Technology and logistics are moving at a phenomenal pace, yet the work culture at many warehouses is still stuck in the past. To make matters worse, most warehouses are giant hangars that can be freezing cold, boiling hot, noisy and dim, with too much artificial lighting and barely any home comforts.
Workers clock on, do their jobs, then clock off, and there can be a significant amount of employee churn. Warehouses need to find a way to foster greater team spirit, collaboration and loyalty. A more comfortable, enjoyable and flexible environment might nudge employees to bond and perform to the best of their ability.
While the warehouse floor is not the place for oversize beanbags, inspiration walls and an Xbox, what stops these from being available in the vicinity, giving employees a place to chill out and socialise when on breaks? What if warehouses offered free or subsidized canteens and gym facilities? I’d say workers would show up in good time, feel valued and perhaps even start their shift earlier.
From a technology perspective, the next generation of workers who has grown up in a fast-paced digital world will expect touch screens, apps, intuitive interfaces and smart devices. If the warehouse technology is slow, unreliable or outdated, they will become despondent and eventually leave.
You might question why we should bother investing in warehouse workers…who cares if there is a high turnover of staff?
For those of us designing and producing high-spec technological devices, these end users are key to our success. Technology is only as good as the people operating it. So even the best device in the world isn’t going to perform if the user has no respect for it, neglects it, fails to report problems, or resorts to cutting corners and manual methods like pen and paper. A dimension measuring device, for example, is expertly designed to calculate remaining volume in a container or vehicle, and someone in some tech enterprise (you perhaps?) has invested significant money, time, research, testing, marketing and sales in getting this product perfected. If the operator doesn’t interpret the data or commands properly, either through apathy or ignorance, then shipping can be delayed, money will be wasted and the product will likely be deemed a failure. A total waste of everyone’s investment.
These end users also provide invaluable insight into the true user experience. Without taking the time to listen to their feedback and ideas, how can you improve the design? It could be something as simple yet unforeseen as a touchscreen that doesn’t work with gloves, a screen that’s hard to read with goggles on, an alert that isn’t loud enough due to ear protection worn, or a process that is excessively laborious resulting in short cuts. If they feel valued, warehouse workers are more likely to offer proactive feedback or report a fault. Whilst product training can help, improving morale nurtures a positive attitude, boosted in part by a welcoming workplace.
Some of the benefits that office workers enjoy actually cost very little to the employer but really lift morale, increase productivity, and reduce lethargy, absenteeism and sickness. With the right investment, the modernised warehouse could become a powerhouse!
Article by Mark Jolley, EMEA Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics Solutions Sales Lead, Zebra Technologies.
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