Digitalization is rushing through the world of logistics centers. There is hardly a logistics center that does not deal with process automation, robotics or picking technologies. The focus is usually on how operational processes can be improved through technology. Ultimately, however, it is not (only) machines that run the logistics center, but people. And beyond the warehouse management and picking technologies used, these employees must be scheduled and controlled operationally. Reason enough to take a closer look at this topic.
Using the Warehouse Data
No matter what type of logistics center you operate, you will almost certainly have materials management or warehouse management systems, and data from conveyor and sortation systems can also be the starting point. More and more companies have systems in place that optimize inventories, e.g., based on sales forecasts. This is a treasure trove of data that is also highly interesting for workforce planning and control. No one needs to stand next to employees to know whether they have a lot or little to do. The essential data is there – a potential source of efficiency gains in the double-digit percentage range.
For example, sales forecasts can be used to estimate the workload for the coming weeks and months. This can provide input for recruiting or training, but can also be the basis for vacation planning. Which employee with which skills are needed in which areas? Which additional requirements and seasonalities can be covered by temporary staff? Which part-time models can a company offer applicants, and which are better left out?
In the short term, the data can be used to align staff availability with the expected workload. How many external workers need to be ordered? If someone is off sick, are similarly qualified employees available who can be brought in from another area, if necessary, to manage the day’s volumes? During the day, staff should be deployed at all times, taking into account productivity, qualifications and cut-off times, so that the daily targets are met in all areas; based on online interfaces to warehouse management and sorting systems. First aiders and fire protection assistants must of course be present in all areas. A complicated control problem, but one where software can provide a lot of support.
Only something for the less automated logistics?
Not at all. Of course – where there are (still?) many employees, workforce planning and control is more extensive. But there are areas where automation will not be worthwhile in the future. Automating not only on an operational level, for example, through modern picking processes, but also managing tactical employee deployment across departments, takes digitization to the next level.
But even in higher automated logistics centers, employees still play a major role. In the case of goods-to-man procedures, the processes used for sorting and picking can even give rise to particularly challenging issues of workforce management, because certain manual tasks have to be designed synchronously with the automated process and the system capacities. In order to align workforce management, in particular appropriately along the automated processes, a high degree of flexibility is required in the mapping of workforce managementand data integration so that adaptable software, e.g. based on Deductive Intelligence, has a clear advantage.
And what about the employees?
Modern workforce management and control also benefits employees because the company can respond more flexibly to their working time requests and restrictions. Since employees can use mobile access options to submit the vacation request even in the evening while booking their vacation. Because vacations are approved according to transparent, needs-based criteria instead of the best-buddy principle. Because they can swap shifts again digitally at short notice, taking qualifications into account. Because they can communicate again with their supervisor via data protection-compliant chats.
The company across the street may not offer these digital interaction options – a possible ace up your sleeve at the next job interview. Because smart workforce management has something to offer to logistics companies as well as their employees.