How to Solve a Warehouse’s 3 Largest Labor Consuming Applications
Labor concerns are very pressing in the warehousing industry, as distribution centers frequently compete with one another for a limited number of workers. Filling warehouse jobs has become increasingly difficult, and the time-consuming nature of those jobs is costly. The good news is that by leveraging processes such as Conveyco’s LaboRxFIT process, warehouses can reduce anywhere between 50–80% of their labor.
This article overviews how to reduce labor, achieve organizational growth, and improve financial performance using Conveyco’s LaboRxFIT process.
Not sure which strategy makes the most sense for your operation? Book a meeting with a member of the Conveyco Team!
What are a warehouse’s largest labor-consuming applications?
1. Order Picking
Order picking is the top labor-consuming application in most fulfillment centers, comprising around 55% of a warehouse’s total labor. A large amount of labor in this segment is dedicated to what is known as the “walking search.” This term denotes the process of warehouse workers walking around the facility searching for inventory to retrieve. The time it takes to collect the right item and deliver it to the proper location is the reason this process consumes so much of a warehouse’s labor.
2. Case Cutting & Decanting
Case cutting and decanting processes are some of the biggest labor-consuming applications in a facility, but often fall under the radar as such. Box cutting and decanting can account for up to 25% of a facility’s total labor because of the time-consuming effort that is required to complete this simple task.
Case cutting involves giving warehouse employees box cutters to open boxes as they are moved from a pallet and taken to another station. Decanting is another labor-consuming process that involves taking the opened case and transferring the contents into a tote or another container. Today’s decanting technology allows inventory and innerpacks to be placed in cells (or locations) within a tote. This means multiple SKUs can be stored in the same container.
The filled tote or container is then transferred to an automated piece of equipment, storage, or forward picking. Accomplishing this process manually is a redundant and labor intensive process.
Manual case cutting also results in a large number of warehouse-related injuries. Repeated use of box cutters can lead to accidental injury and lacerations, costing warehouses time and money while injuring workers and the potential issues of litigation and OSHA.
The third top labor-consuming application is packing, which accounts for nearly 20% of labor. Packing is the process of placing inventory into the correct boxes and preparing it for shipping. This involves labeling the boxes and inserting any required documents such as advertisements, return labels, and more.
In addition to the time it takes to accomplish this process by hand, warehouses may also run into accuracy issues if the wrong document is put into the wrong package, or if a package is incorrectly labeled.
How Warehouse Automation Reduces Labor
1. Automated Order Picking
Using goods-to-person technologies such as shuttles, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), or automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) is one way that warehouses can drastically reduce the labor required to fulfill their operations. With goods-to-person automation, inventory is brought to the worker to eliminate the need to walk and search for inventory. Automated order picking incorporates software that guides the picking process and slotting, which creates a much improved process.
Automation can reduce your order picking labor requirements by up to two-thirds and drastically improves the accuracy of the order picking process.
2. Automated Case Cutting & Decanting
With automated case cutting, a module that includes a robotic arm cuts the lids of packages and transfers the item out. This improves productivity dramatically as the worker no longer needs to use a razor blade to remove the items. This also saves labor costs related to workplace injuries caused by lacerations.
Decanting can also be automated with a second module that uses a combination of robotic arms to remove items from their original case and place them in totes to feed automated systems—storage or forward pick areas. Incorporating a combination of these two modules into warehouse operations can save up to 80% of cutting- and decanting-related labor.
3. Automated Packing/Shipping System
Warehouses can reduce packing-related labor by up to 55% with an automated shipping process. Labeling, inserting documents, printing custom labels, and checking weight and dimensions of packages can all be automated to improve the efficiency of warehouse processes. This removes the element of an employee standing beside a conveyor with a stack of paper, improving accuracy and adding a verification element to the process. Warehouses can also automate weight and dimension checking, which can reduce costly dimensional weight surcharges.
Conveyco’s LaboRxFIT™ Process
Although warehouse automation is an excellent way to improve efficiency and decrease labor, it’s important to make sure that the solution is customized to meet the warehouse’s specific needs. LaboRxFIT is a 6-step process that helps warehouses evaluate their existing problems and find ways to solve labor-consuming applications through automation.
- Identify: The first step in this process is to review current labor utilization in critical applications to find the low-hanging fruit and the best areas to reduce labor.
- Analyze: Once the areas that need improvement are identified, the next step is to compare labor utilization with productivity and business case requirements to determine the best areas to pursue.
- Benchmark: Once the data has been analyzed, it’s important to apply best practices and benchmarks to your existing processes to find and exploit labor-saving opportunities.
- Engineer: The fourth step of the process is to design and engineer the identified solution in order to fix the problem.
- Implement: Once the solution has been designed, the next step is to install and implement the solution within the facility.
- Monitor: It’s important to continue to monitor the implementation through quarterly reviews to ensure that efficiencies are optimized.
Ultimately, there’s no “one-size fits all” solution to a warehouse’s labor-consuming applications. Applying Conveyco’s LaboRxFIT process can ensure that the solution implemented is well-suited for your facility’s specific needs.
Finding the RightFIT™ For Your Warehouse
Customer deadlines have become increasingly tight over the years, and warehouses that are unable to meet those expectations will find it difficult to stay competitive. The only way to keep up with these demands and stay ahead of the competition is to meet expectations and commitments (same/next day shipping, etc). This requires a reliable stream of labor. LaboRxFIT helps mitigate labor shortages and reduced performance capabilities that have impacted your organization’s growth and profitability.
The LaboRxFIT process is integrated into our RightFIT methodology to ensure the success of your warehouse operations. Conveyco’s RightFIT methodology is a 7-step process that helps determine the best way to optimize the efficiencies of your specific warehouse. The processes tie nicely with each other because the first step of the RightFIT methodology involves a deep-dive data analysis into your current operations to determine your current labor utilization and optimization opportunities.