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Six Ways To Staff An Automated Distribution Center

As more and more warehouses and fulfillment operations explore opportunities to add automation to their processes, they’re also recognizing that not everyone in their current workforce possesses the skills to work with and/or maintain those systems. That’s means—as the repetitive tasks previously performed by employees shift onto the automated system—workers who are most comfortable with touchscreens, digital displays and control systems will be at an advantage over those who aren’t.

To address those skills deficits, a recent article in MHI Solutions magazine featured a list of “Tips for Staffing the Automated Distribution Center,” produced by MHI’s Solutions Community. The six recommendations include:

  1. Identify interested staffers. Determine which workers show the most interest in acquiring the technical skills required by the automation. These are the people who are most likely to embrace the opportunity to advance in their careers. Many automated equipment suppliers will train an operation’s current employees on the technology’s operation, as well as any staff service technicians on how to maintain the systems.
  2. Implement training programs. In addition to hands-on training, classroom instruction is valuable as it gives staffers perspective about where their role fits into the supply chain in general and within their company’s operation specifically. This allows them to see ways to improve the current process, as well as to identify areas for further professional growth.
  3. Dip into a new talent pool. Consider recruiting persons who may be from outside the warehousing and logistics industries but have applicable experience. For example, brick-and-mortar retail employees (who are increasingly finding themselves on the job market due to multiple retailer bankruptcies) have familiarity with inventory management, electronics and other screens. Likewise, military veterans often have experience handling technical equipment, making them ideal for supply chain roles.
  4. Get cultured. Creating a culture that respects, values and supports employees goes a long way toward maximizing retention and becoming an employer of choice for potential hires. Flexible hours, part-time schedules, career development, opportunities to work in or with other departments—all demonstrate to employees that they work for a place that cares about them.
  5. Monitor the company’s online reputation. With the proliferation of websites that let employees anonymously report on their experiences with their employer, it’s important to monitor what’s being said. If a complaint has merit, take corrective action. Alternately, positive feedback is a clue to the types of workplace descriptors that should be included in job postings.
  6. Analyze and evaluate. The addition of automation makes tracking of operations and of individual associates much easier than in manual operations. Make sure that the most loyal and productive workers are rewarded, while those who aren’t meeting goals are supported with additional training or incentives.

For expanded details about how to implement these suggestions, the full article can be found here.