Warehouse challenges impact the workers on the floor, the delivery of complete orders and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Though challenges are part of doing business in a highly competitive environment, they can set up unrealistic demands that negatively affect the human component of the supply chain. Recent negative press regarding Amazon warehouse operations is providing a forum to discuss the unsustainable practices thrust upon companies to maximize profits. An overview of major challenges as it applies to the warehouse and possible implications is necessary to motivate change in lagging organizations.
Many warehouses have yet to optimize their processes to effectively shorten the time necessary for shipments and reduce the wear and tear on their employees. Some end up short-changing workers in order to keep up with increasing demands. Employees are not super-human and benefit from improved processes within the workflow.
Lack of Visibility - Organizations either run out of stock when needed or have excessive stock that can depreciate and reduce their cash flow. Inventory shortages can create urgent need to reach out to vendors for product, increasing shipping costs and taking time away from daily management needs. With delays and incomplete deliveries, unsatisfied customers are given reason to find an alternative that can meet their demands in a more timely fashion.
Lack of Location Insight - Without appropriate inventory oversight, inefficiencies within warehouse operations cause a general slowdown and add to labor costs. Pickers take longer to locate items for orders, slowing loading and creating need for additional workers.
Lack of Common Picking Route - With warehouses reliant on manual rather than automated processes, there is no designated route for picking items for delivery. This adds more time to the process and additional expense to labor costs.
Small changes within the warehouse can improve the workflow while ensuring accurate deliveries shipped on time without undue pressure on workers. More thought can go a long way; there won’t be any dirty laundry to air with an investment into warehouse improvements.
A Word of Caution
The recent focus on Amazon should provide a general wake-up call to the industry, whose priority is fast shipments of products to customers. Due to unrelenting demands, Amazon warehouse workers have been noted to file lawsuits over reduced lunch breaks and interruptions, the fear of losing their job for failing to meet unrealistic quotas, and illness and death of employees, such as the recent death of a 29 year old man while on the warehouse floor. Unfortunately, Amazon is the focus at this time, but part of any schadenfreude, or enjoyment from the troubles of others, is seeing such a large and well-known company have its business practices dissected. Most likely, others are in a similar boat, but have yet to be the focus of such scrutiny. Improving practices now ensures humane treatment of workers and shorter times for delivery. The investment is a no-brainer.
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