Guest Author: David Madden, Founder and President of Container Exchanger
Productivity in the warehousing and storage industry dropped by 7.6 percent in 2018. In today’s warehousing industry, workers often need to deliver packages right to the consumer’s front door, which has increased the amount of labor per order. With more consumers ordering goods and products online, the warehousing industry is working around the clock to keep up with demand. This growing industry has been attracting workers for years, but, as competition heats up, managers are trying to get the most out of their teams by increasing productivity.
The faster you and your team can get orders out the door and deliver products to consumers, the higher your chances of success. However, there’s no magic switch that will make your team more productive. Increasing productivity in your warehouse means incentivizing your workers, building teamwork, improving leadership and using the latest technology. Use these tips to keep your team moving and avoid roadblocks with warehouse productivity.
Designate Tasks Based on Individual Strengths
Everyone has their personal strengths and weaknesses. Learn which tasks at which your employees excel and consider changing your workflow based on their skills and competence. If one person is better at retrieving products and matching SKUs on the shelf, give them the freedom to focus on this task. If someone is better at maneuvering through your warehouse with a forklift, designate them as your go-to forklift driver.
Individual workers can focus on one or two tasks at a time, instead of feeling as if they have to do everything at once. You might have to rearrange certain aspects of the order fulfillment process, but, if it works for your team, be flexible and try mixing things up.
Provide Professional Development
Your employees won’t feel as invested in their work if they don’t see themselves as a fundamental part of your business. You may think of your workers as replaceable, but this only leads to high turnover and costly recruiting strategies. To get the most out of your workers, provide leadership opportunities and find ways to advance their skills as they continue working for your business. Reward your workers for their loyalty and they will do the same in return.
Instead of having one person call all the shots, give certain members of your team the chance to supervise operations when you’re not around. Show them the ins and outs of how the business works so they can focus on the main objective when completing their work.
Focus on the Big Picture
It’s easy to get bogged down by individual tasks in the middle of a shift, but do your workers really understand why they’re completing these tasks and how their work affects the entire business? Communication is key when it comes to motivating your workforce. Instead of telling someone to grab a product off the shelf as quickly as possible, reframe the conversation by focusing on the big picture.
In the warehouse industry, it’s not just about retrieving products as fast as possible. It’s about meeting the needs of your customers. Help your workers understand how they contribute to the company and your customers by doing their jobs as efficiently as possible. From customer service to the quality of your products and services, everyone on your team should be united by these core values so it’s less about the task and more about moving your business forward.
Improve the Layout of Your Warehouse
You can improve your warehouse operations by changing the layout of your facility. If you want to increase productivity, your facility should be organized in a way that makes sense to your workers. They should be able to find what they need as quickly as possible. You can rearrange products on the shelf, invest in new storage equipment and make sure everyone does their part to keep the facility clean and organized.
If products regularly go missing, items are mislabeled or no one can seem to find what they need, teach your employees the importance of putting items back where they belong and how these mishaps can delay operations. Instead of punishing workers for their mistakes, encourage everyone to correct mistakes as they go.
Invest in Green Shipping
Green shipping, or the idea of limiting your warehouse’s effect on the environment, can also help you increase productivity. You can improve upon your existing system by changing the way you and your team deliver products to consumers. Use predictive analytics and GPS tracking technology to minimize empty return trips. Partner with local warehouses and companies to keep your goods closer to the end consumer. Invest in reusable shipping containers so you don’t have to worry about running out of containers or assembling new ones. Submeter your equipment to prevent unexpected downtime and costly repairs.
When you invest in green shipping, you can lower your overhead expenses, improve efficiency and give back to the local environment. Going green can also motivate your workers, giving them more incentive to rally behind your business and its commitment to the environment.
Upgrade Your Warehouse Technology
Technology is here to make your life easier. There are dozens of tools and software programs that will help you streamline your operations in more ways than one. Automated warehouse equipment, such as automatic pickers and stockers, order fulfillment equipment and inventory tracking technology, can help you overcome the ergonomics of working in a warehouse.
Humans are prone to errors and fatigue but incorporating more technology can reduce the physical toll on your employees and help them avoid making certain mistakes, such as putting items back in the wrong location. It may be impossible to make your employees work faster at the end of a long shift, but these machines will do the job without dragging their feet.
Be Proactive About Productivity
There are lots of ways to boost productivity, but not every solution will work for every business. Analyze your operations and find ways to build upon your existing business model. Talk to your employees and take their suggestions to heart as you consider making changes. Keep these ideas in mind as you look for ways to avoid roadblocks with warehouse productivity.
About the Author
David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, IBC totes, and industrial racks. He holds an MBA as well as a certificate from Daimler Chrysler Quality Institute for completion of six-sigma black belt training.