I've talked a lot in recent months about how labor constraints are challenging warehouse efficiency and growth. Consumers are demanding more, but so are workers. Fortunately, warehouse leaders are taking the right steps to appease workers of all generations with more aggressive investments in technology.
Everything from Android mobile computers to “droid”-driven automation systems (think co-bots) are being deployed to keep workers moving efficiently through tasks in warehouses and distribution centers. But for most, it is the move to Android™ that is delivering the greatest immediate payoff.
At First, the Forced Migration to Android Was a Source of Frustration for Warehouses. Now, It Has Become the Key to Eliminating Worker Frustration.
A year or two ago, many warehouse leaders on both the IT and operations sides were dreading the migration to Android. It was a decision that was made for them after all, and it meant a change to their infrastructure and more training. They had happily used Microsoft OS mobile devices for decades, and the announcement that Microsoft was ending support for its Windows® CE and Windows Mobile devices was disruptive. The sheer investment it would take to migrate entire business systems to Android seemed overwhelming at first. But it was a shift that leaders simply couldn’t avoid for security reasons. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.
Zebra’s most recent Warehousing Vision Study found that labor recruitment, as well as efficiency/productivity, were among the top challenges of warehouse leaders. Eighty-three percent of the global respondents are using or plan to implement an Android operating system by 2024. With this implementation, 43 percent expect to improve efficiency and 39 percent believe they will be able to increase their ability to adapt to new workflow complexities – and efficient workers that can cut through complexity are happy workers.
Considering how challenging it can be to secure reliable labor and the propensity of workers to job hop for marginal wage increases, investing in Android mobility and complementary automation solutions should be an easy decision. I explain why in this new podcast:
Beyond the reasons I noted in the podcast discussion, the reality is that Android mobility solutions, together with automation solutions, help to elicit worker loyalty. They also help to keep labor costs down.
In 2018, the annual turnover rate for warehouse personnel neared 25 percent. The costs associated with high turnovers range from 20 to 25 percent of a warehouse worker’s salary, according to estimates from warehouse enterprises, which can add up to $7,000 or more every time just one worker quits. In addition, it can take an average of 4.5 weeks to get a new employee up to full productivity according to our Warehousing Vision Study respondents. During this period, current team members are often required to shoulder the burden of the additional workload, which can lead to decreased morale.
If human labor is still highly valued in the warehouse (which we know it is) and the costs of recruiting new labor at current churn rates are unreasonably high (which we just established they are), then warehouse operators should be doing what they can to increase the value of the workers they already have every single day. They should also be doing what they can to show workers that they value them.
Investing in enterprise-grade Android mobility solutions and even certain automation solutions (such as co-bots) are the easiest way to invest in your people and, in turn, help them become more invested in your organization.
Why Warehouses’ Human Resources Can Credit Android (and Other “Droids”) for Worker Retention
Warehouse workers are consumers at the core. They use Android smartphones and tablets in their personal lives and are very familiar with the OS. Given the user experience (UX) similarities between consumer-grade and enterprise-grade versions of Android devices, it doesn’t take much to onboard workers (whether Millennials or Baby Boomers) to these new technology systems.
Plus, the versatility of enterprise-grade Android mobility solutions means that you can deploy a single platform to support all of your workers, even though you may need a few different form factors of Android devices within your four walls – including vehicle-mounted computers, tablets, wearables, handhelds and more.)
For example, many workers on foot may require a rugged handheld mobile computer connected to a mobile printer, head-mounted display or other wearable for picking, packing, cycle counting or inbound logistics. On the other hand, a forklift operator may be best served by a bigger-screen, rugged tablet that can be securely mounted in the vehicle while moving about yet removed in a grab-and-go fashion when he or she needs to jump down to secure a signature during inventory hand-offs on the loading dock. In these cases, Android allows you to easily configure, secure and manage all devices, no matter which device is best suited for the workflow. Plus, many Android devices can be applied to multiple workflows, so many workers will only need a single device to do their jobs – which further increases worker efficiency, comfort and satisfaction as the volume of fulfillment transactions increase and the value of speed and accuracy continues to climb.
Leading sports brand ASICS learned this quickly with a 10 percent lift in productivity after equipping workers with Android handheld mobile computers. As did North Central Sight Services, which provided workers with visual impairments with new state-of-the-art Zebra MC3300 handheld mobile computers. These enterprise-grade Android handheld devices feature a modern color interface that suits the company’s new Warehouse Management System (WMS) programming. North Central Sight Services has also taken advantage of the many development tools that Google offers Android users, such as a voice programming tool, to increase worker support with auditory guidance; workers no longer need to rely on visual guidance alone to make their next pick. As a result, the company has seen its return rate reduced to two for every 15,000 orders. In other words, use of the Android operating system can turn any worker impairment – related to current environment or evolving business demands – into an advantage.
Many warehouse operators are also observing greater productivity levels among human workers who collaborate with co-bots. And greater productivity helps to increase workers’ value, which subsequently contributes to improved morale and retention rates.
Don’t believe me? Watch these videos: