A warehouse or distribution center has a lot of moving parts, with each one requiring workers who are skilled in performing a job to keep the business operating at peak efficiency. From inventory control to picking and packing, the labor requirements in a warehouse are varied.
When there’s a shortage of qualified personnel, the impact can be significant. Unfortunately, this is an industry that continues to suffer from various labor challenges. Here are some of the trends behind those shortages and how mobile workstations can help.
What’s Behind the Warehouse Labor Shortage?
Exploding eCommerce sales are behind a surge in warehouse industry growth. According to CBRE Research, warehouse sizes have also exploded to accommodate more efficient logistics. The average size of warehouses today is over 184,000 sq ft., 143% larger and 3.7 feet taller than a decade ago.
Despite solid job growth numbers, certain industries are still struggling. One of those is the warehousing industry, which has traditionally faced a variety of challenges.
High Turnover Rates
The increased demand for warehouse services means employees face bigger workloads and more stress in meeting fulfillment requirements. This additional strain is a major contributor to high industry turnover rates.
In 2017, the turnover rate in the utilities, transportation, and warehousing sector was 40.9%. It jumped to nearly 60% in 2020 before dropping down to around 49% in 2021. That’s still significant compared to other industries.
An Aging Workforce
Another part of the issue is an aging workforce, which is shrinking the pool of available workers. More and more members of the Baby Boomer generation are reaching retirement age and choosing to leave the workforce. By 2034, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18. As workers retire, there are fewer people available to step into these roles.
Heavy Reliance on Manual Labor
The aging workforce is an issue for the warehousing sector because 80% of these businesses require manual laborers. Without enough talent to replace workers quitting or retiring, businesses must look for alternative ways to fulfill their goals.
Retention Strategies for Warehouse Workers
A warehouse or distribution center will always need workers. Even if your business implements automation, it will likely supplement and not replace your workforce. How you manage your employees will determine whether you will attract and retain the best talent or lose them. Some strategies your business can use to improve its results include:
- Adjust your employment ads to make responsibilities and expectations clear
- Partner with staffing agencies to bring in qualified and temporary help
- Offer competitive pay and benefits
- Keep your warehouse well organized, clean, and safe for workers
- Maintain flexible work schedules whenever possible
- Implement ergonomic equipment and workstations
- Engage with workers on a regular basis
- Provide ongoing employee training and support
- Build an incentive program to encourage excellence
- Offer bonuses to employees who refer new workers
- Consider cross-training workers so they can perform multiple tasks
Warehouse workers are just like everyone else. They want a safe, well-paying job, that gives them a sense of fulfillment. Your business can address many of its labor struggles by implementing some key technology solutions.
How Mobile Workstations and Automation Solutions Can Help
You can employ a variety of attraction and retention strategies for your warehouse business. But few will be as effective as making the actual work less physically demanding for your employees. When workers are asked to stand on their feet for an entire shift, walk back and forth through the warehouse all day long, and perform repetitive tasks, this isn’t appealing. It can also lead to injuries, mistakes, and inefficiency.
Fortunately, many warehouses are achieving positive results by integrating technology solutions that make some of this work less stressful and labor-intensive. A few examples are mobile workstations, RFID solutions, and voice technology.
Mobile powered workstations are an efficient and convenient way to bring technology to your workers instead of making them go to a central location in the warehouse to print instructions or enter data.
You put a printer, laptop, tablets, or other technology on your mobile workstations, which come with stand-alone power packages. When a worker moves to a different area of the warehouse for inventory control, picking, or packing, they simply roll the workstation along with them.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is an advanced and powerful solution for automated data collection, storage, processing, and tracking. Instead of requiring employees to record every product moved from Point A to Point B, RFID can do this automatically.
RFID tags are applied to products, pallets, and other assets in the warehouse. Using RFID readers, this data is read automatically. It improves efficiency and accuracy and frees up workers to do other tasks.
The picking and packing processes are two of the most time-consuming, repetitive, and mundane processes that take place in a warehouse. They are also physically demanding and prone to human error.
One way to take some of the strain off of your workers is to provide a hands-free solution using voice technology. Wearing wireless headsets, employees can perform voice-directed work, where they receive instructions via voice. This reduces worker fatigue and improves accuracy.
As the global warehousing industry continues to expand, it will face ongoing labor challenges in the coming years. Warehouses, distribution centers, and fulfillment centers must find ways to keep up with demand. One surefire strategy is the adoption of mobile workstations and other automation solutions.