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How a Warehouse Management System eases labour shortages

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

WMS identifying barcodes on multiple products in a warehouse

It's no secret that the warehouse and logistics industry is struggling to retain staff. In fact, a Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport UK report found that 86% of companies have experienced warehouse operative staff shortages in recent years. In an effort to compensate for a lack of labour, more warehouse operations are turning to WMS software to plug the gaps.

Now, before you start thinking that WMS software is replacing warehouse operatives, that's not the case. A recent Logistics Manager report shows that demand for warehouse workers has risen by over 40% since 2019.

We're speculating here, but if we were to ask any warehouse manager right now 'what do you think helps a warehouse to operate at its best?' they would probably say a combination of WMS software and a skilled warehouse team.

Nevertheless, the current market shows a shortage of labour across warehouse operations. Here's how WMS software is helping to fill the void:

#1 - Automation of repetitive tasks

One of the key ways that WMS software is helping to combat labour shortages is through the automation of time-consuming and repetitive tasks. In a traditional warehouse setup, warehouse teams most likely spend a significant amount of time manually recording inventory movements, picking and packing items, updating records, and more.

WMS software automates these tasks, allowing warehouse teams to focus on more complex activities and tasks that add value to overall operations. This not only increases efficiency across the supply chain, but reduces dependency on a large workforce.

#2 - Optimised order picking

Warehouse team picking orders

Order picking is a critical aspect of any warehouse operation, but it often requires a substantial portion of the warehouse workforce. WMS software uses intelligent algorithms to optimise the order picking process, minimising travel time and maximising the productivity of each picker.

Features such as batch picking, wave picking, and zone picking means that WMS technology can assign warehouse tasks in the most efficient manner, thereby reducing the need for additional labour.

#3 - Enhanced inventory visibility

Labour shortages can be exacerbated when operatives struggle to locate items within a vast warehouse. WMS software provides real-time visibility into inventory levels and locations. With features like barcode scanning and RFID technology, warehouse teams can quickly and accurately identify the precise location of items.

This not only accelerates the picking process, but also reduces the likelihood of errors that may arise from manual inventory tracking.

#4 - Training efficiency

The lack of skilled labour across the warehouse and logistics industry is not only about the number of workers available, but also the level of expertise they bring to the table. Training new employees in traditional warehouse settings can be time-consuming and may result in errors during the learning curve.

WMS technology, with its user-friendly interface and intuitive design, minimises the training time required for new hires. This means that organisations can quickly integrate new workers into their operations, mitigating the impact of labour shortages.

#5 - Dynamic resource allocation

WMS solutions facilitate dynamic resource allocation based on real-time demand and operational needs. During peak periods, WMS software can intelligently redistribute tasks and manpower to ensure optimal performance.

Equally, during slower periods, resources can be scaled back, preventing unnecessary labour costs. This flexibility in resource management is a powerful tool in mitigating the impact of labour shortages, allowing your warehouse to adapt to fluctuating demand with agility.

#6 - Error reduction

Human errors in warehouse operations can have significant repercussions, from mispacked items to inaccurate inventory records. A WMS minimises these errors by automating data entry and validation processes. Barcode scanning and RFID technology ensure that the right products are picked and shipped, reducing the likelihood of costly mistakes.

By enhancing accuracy, a WMS not only boosts operational efficiency but also minimises the need for additional labour to rectify errors.

#7 - Improved communication and collaboration

A WMS acts as a central hub for all warehouse activities, facilitating seamless communication among team members. Real-time updates on inventory status, order fulfilment, and other critical information ensure that everyone in the warehouse is on the same page.

This improved communication contributes to a more cohesive and efficient workforce, even if the warehouse team is lacking in numbers.

#8 - Data-driven decision making

WMS software generates high value data related to your warehouse operations. This data can be harnessed for intelligent decision-making. By analysing trends, identifying bottlenecks, and predicting future demand, warehouse managers can make informed decisions to optimise their workforce.

This data-driven approach allows for proactive adjustments in staffing levels and operational strategies, mitigating the impact of labour shortages.

#9 - Scalability

As your business grows it will face fluctuations in demand, making the ability to scale operations efficiently even more crucial. A WMS is designed to be scalable, accommodating changes in the size and requirements of your warehouse.

This scalability ensures that your organisation can adapt to variations in workload without the need for a proportional increase in labour. Whether facing peak seasons or periods of lower demand, your warehouse can maintain operational efficiency.

#10 - Enhanced employee satisfaction

Warehouse Team celebrating success because of improved satisfaction

While not directly addressing a lack of labour across the warehouse and logistics industry, a WMS contributes to employee satisfaction, which is vital for retaining skilled workers in a competitive labour market.

By automating mundane and repetitive tasks, a WMS allows employees to focus on more engaging and intellectually stimulating aspects of their work. This not only improves job satisfaction, but also makes the warehouse a more attractive workplace, aiding in the retention of skilled labour.

WMS software: A multifaceted solution for labour shortages

WMS software serves as a multifaceted solution to the challenges posed by labour shortages in warehouse operations. By automating tasks, optimising processes, improving accuracy, and enhancing overall efficiency, a WMS empowers organisations to do more with less.

As industries continue to navigate the complexities of the modern marketplace, the adoption of advanced technologies like WMS solutions not only offers a competitive advantage, but is a strategic imperative for sustainable growth.

Partner with Prime Horizon Group for a WMS to combat labour shortages

Selecting, implementing, and maintaining a WMS can be daunting without support. Prime Horizon Group is an official Blue Yonder WMS implementation specialist. With consultants based in the UK, Europe and APAC, we can support you through the entire WMS implementation project cycle and beyond.

With 24-hour support, testing services, project management and WMS training, we provide everything you need to make your WMS implementation a success. To tap into the power of a Blue Yonder WMS, speak to one of our experts today!

Follow Prime Horizon Group on LinkedIn to get the latest WMS trends, news, and tips.

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