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Tackling Today’s Labor Challenges in the Warehouse

It has been said that a company’s employees are its greatest asset. And for years, the warehouse and distribution labor gap has been problematic worldwide as companies have had trouble finding – and retaining – qualified personnel.

In just a few short months’ time, unemployment rates have gone from all-time lows to all-time highs. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier for those charged with staffing warehouses to find and keep qualified personnel.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have abruptly changed the labor market, but issues with the labor pool still exist. They’re just changing. As such, Körber just wrapped up its first five-session Master Class Series, Addressing Labor Challenges, which took place May 19 - June 2. 

Following is a brief synopsis of each Master Class session. And if you missed a Master Class or want to replay one that piqued your interest, click here.

Session #1 ‒ New labor challenges in warehousing

Recent unprecedented shocks in supply and demand have made it particularly challenging to find, hire, train and retain workers in a tight labor market. Warehouse employees are willing to work hard, but they want to work safely and effectively. Yet, when warehouses lack these things, personnel have been known to get discouraged and leave to work elsewhere.

That’s why warehouses and distribution centers are increasingly looking at solutions, such as voice-directed technology and automated mobile robots (AMR), to increase employee efficiency, productivity and job satisfaction. They are also experimenting with incentive-based pay – the better employees do on the job, the higher their pay – which can help keep good employees when you find them.

Session #2 ‒ Adjusting your workforce to new regulations after COVID-19

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Such is the case for new workforce management realities where there’s heightened concern over employee safety, while meeting customer expectation to receive orders fast and accurate.

Companies are now taking a number of steps to protect workers, including:

  • Enacting extra sanitation procedures to minimize product handling – for the safety of employees and consumers alike – through voice-directed and vision-directed workflows;
  • Adjusting work hours to enable social distancing – Bluetooth beacons, for instance, can detect and prevent distancing violations, while contact tracing can expose potentially infected products, zones and resources;
  • Employing robotics to augment current processes and increase throughput.

Session #3 ‒ Mitigating retail execution challenges through technology optimization

Before COVID-19, shelves in the food and beverage industry were packed with goods and aisles packed with people. But now, things have changed. Consumers are spending less time in stores, while expecting retailers to provide measures to encourage social distancing. Likewise, when suppliers stock shelves, they want reduced shopper interaction to protect their employees, too. 

To help keep both employees and customers safe, retailers are relying even more on technology, like predictive ordering and scan-based trading. Predictive ordering combines artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver real-time inventory and sales information to retailers, helping them reduce out-of-stocks. Scan-based trading enables retailers to only pay for products once they sell.

Session #4 – Scaling up and down for seasonality or crisis

Peak season isn’t just about Black Friday. Peaks occur throughout the year – during winter holidays, back to school, Mother’s Day, graduation, and more. To better manage seasonality, many businesses turn to proven best practices for scaling, like planning ahead, simplifying and modernizing.

In fact, the following three modernizing technologies help with employee hiring and retention by increasing efficiency, productivity and job satisfaction:

  • Voice-directed picking technology enables a hands-free environment
  • Pick-to-light technology uses lighting to show a worker where to pick
  • Mobile robots tell an employee what to pick and where to find it

Session #5 – Leveraging automation and other technologies to address labor challenges

Think automation takes a substantial investment? That it needs a custom-designed space? Or that it replaces human labor? Think again. 

When it comes to human labor, automation can help time-consuming activities, like order picking, putaway and receiving. And it can also eliminate ergonomic concerns – such as having a machine rather than a worker lift a heavy box. Further, automation can be a good solution to address labor issues – like the inability to retain labor in warehouses and distribution centers.

Replays available

If you missed an Addressing Labor Challenges Master Class or want to replay one that piqued your interest, click here. Collateral downloads related to each session can be found by selecting the “Watch on Demand” button.

Sign up for upcoming Master Classes

The next series on Cold Storage Trends will address AMR and voice in cold storage, traceability and food safety and much more. Check out the lineup:

  • June 9 – Cold storage and e-grocers: Changing environments
  • June 11 – Traceability and food safety in cold storage
  • June 16 – Labor recruitment challenges in cold storage
  • June 18 – Improve energy efficiency in cold storage warehouses
  • June 23 – How does automation drive cold storage efficiencies

Get more details and sign up here.

Related solutions

Voice, Vision & Mobility

Körber’s voice, vision and mobility solutions will help you to reengineer and improve your processes while optimizing business efficiency.

System Integration & Automation

Manufacturing and distribution organizations know that automation can improve efficiencies, maximize space and increase productivity across their supply chains.

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