- By Gabe Grifoni
- July 23, 2021
The right software can dynamically detect changes in data patterns and create best-fit forecasting models to account for multiple variables like warehouse workload, employee preferences, corporate equity rules, labor laws and regulations, and much more.
Warehouses are notorious for being slow moving when it comes to technology. It’s understandable. Changing systems from the ground up at that scale can be overwhelming for anyone. No one ever feels like they have the time or budget for such an undertaking, even though they know manual systems are just as (if not even more) daunting. Even aside from inefficiencies, when your employees are on their best behavior, manually tracking their time will often result in timecard inaccuracies, longer payroll processing times and more.
On top of this normal slog, supply chains have been rocked in the last year. With the COVID-19 pandemic creating a barrier between customers and their typical brick-and-mortar shopping experience, e-commerce increased by a massive 44% in 2020. Though this behavior was put on hyperdrive, it would be naive to ignore that this had been an increasing trend for years prior, with consumers migrating toward either online channels or a blend of online and physical channels, such as buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) or curbside pickup.
While this shift took consumers little getting used to, it placed enormous pressure on retail warehouses and distribution centers, particularly the front-line employees responsible for managing a rapidly increasing number of orders. To compensate, warehouses have been hiring a record number of employees in recent months. Over 1.25 million workers were hired in the warehouse and storage sector in September 2020 alone, more than any other period in the last 10 years.
The pain points from prior to the pandemic are even more painful during:
Lack of Efficient Training: New hires take a considerable amount of time to train and need to work alongside experienced front-line employees that can assist with questions and issues.
Unpredictable Demand: Fluctuations in e-commerce traffic can be tricky to account for in labor forecasting and scheduling processes. As a result, warehouses may be left either understaffed or overstaffed.
Team Management: Manual scheduling processes are time consuming and leave room for error. They also keep warehouse managers in the back room creating and modifying schedules instead of coaching and assisting new front-line employees.
Even the best managers may not have visibility into all the variables that impact their workforce on any given week. And the things they do have visibility into, such as employee preferences and skillsets, may be difficult to keep track of day to day, especially when managing a sizable team and a number of other operational priorities. Without upgrading your technology with an intelligent system to do much of this work for warehouse managers, even a massive investment in hiring new employees won’t alleviate tension from today’s industry pressures.
You need better scheduling
No manager loves to schedule. (Ok, maybe some do!) And, no employee likes to feel out of control of their time. An intelligent workforce management system that automates labor optimization processes, and provides a complete solution for streamlining labor budgets, forecasts, and schedules, can make everyone a little happier.
The right software can dynamically detect changes in data patterns and create best-fit forecasting models to account for multiple variables like warehouse workload, employee preferences, corporate equity rules, labor laws and regulations, and much more. This ensures warehouses have more accurate labor forecasts and schedules during periods of increased demand or other disruption. It also gives managers time to coach newly hired front-line employees, which helps to boost morale and productivity.
You need a better response to changes in workload
Pandemic or not, the volume of online transactions will certainly continue to shift in the coming months and years. Shopping trends and methods will continue to evolve and it’s critical that your warehouses are able to quickly adapt and staff in response to external pressures and customer demand.
Dynamic, automated software can tell when these changes are taking place and provide specific recommendations about when and where to modify staffing at each location. In turn, there should always be enough front-line employees scheduled to manage all of the online orders than come through, which builds confidence that they will be fulfilled on time.
You need to boost morale
Warehouses can be tough nuts to crack when it comes to maintaining high morale. The hours are long, the work can be literally backbreaking, and the schedule can be unpredictable. The pandemic only intensified these challenges for front-line employees. Many employees had children that were in schools using hybrid or distance learning, as well as elderly or disabled relatives that needed extra assistance due to high risk factors. All of this drastically changed when and how employees were able to work at warehouses, with many changing schedule preferences or modifying existing schedules to accommodate these new personal responsibilities.
This major disruption in how things have been done for years will surely bring about lasting changes that were a long time coming, including flexible, accurate labor schedules in order to be engaged and productive during their shifts.
By automating labor scheduling and optimizing schedules to account for employee preferences and needs, warehouse managers can ensure front-line employees get schedules that work best for them – which, in turn, helps them put their best foot forward when they come to work. Because labor forecasts are more accurate, employees get fair and equitable schedules with more consistent hours and see fewer last-minute changes, all of which helps improve morale and reduce turnover.
You need to stay on top of labor regulations
Even before COVID-19 introduced an array of new labor regulations, predictive scheduling laws had been expanding throughout the United States. Many states or cities that have passed predictive scheduling legislation are continuing to modify them over time as well. For example, Chicago requires employers to provide employees with 10 days advance notice of their work schedule right now, but this will increase to 14 days on July 1, 2022. All of these various rules and regulations are difficult to keep track of, and noncompliance can frustrate employees and cost a considerable amount in fines.
Intelligent software automatically factors in all of the labor laws and regulations that apply to each warehouse location, ensuring that employees can get accurate schedules in a timely manner. In addition, since these systems digitally store and organize schedules, it’s easy to comply with predictive scheduling laws that require extensive recordkeeping. This also takes the burden of scheduling off managers who would otherwise have to navigate all these regulations on their own.
The supply chain industry is no stranger to disruption and evolution. Yet, they somehow are when it comes to technological upgrades. While the pandemic was an unprecedented event, there will be more challenges ahead. Let this be the year you break the norm and finally upgrade your technology with WorkHero, and keep your warehouse operations running smoothly no matter what the world throws at your team.
Did you enjoy this great article?
Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..Subscribe