Effectively Managing Distribution Centers and Warehouses With a Frontline-Worker Platform: Part 1

Jun 22, 2023 11:18:02 AM . Julia Walsh

Time is the biggest currency when it comes to effective warehouse management and the operation of a well-orchestrated distribution center. Waiting times in the bay, the time it takes for material to get on the right racks, vehicle in-and-out times, driver logs for transit and time spent in the DC, and the time it takes for workers to haul the goods, perform inspections, and stock or retreat goods are all extremely critical to monitoring and preventing loss, because in the logistics business, timing is everything.

Most top leaders in the industry understand the importance of time and the ability to monitor and orchestrate the millions of transactions that must be completed successfully for their warehouses and distribution centers to turn a profit. However, the worker frontline is a key component that is often neglected or perhaps not considered as integral as it should be.

Challenges Decoded:

Figure 1- Source: Statista

According to Statista, data from 2016 to 2021 shows that the inability to attract and retain a qualified workforce is seen as a major challenge in the industry. Add to that the inability to attract and retain qualified supervision and you have the perfect recipe for disaster. Insufficient space for storage, obsolete equipment, and poor layouts are other impediments. But among the list of challenges presented, the most alarming is that many IT systems do not have proper details about stock, movement, and storage locations at a given DC or warehouse. 

Now, when you look at things from an IT and manpower perspective, the inability to attract and retain staff (workers and supervisors) and low-performing IT applications are challenges that seem intertwined and possibly codependent.

Modern workers want to have better technology at their disposal and aren’t satisfied by redundant jobs that do not require critical thinking and the application of more than one skill. The younger generation of workers also prefers to have more information at their disposal and clear instructions and road maps of what they need to execute during a workday. The gamification of work through improved visualization is no longer just a wow factor; it is something modern-day workers actively seek. The same applies to managers and supervisors. They require clarity and actionable intel, not just massive spreadsheets and obsolete data that depicts events that transpired a few weeks or days ago. Managers and supervisors demand real-time data, or near real-time at best, with analysis that directs their action and makes it more precise, and of course, faster. 

Priorities: Time, Workers, & IT:

To run a successful warehousing or DC operation, every critical transaction must be documented, preferably in real time, in order to smoothly execute the entire process.  When clarity is obtained through effective data capture, it becomes possible to orchestrate a well-defined, predictable operation.

Workflows throughout an entire operation should be based on the ideal amount of time a given activity should take and then monitored against this ideal time to gauge performance. Everything should have a schedule and an execution plan, from the time a vehicle enters the DC to the time it needs to wait to unload to the time it takes to perform inspections and unload the goods. This same theory of ideal execution times can also apply to the retrieval of goods, packing, repacking, loading after a PDI (pre-deliver inspection), and a vehicle’s exit from the bay after the goods get loaded.

Most companies with their own logistics monitor driver travel times. However, they often forget the importance of monitoring time in the areas of operation within their control, which are perhaps the areas most in need of time-bound orchestration. Now, how does this need to monitor time stamps and run a tight ship relate to manpower attraction, retention and training, and IT solutions?

The frontline workforce (FLW) has become the most important and highly prioritized aspect of the digital transformation of an enterprise, and technology platforms have the potential to elevate a run-of-the-mill operation to Industry-4.0 levels.

There are currently multiple FLW-optimization platforms on the market. Their primary aim is to improve workers’ and managers’ lives through the digitization of workflows, work instructions, and reporting formats while providing actionable intel that helps both workers and supervisors act more quickly and decisively. These IT platforms help attract, train, and possibly retain a workforce as they improve the quality of work life through gamification and higher cognitive-output derivation.

These platforms are also tasked with recording all the transactions that occur in the course of a regular workday and maintaining real-time, or near real-time, accurate, and actionable data.

However, is just any FLW platform good or is there a specialized platform that can deliver on all three priority areas for warehousing and DC business?

Webalo is the best solution for DC and Warehouse process owners. An informed frontline, equipped with data and intel, ensures that the results delivered are on par with what was planned, all while ensuring the business is profitable and that workers and supervisors alike feel valued in their jobs, learn faster, and perform better. Intrigued about what Webalo delivers for the industry? Stay tuned for the next installment in this series!