting solution, to create boxes on demand. This solution significantly reduced shipping costs by eliminating cardboard and dunnage waste. It has also increased the space utilization of the pickup and transport trolleys.

These are obvious advantages. But what may not be so obvious are the benefits of improving employee relationships. This box forming solution performs the construction and taping of shipping cartons, instead of assigning repetitive and tedious tasks to employees. And this can be significant in the sense that employees can now focus their attention and energy on more engaging and productive activities. The lesson here is this: When determining ROI, consider All these advantages. If you stop at traditional math, you will miss out on important areas of overall value.

Involve warehouse workers in problem solving

After identifying some areas of need, the next step should be to engage the technology users in the requirements discovery and gathering process as soon as possible and as often as reasonably possible. The research supports this tactic, as the survey organization Gallup identifies employees who believe their opinion is important in the workplace as one of the essential factors for employee engagement.

  1. Get employee consent to show them you value their cooperation – this goes a long way. Nobody likes to be suddenly forced to use a new process / product / technology without being involved in the design and implementation phases. This is true whether you are a minimum wage worker or a CEO.
  1. Tap into the knowledge base of your employee base: Since distribution center employees tend to move more than others, they may have experience with a good solution or have already used something similar to what is considered. Leverage this experience and learn from employees. Examine your users to avoid invisible pitfalls and make sure you actually buy a solution that offers a good user experience.
  1. Identify gaps in standard operating procedures (SOPs) and allow employees to identify them. Warehouses have SOPs and processes to follow. Vendors walk in, meet with management and consultants, then design technology solutions around those processes as they are written. The problem is that some of these processes have significant gaps, workarounds or are not followed at all. So, before aligning new solutions to existing SOPs, engage workers in the SOP design process to help uncover potential pitfalls. The last thing you want is to get stuck in a cycle of change orders or, worse yet, temporarily stop operations due to an SOP hitch that may have been detected with the input from the warehouse worker.

In addition to product design, training is another opportunity to engage your frontline workers.

Create solutions suitable for beginners and veterans

To create a good solving experience, think about those who are learning your system for the first time and those who have been using it for a while.

Warehouse collectors could perform the same task hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times a day. They have many opportunities to learn very quickly, and they do. Understanding new systems could happen faster than one would expect. Even knowing this, company leaders are still concerned about a new user’s understanding of a complex workflow. To counter this, they “downplay” the solution by adding additional verification steps, detailed explanations on the screens, or systematically keep employees through the solution. While this may help with initial adoption, what ultimately happens is too slow and cumbersome workflow once employees have been trained. When the system doesn’t fit the learning curve, employees find workarounds and other ways to “cheat” the system as a means of moving faster.

Allow your solution to grow with its users and you will have happy users. You can offer Easy / Standard / Advanced workflow modes, adjustable verification steps, hotkeys and new / veteran user group settings.

All these tips return to a central theme: Empathy for your workers and a commitment to improve their work. A recent Forbes article identifies empathy as the most important leadership skill. To engage in compassion for your workforce, put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. How could they best use the tools they have been given? What’s missing from their workflow? What tasks repeat themselves but could be minimized with the use of technology?

Ask your employees questions early and often. Listen carefully to their input. Empathy is a fantastic design principle. Use it to find “better fit” solutions, a more engaged team, better productivity and employees who return happy, day after day.

Kyle Franklin is a Solution Consultant with Luca Sistemi, leading numerous projects and solution deployments in the United States, EMEA, and Asia Pacific regions, and helping to transform and streamline distribution center operations around the world. Prior to Lucas, Kyle held roles in international logistics and warehousing for global logistics service providers. Kyle holds an MBA with a major in Operations and Strategy from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business and a BA in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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