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How to turn a warehouse into a powerhouse

With more players entering the logistics market, the need for more technologically advanced and efficient warehouses rises not just to gain an edge over the increasingly tight competition but also, and more importantly, to ensure efficient and quality delivery.

by Tan Aik Jin, APAC Vertical Solutions Lead, Manufacturing and Transportation & Logistics, Zebra Technologies

Strong economic growth and a thriving export and import industry are spurring the development of the Philippines’ logistics industry. The country’s logistics and warehousing market is expected to reach a revenue of PHP1,100 billion (US$21 billion) by 2024, according to Ken Research. [1]Some of the country’s top conglomerates have even started venturing into the logistics sector because of the strong growth potential.

With more players entering the logistics market, the need for more technologically advanced and efficient warehouses rises not just to gain an edge over the increasingly tight competition but also, and more importantly, to ensure efficient and quality delivery.  But even though technology and logistics are moving at a phenomenal pace, the work culture at many warehouses is still stuck in the past. Compared to modern-day offices and their spotlight on the well-being of staff, some warehouses are simply depressing. While they need not be as creative or innovative as some of the modern offices today, these industrial hubs can be more welcoming for the warehouse team who are responsible for shifting items from point A to B on behalf of global brands. Because the warehouse team need to be looked after just as much as the staff of office-based departments of logistical giants and online retailers.

Warehouses need to find a way to foster greater team spirit, collaboration and loyalty by providing the warehouse teams with a more comfortable, enjoyable and flexible environment that can nudge employees to bond and perform to the best of their abilities.

The perks of being a warehouse worker

The warehouse floor is a busy place and is certainly not the place for oversized beanbags, inspiration walls and an Xbox. But what’s stopping warehouses from offering free breakfast snacks and fresh coffee pre-shift? If so, workers would show up in a good mood and perhaps even start their shifts earlier, knowing they are being valued.

Another great way to make them feel valued would be to update warehouses with the latest technology. The next generation of workers, who has grown up in a fast-paced digital world, will be expecting touchscreen monitors, simplified apps, intuitive user interfaces and smart devices. If the warehouse technology is slow, unreliable or outdated, this new-generation of workers will become despondent and eventually leave, resulting in high staff turnover. Fortunately, a good number of local logistics companies in the Philippines are expected to invest in innovative technological solutions to improve services and help their staff manage the warehouse and delivery activities with ease. Disruptive technological services such as real-time tracking and warehouse management systems enable the company to oversee the warehouse and monitor the movement of goods real-time.

You might ask, why bother investing in warehouse workers? Who cares if there is a high turnover of staff? There isn’t really a shortage of labor, right? Well, technology is only as good as the people operating it. So even the best device in the world isn’t going to perform well if its operator has no respect for it or resorts to cutting corners and manual methods such as pen and paper. If the operator using a dimension measuring device doesn’t interpret the data or commands properly, then shipping can be delayed, money will be wasted and the product will likely be deemed a failure.

While innovative technology in the workforce is essential, it is as important to boost the capabilities of its human counterparts. This is because these technicians, mechanics and operators spend the most time in warehouses and can provide initial and invaluable insights on how a seamless user experience should be. Warehouse workers can also provide proactive feedback or report problems or areas for improvement, which can further help in improving overall warehouse efficiency.

QuadX Inc., a home-grown and start-up logistics company in the Philippines, gained faster growth after investing in enterprise-class mobile devices that allow the company’s staff to deliver more efficient services to its customers. The gadgets also helped QuadX manage the workflow and supervise the business more competently.

How to motivate warehouse workers more?

Setting targets helps, although this doesn’t necessarily build teamwork, assure quality or create a conscientious attitude. Inter-warehouse competitions have worked well in my experience, giving employees goals to work for and rewards to reap as a team.

Some of the benefits that workers enjoy cost very little to employers but lift morale, boost productivity, and reduce lethargy at work, absenteeism and sickness. Try a complimentary coffee bar, an on-site yoga class or a visiting physio/chiropractor. All that physical work in the warehouse can take its toll, but these holistic solutions will have a lasting effect on the employees’ working practices in the long run.

With the right investment, a modernized warehouse could be a powerhouse!

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