Lately in the news: ‘America’s labor shortage is approaching epidemic proportions, and it could be employers who end up paying’. Along with that we also have a sector in retail that is seriously booming: E-commerce sales are breaking a new record every quarter. Combining both, we get an extreme labor shortage specially on the warehouse floor. When it comes to hiring in this industry, the going has been rough lately. One of the most significant challenges today is to find qualified workforce. Many companies have had to raise their benefits and compensation to be competitive in attracting potential employees. This rise in labor cost may lead to higher prices for customers or chew into corporate profits.
One of the best if not the best way to negate this problem is employee retention and using them in the most efficient way. Proper distribution of work among employees leads to increased satisfaction and productivity in the workplace. Productivity in the workplace is probably the most important aspect in managing employees. A very important aspect in maximizing productivity is proper division of work among all of the members of your team.
Warehousing task assignments are dynamic and in order to maximize the productivity, real-time work balancing is required. Furthermore, it ensures lower absenteeism, happier and less stressed workforce.
What are the indicators that your warehouse may be lacking efficient work distribution?
Warehouse KPIs and labor forecasts give an indication of what to expect. In most of the cases these expectations aren’t delivered. For example, longer than expected wave times are noted for a given number of employees on the floor.
It is common to have workers overloaded in one part of the warehouse while another part of the warehouse has no or significantly less work. This might lead to unrest among employees as well as a challenge for supervisor to constantly manage reassigning warehouse associates.
What are the causes for ineffective work distribution?
Improper zones breakdown and staff assignment is one of the reasons for inefficient productivity. Businesses that grow but don’t update their zone layout take a hit on their productivity due to inefficient work distribution.
Ineffective task interleaving also leads to reduced efficiency instead of reducing deadheading. Warehouse layouts should be of prime importance while considering interleaving tasks.
Incorrect or outdated work prioritization reduces the efficiency manifolds. Sometimes workers may need to switch between different tasks multiple times if the system is unable to automatically assign work (incorrect configuration or lack of functionality). Supervisors lacking the visibility to the type of work and its distribution around the warehouse doesn’t help the cause.
What are the resolution steps?
Getting visibility in check and investigating work type and its distribution along the floor is very important before assigning tasks to warehouse associates. Training workers and having them prepared for different tasks makes supervisor’s jobs much easier. This helps in increasing the efficiency by reducing the deadheading in the warehouse.
Updating the warehouse layout and task grouping over a period of time and growth is very important in generating efficient work plans. It helps in reducing the number of zones which ultimately avoids fragmentation.
Another aspect and maybe the most important is, creating reports and alerts based on critical work load and delays. Maintaining KPIs that indicate imbalance helps in monitoring the inefficiencies better.
The long-term goal should be to move towards fully automated systems that manage work prioritization and workforce balancing. If your current system has serious limitations, consider a capable WMS (Warehouse Management System) or a WES (Warehouse execution System).
Managing real-time work balancing is very crucial given today’s labor demand vs. supply and can be a tricky proposition due to intricacies involved. Have you found the way to engage your workforce to best of their ability? Get in touch with us and we would love to share our knowledge about real-time work balancing.
Contributors: Amol Pai & Mustafa Zeinulabdeen