What’s Attractive to Prospective Warehouse Workers?

By
Productiv

With the perennial difficulty of finding and retaining a sufficient warehouse workforce, companies are continually seeking ways to attract new hires. A recent survey showed that offering flexible schedules was the #1 tactic among supply chain and logistics executives, followed by “adopting the latest technology,” the latter being more attractive to younger workers.  

Amazon, meanwhile, is facing another unionization challenge, this time in Canada, where a union was certified by the country’s equivalent of the NLRB. And a crop of new robotics companies are pitching their solutions to SMBs. Here’s a roundup of the latest news in logistics and supply chain.

Flex Schedules the Top Draw for Attracting Warehouse Workers

The No. 1 draw in attracting warehouse workers in a tight labor market is the ability to offer them flexible schedules. That’s the finding of a recent survey by logistics technology company Descartes. The survey, conducted by Sapio Research, queried 1,000 supply chain and logistics leaders in Europe and North America. The top response given on ways to drive warehouse worker retention was providing on-the-job training and education compensation. The top listed tactic to improve worker productivity? Automating non-value-added and repetitive tasks.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a bump of 14,300 seasonally adjusted warehouse jobs for April 2024, but this followed months of declines. Overall, warehouse jobs were down 108,200 from the prior April. Net/net: Warehouse workers are still hard to find.

Amazon Warehouse First to Unionize in Canada

Two hundred workers at an Amazon warehouse outside Montreal have been given union accreditation by Canada’s labor board, a first in the country. Workers there had been trying to unionize for the past two years. Amazon is challenging the decision, as it does in all such cases. The company objected in particular to a “card check” provision where a union application can be certified without a vote if a majority of workers sign a union card.

Amazon has pushed back against reports it requires warehouse workers to meet fixed productivity quotas and said its workplaces are safe and inclusive, offering competitive pay, health benefits, and advancement opportunities. An Amazon union was certified at a warehouse in Queens, NY in 2022, and another in Alabama is on its third try with the NLRB.

Walmart Continues Supply Chain Consolidation Push

Continuing its push toward a tech-driven supply chain makeover, Walmart opened a new 492,000-square-foot automated consolidation center in Minooka, Ill., the third of its kind. The facility consolidates less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments into truckloads (TL), then sends them out to 42 regional distribution centers, where it’s sorted and sent out again to replenish stores. Walmart said the facility can handle three times the volume of a standard DC.

Walmart told Supply Chain Dive that software scans and counts arriving SKUs and automatically updates the inventory system. Many large retailers have been on a multi-year tech journey to optimize supply chains and omnichannel product distribution through consolidation, including Home Depot and Amazon.  

Monthly TEU Volumes Projected at 2 Million+ Through September

Monthly import volumes are projected to remain above 2 million TEUs from May to at least September during the annual restocking run-up to peak season. This is according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and consulting firm Hackett Associates.

“We haven’t seen numbers this high for this many months in almost two years,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a release. “Regardless of what headlines about the economy might say, consumers are shopping and retailers are making sure they have merchandise on hand to meet demand.”

The latest Cass Freight Index, which measures trucking volume in North America, wasn’t as positive. It showed a 4% decline in TEU volume in April, and a sequential drop of 1.3% from March. The Logistic Managers Index (LMI) was in positive territory for April at 52.9, but that was down from March (58.3), the highest growth rate in 18 months.

The NRF/Hackett report draws on historical data and projections from ports including those in Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami, Jacksonville, and Houston.

Robots For Ecommerce SMBs?

Warehouse automation, including autonomous mobile robots (River Systems, Locus, Fetch, etc.) and goods-to-person cubes (e.g: Dematic, AutoStore, Swisslog, Exotec) has been primarily the domain of enterprise players, based on cost and complexity. But that’s changing, according to a report in Practical Ecommerce.

Firms like BionicHive, Dexterity Inc, Prime Robotics, and Pio have been targeting their solutions at small-to-medium (SMB) ecommerce firms. “The warehouse automation industry remains focused on massive companies, but the nascent trend toward ecommerce SMBs could offer growing brands more fulfillment options,” author Armando Roggio said. “The question will be whether small-scale warehouse automation systems and robotics save ecommerce companies money and otherwise offer a competitive advantage.”

Supply Chain Investments Increase to Combat Disruption

As 84% of global supply chain executives said they’ve experienced disruptions in the past year – not a surprising result, given recent events – nearly as many (79%) said they’ve increased supply chain investments to deal with these issues.

That’s according to an annual survey conducted by Blue Yonder, which in March polled 600 executives from manufacturing, retail, third-party logistics, and government. The top investment categories, according to Blue Yonder, were sustainability (cited by 48% of respondents, AI-based technology (41%), developing new strategy (40%), additional workforce (39%), and digital transformation (37%).

Technology continues to be seen as the primary way to tackle supply chain issues such as sourcing, transportation, distribution, and fulfillment.

How Are You Looking to Recruit, Hire, Retain?

As automation isn’t always within the reach of companies looking to boost productivity – and certainly won’t replace humans next week – a reexamination of methods to attract and retain qualified warehouse workers is a valuable exercise. A resilient warehouse workforce management program focuses on retention through incentives and employee recognition and provides ample advancement opportunities. This reduces churn and helps mitigate the impact of a labor shortfall.

If you’re a small to midsize retailer, you may discover that hiring a full-time warehouse staff doesn’t make economic sense. That’s where Productiv comes in. A results-driven 3PL with extensive experience in retail fulfillment and distribution, including kitting and assembly, Productiv has a pre-vetted, skilled, and dedicated team of warehouse associates. Its precision-engineered workforce process can scale and adapt to your unique requirements.

Through its long experience in fulfillment and logistics management, Productiv has created a finely tuned operating model that delivers measurable results for leading companies in manufacturing, CPG, and retail. To learn more or get a free quote,  talk to an expert at Productiv today!

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