Employee shortage is a problem faced not just by the logistics sector, but by most industries. One of the solutions at hand is automation, but until we get to talk about full automation, many companies must combine technology with a limited workforce. This is in fact the biggest challenge post-pandemic – finding skilled people to keep in the company and providing them with automated work tools to increase work efficiency and productivity to cope with the growing demand in the market.
Current workforce situation in the logistics sector
The local logistics sector has not only shown resilience during the pandemic but has continued to benefit from changes in consumer and business behavior in response to the health crisis. As a result, demand for industrial space surpassed the one million square meters threshold in 2021 for the first time in history, with leasing activity fueled by new contracts, which accounted for 80% (802,000 square meters) of the space transacted*. Underpinning this was the expansion of online trading, as well as measures to streamline operations and shorten supply chains. As the logistics sector grew, so did the supply of jobs. However, one of the problems facing the logistics sector today is labor shortages. The major concern for companies in the logistics sector lately is finding ways for companies to extract value from their existing workforce, even though it has become increasingly difficult to find and keep good people in certain jobs. The ultimate goal is to operate more efficiently in a tight labor market and the secret lies in automating certain activities.
How the pandemic has changed the way we work and employee expectations
The pandemic has also made significant changes to the way work is done – many employees have moved to working from home, remotely, in areas where this has been possible. This sudden shift has brought many challenges for both employees and employers, who have had to improvise quick solutions to ensure business continuity. Remote work has meant that companies have had to adapt quickly in terms of the technologies they use – in most cases, IT equipment has had to be added. As the months went by, employees got used to this remote work, learned how to organize the tasks better, and even found many advantages in this way of working.
Many companies have begun to see this style of working as a long-term strategy and are building a hybrid system: they are not abandoning the idea of desk work altogether, but are rethinking workspaces to strengthen collaboration. So, the team can meet at the company’s headquarters for meetings or value-adding interactions, but the rest of the time employees can work from home or other alternative spaces. Nevertheless, this strategy can’t be applied in all industries, and logistics seems to be the exception to the rule – you can’t give warehouse operators the ability to work remotely, but you can make their work easier by automating certain processes.
Processes you can streamline with WMS to increase team productivity
The first steps a company that wants to invest in automation should take are: to determine the objectives that the system should achieve and analyze in detail the logistics processes and the current situation within the company to identify the right solution. WMS can help you increase team productivity and meet market demands with the same number of employees, without putting pressure on them or making them work in arduous conditions. Here are some examples of processes you can streamline with WMS:
- Goods receiving – warehouse operators would waste a lot of time checking the goods they need to receive without a WMS. In addition, such manual inspection would always be subject to errors. Automating this process (using a WMS and a terminal that scans the barcodes of the goods) has multiple advantages: time savings, reduced errors, and increased labor productivity.
- Order storage and picking – a WMS helps you to be more organized and work more efficiently. One of the useful functions in this respect is setting up an optimized route according to the products that need to be prepared – the operator no longer spends time searching for products in the warehouse but follows the system’s instructions to be more efficient.
- Inventory – it is pointless to say how much time is spent on an inventory where products are counted manually and how many errors can occur. A WMS system makes this process much simpler and faster. Moreover, you don’t even need as many operators to do the work.
- Better decision–making – when you have all the necessary data in one place, you can make much better decisions (some of them with a positive effect on your employees). And you can access them from everywhere which means that work from home employees will also be able to use the data.
Other benefits that such a WMS system brings you are: it ensures the accurate management of stock in the warehouse, it increases the speed of the picking process, it contributes to faster delivery of orders, and it increases the productivity of warehouse operators because it helps them to carry out more activities in a more efficient and faster way. Last but not least, if you invest in automation, you’ll find that in the long run, you end up saving significant amounts of money. You don’t need to hire new people because the operators you already have on your team have learned how to operate the automation tools and can successfully cope with any challenge without suffering the high workflow. You no longer need to spend money to correct problems that can arise from human error (at manual goods receipt or at the inventory).
Implement automation in your warehouse operations and you’ll see it’s the best decision you ever made. You’ll no longer depend on changes in the labor market because operators who learn how to operate the systems will handle any workflow. You’ll see a major change in employees too – they’ll be more relaxed, motivated, and happy.
* Source: https://www.romania-insider.com/cushman-wakefield-industrial-demand-2021