Supply Chain Commentary: Boost Productivity, Efficiency, and Security in Your Warehouse

Smoothly running logistics—a key factor in successful warehouse operations—depends on a three-legged stool of productivity, efficiency, and secure operations. Today, software underpins many warehouse functions, giving leaders a new source of productivity and efficiency insights—and a new concern for corporate security.

Measuring and Optimizing Productivity

Optimizing labor productivity is the number one goal within warehouse operations. Increasingly today, this means measuring employee output when using technology solutions such as warehouse and inventory management applications. Businesses need to obtain insights on technology-based productivity and use this data to further drive productivity.

First, you must have a starting point to measure and then improve. Take a snapshot of current productivity. What options are available within your warehouse and inventory management systems to track employee output? You may be able to determine insights from application reporting or logging within the application. Alternately, user monitoring software can provide information on application use, active vs. idle time, and similar productivity measurements.

Armed with data, you have several possible actions:

  • Identify employees who are top performers. Beyond the obvious rewards you might share with high-performing employees, you may discover techniques these employees use that can be shared with the team.
  • Identify where you might have overworked employees, and find ways to redistribute work more evenly among the team.
  • Identify employees who are lagging in performance, and determine if this is a result of unproductive behavior or an issue that could be solved with additional training on the application.
  • Embrace the competitive nature of many employees: Consider establishing a ‘leaderboard’ on the floor so employees can measure themselves against peers.

Productivity measurements based on application throughput provide another benefit as it can form the basis for fair and equitable performance-based compensation.

Efficiency Tips

Beyond productivity measurements, examining in greater detail how your employees are using your software applications is another way to enhance operations. This involves going beyond the transactions-completed perspective and looking at interactions from a process and usability perspective.

What errors are being captured in the applications’ logs? Errors are often an indicator of the need for further software training.

What issues and questions are being reported to your IT help desk? Reducing help desk tickets helps to drive efficiency and, here again, this may signal an opportunity for further training.

Among your high-performing employees, what actions are they taking to achieve high output? By looking at how high performers are using the applications to complete tasks, you can derive insights that might deliver greater efficiency across all team members.

Finally, go to the source: Periodically gather the team to ask for feedback on the software, identify what’s working (or not), and gather suggestions to streamline processes within your software.

Security Tips

Protecting inventory and securing the physical space of the warehouse have long been central priorities for organizations. The rise of software is requiring organizations to spend equal time and effort in cyber security. You must now take steps to protect valuable data in your network—your information and that of your customers, and be vigilant about the security of your supply chain.

To ensure security in the warehouse—and vet the security of your supply chain—consider these recommendations:

  • Ensure your warehouse employees understand the security policies and guidelines you’ve implemented to ensure data security. Periodic cyber security emails and face-to-face team meetings provide opportunities to reinforce security practices.
  • Limit who has access to critical data. Evaluate the roles in your warehouse, and segregate the data based on who needs to access the data to do their job.
  • Assess the risk within your supply chain: The supply chain was Ground Zero for significant breaches at Target and Home Depot. Ensure you are addressing information risk management in your procurement and vendor management processes.

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