When we are starting to develop a company we must remember the varied components that keep everything up and running. When we are building a business, it’s important that we support every aspect evenly. There are certain industries that can fall behind the times. One very notable example is the warehouse and manufacturing industry. Because there is such a wide variety of employees and components that need to operate with precision, employees’ needs can fall by the wayside. But at the same time, a factory environment can fall foul of the lower standards. So what does it take to look after our warehouse or factory, while also looking after our employees at the same time?
Learning to keep your work environment hazard-free is an ongoing practice. The organization is essential. But in order for an effective and efficient warehouse operation, it is important to maintain a regular approach to minimizing and preventing hazards. In one respect it’s about health and safety, but the other aspect is about looking to the future, and guaranteeing hazards are minimized in the long run. A very good example is reducing spillage. It is one of the biggest causes of injury in any warehouse environment. In order to reduce this aspect, consistent monitoring is crucial. When you monitor the facility efficiently, you can implement cleaning operations before an incident occurs. And as spillages are one of the most common issues, this in turn helps us to think about adequate drainage. When we implement something like this it’s not just for the benefit of running water away from the site, we can take inspiration from an airport drainage system and how it can minimize slope erosion and prevent the foundation from saturation and weakening over time. Taking a proactive approach to minimizing and preventing hazards will help the environment in the long run.
Running a Productive Production Line
We talk of a warehouse or factory, we will naturally think of the production line. When we have an efficient flow in place this is a hard thing to take off course. When it comes to running a productive production line, it’s about ensuring that the workforce is connected. A manufacturing workforce is disconnected, it reduces productivity but it also increases accidents, not to mention making life more difficult for workers and contributing to higher turnover rates. This means that we’ve got to learn how to motivate factory workers and turn the production line into a strong and efficient entity. We can do this through a handful of components:
- Encouraging communication from the bottom up
One of the biggest mistakes many businesses make is that their communications strategy is one way and comes from the wrong direction. When managers send information down to employees the vast majority do not expect a comeback. But when the information doesn’t go back up the corporate ladder, this greatly contributes to poor communication meaning that management never learns from the orders they give. Because a corporate ladder comprises more people at the bottom and fewer people at the top, it is like a pyramid. When you think that there are more people at the bottom of the pyramids there is a diverse range of knowledge and suggestions.
- Providing support in terms of skillset
One of the most telling signs of a disparity in skills in a factory setting is that the older workers are now retiring. As the baby boomers are leaving the workforce this leaves a significant amount of skills severely lacking. These are skills that need to be nurtured and developed over time. When organizations are shifting away from the traditional hands-on approach to manufacturing this is where support needs to be implemented. While technical knowledge is essential, it’s also important for business owners to invest in the development of their workforce. Once we incorporate training into the infrastructure, our employees will feel more emotionally invested in the business.
- Saving time and streamlining processes
Finding the information needed to do your job needs to be quick and easy. When an employee struggles to find the information they need it is demoralizing and demotivating. For decades individuals in the manufacturing environment had no way of finding the appropriate resources to do the job properly. Now with the integration of digital workplaces, employees are now able to access guidance and knowledge quickly. While this is done through appropriate tools and lean manufacturing methods, the best way of business will blend manufacturing and hands-on experience with the digital is to rely on communication. There’s no point in having these tools and less they are going to be used effectively.
- Focusing on fast knowledge transfer
In order to guarantee a high performing workforce, knowledge transfer is vital. However, many organizations don’t have a useful process. The process has to be scalable and systematic in order to guarantee that the knowledge is capturable. This is where creating a culture through digital enablement will facilitate continuous learning and growth, which helps to motivate your workforce while also giving them the adequate knowledge. It needs to be a continuous part of working life rather than it being about training once in a blue moon through the dreaded PowerPoint presentation. It’s also important to make knowledge accessible on a digital forum for easy storage and reference.
Hiring the Right Workers…
As obvious as it seems to hire the right workers, many warehouse operations can find it easier to hire many people. In one respect, this guarantees we always have people on-site, but when we are thinking about the long-term development of an individual we need to find someone that has the right qualities. When we look at someone who has relevant experience for example someone with a forklift qualification this may seem like a sure thing. But when we are trying to build up the culture of a factory or warehouse environment we have to incorporate a solid and sustainable mindset across the board. Many factories suffer from a fragmented approach. When employees feel disconnected and on their own, this will have a direct impact on productivity and, as already mentioned, staff turnover. Finding people with the right traits, but also people that have the adequate foundations are essential to building a company with the right approach. What are the best types of skills and traits staff members should have at the outset?
- Experience in harsh environments, especially as warehouses can get hot or cold regardless of the time of year.
- Skills in cross-checking as well as an understanding of inventory paperwork.
- Understanding ergonomics such as heavy lifting. Those that have a good understanding of body mechanics are less likely to injure themselves.
- Understanding problem solving and customer service. As customer service is an essential part of how a company connects to its customers, even if they do not speak to customers on a daily basis, it’s important to have a focus on the bigger picture.
…And Keeping Them Engaged
While finding the right people is crucial it’s important to remember that the working environment is labor-intensive, demanding, and repetitive regardless of the experience of the individual. This means that we’ve got to find approaches to keep our employees engaged. It’s not just about communication, but it’s about having a look at the bigger picture in a holistic manner. Many businesses now focus on culture and as we’ve already discussed, incorporating this into a manufacturing environment is not easy. It can be done through benefits and perks but long-term company culture and employee happiness are what will work to keep them motivated. In one respect, you can do this by trusting your employees more in addition to the communication. But you can also consider reaching out to younger workers for valued feedback. But as we’ve already mentioned, it’s important to incorporate communication between the upper and lower ranks. When you provide communication through ongoing feedback as well as discussing long-term career goals, as well as providing constructive criticism, this is the three-point plan to encourage workers in the long-run. We want to minimize employee turnover and communication is the most important area to focus on. While engagement is one of the most used components to increase productivity, it’s important to define this in a factory environment. But this is where employers need to determine their priorities and set an appropriate strategy.
Looking after your warehouse employees is not just about one method. While we need to cover so many different bases, it fundamentally boils down to providing peace of mind while also instigating the motivation we need to guarantee an efficient and productive environment. Looking after our employees is harder to do in a warehouse because it can be fragmented and disconnected but this means we need to work harder at implementing the right practices. Where this is being more focused on productivity, reducing hazards, or even hiring the right workers, we have to remember that with each component there is still a lot of essential work to be undertaken.