Automation and warehouse robots are all the rage in warehouse management these days. In a 2022 survey, 60% and 45% of warehouse managers planned to invest more in equipment (new or upgrades) and information technology respectively. A separate survey found 96% of respondents expected the value proposition of warehouse automation to increase over the next 36 months.
Yet, employees remain a central pillar of warehouse operations. If your human resource management is in shambles, it’s going to be harder to make your warehouse a consistently efficient facility. Preempting employee problems is the first step to getting warehouse worker management right.
Here are some practical tips on how to overcome the most common employee management problems in warehouse operations.
1. Poor Scheduling
There’s a lot to gain from having your processes running like clockwork, and that greatly depends on the quality of your scheduling. Poor scheduling leads to missed shipments, delayed orders, unhappy customers and unproductive employees.
You can stay on top of your warehouse scheduling by using suitable logistics staff scheduling software. It can help schedule employees on short notice, in line with shifts in budget and demand. In addition, proper scheduling allows workers to swap shifts with the right colleagues. Keeping track of all employees from a single dashboard irrespective of their location can simplify and improve warehouse operations.
2. High Turnover Rates
A high turnover is disruptive to warehouse operations. Twenty-seven percent of businesses believe high turnover caused them to miss delivery timelines and production deadlines. Think about the learning curve all new staff must go through before they eventually take a firm hold of your processes. It comes with costly delays and mistakes. Additionally, there’s all the in-house and external training you invest in for each worker. This takes time and money.
Reduce worker turnover by offering good working conditions – introduce flexible working hours so employees feel like they can still accomplish their personal, family, educational and recreational goals without necessarily compromising their job security. Accommodate employee needs as much as possible (like having a creche at the workplace).
3. Safety Hazards
Warehouse spills, slips, falls from height, falling objects and moving equipment are an ever-present danger. They jeopardize the safety of your employees and pose a risk to your operations. Fatality is the most severe consequence of warehouse hazards. It is not the only thing you should be worried about, though.
When employees are injured or fall ill, they have to take time off work, something that doesn’t reflect well on your operations. The transport and warehousing industries have the highest illness and injury rate in the U.S., involving days away from work. Add to that the impact of workers’ compensation claims.
Make safety a priority in your work environment. Provide enough space for employee movement and equipment maneuverability. Use pallets for storage and easy product retrieval. Invest in forklifts to minimize the need for staff to reach for or place items at height.
4. Lack of Communication
At any given point, do your employees know what they should be doing, where they should be and who they should be working with? A lack of communication is a recipe for warehouse dysfunction. Mispicks, incorrect routing and scheduling conflicts represent just a snippet of what could go wrong. Eighty-six percent of executives and employees cite a lack of communication and collaboration as the primary cause of workplace failure.
Streamline communication and automate information dissemination wherever possible. Have employees automatically receive alerts about events relevant to them. Ensure everyone is kept up to date with the latest warehouse-wide announcements and procedures. Pin critical updates to a central noticeboard online and onsite. Use read receipts to be certain key staff have seen important notices.
5. High Labor Costs
Labor constitutes as much as 50-70% of a warehouse’s operating budget. It doesn’t help that every organization would want to hire the best-qualified people, and these tend to be the most expensive. When labor costs are higher than they need to be, they make it harder to run the warehouse profitably.
Explore opportunities to reduce warehouse staff. You could cut your worker headcount, give a raise to those that remain (as motivation) and still enjoy significant savings on your overall labor costs. Continuously upskill your existing staff to curb the need for expensive outside experts. Simultaneously, identify processes that could benefit from partial or full automation.
Most warehouses do not enjoy the luxury of infinite financial resources. There is only so much you can do to keep employees happy and loyal to your team. It’s all about striking the right balance between employee management and warehouse profitability. The good news is it can be done.
Evaluate your warehouse regarding the five key problems in employee management and identify the specific areas you can do better in. Schedule regular review of employee-related processes (at least annually) to ensure your warehouse is always running at its best.