Lately, we’ve been fielding lots of questions about employee turnover rates and warehouse associates’ pay rates, especially after a peak holiday season when competition for labour was at an all time level of frustration – unfilled positions and low retention. Wage pressure and availability of labour is top of mind with many companies.

What does this mean for you? Now is the time to start thinking about how to increase warehouse-associate productivity to counterbalance the necessitated increase in pay and in numbers.

Think the best way

You have a plethora of ways to achieve this end, but one of the most effective is to teach warehouse associates to use better methods. Creating a good labor standard—a best practice or “best way”—is hard when everyone does the job in a different manner. First, specify a best way to do a job. Then, develop the standard around people following it.

Consider training associates in the finer motions of a warehouse job. For instance, teach a packer to pack a box just like you would teach a child to throw a baseball or perform a dance movement. Break it down into steps, emphasize the importance of each step to the desired end, and practice, practice, practice.

Engineer a Solution Via Your Crowd

Crowd Engineering is a relatively new means for discovering best-way techniques to teach. The process is based on three assumptions:

  • People who know the best way to complete a task are the people who do it each and every day hundreds and hundreds of times.
  • Most people innovate regularly either to escape boredom or to make a job easier for the individual. (Fact: Few people innovate exactly the same way.)
  • Most people don’t really know they do their tasks differently than others in their same workplace or that their methods are better or worse than someone else’s.

What our experience has taught us

Crimson & Co US has learned that videoing different associates doing their jobs and using software to help us compare them as they complete each different step in the process is invaluable to a Crowd Engineering effort.

By comparing how Sally seals a box to how Bill does it, we learn how the various nuances each has developed has impacted—both good and bad—their efforts. Then we pick the best method of sealing a box (usually in a room with a large monitor, a bunch of associates, and a whole lot of discussion).

Next, we create videos and/or webinars instructing associates on how to do each step in the approved best method. (Often, we also include clips showing how not to do a particular step and why.) These videos become the basis of a real training program as opposed to the usual on-the-job instruction.

Steve Mulaik

Partner, Argon & Co US

[email protected]

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