A massive shift to digital solutions is now well underway in warehousing but, as more companies make the move from manual to automated processes, do we risk leaving our employees behind?
Bosses need to prepare their staff accordingly to embrace new technology as an opportunity, rather than perceive it as a threat. It takes both clear communication and a willingness to learn – and especially around the cultural shift to slick, best-of-breed WMS from an onerous and manual paper-based system.
At SnapFulfil, we’ve supported many clients in the journey away from paper-based warehouse management. In many ways, implementing the operational improvements is the most straightforward element of the transition to a WMS. Bringing your people along with you is more nuanced. Warehouse operatives will be used to a certain way of working and will need to truly understand the benefit of change and feel fully supported throughout the journey.
One of our clients summed up the challenge perfectly, suggesting that introducing a warehouse operative to a tier 1 WMS without the proper support is: “like putting people used to driving a Ford Fiesta into a F1 car and expecting them to figure it out!” So it pays to plan ahead and create internal comms and strategies to win the hearts and minds of managers and operators who cling to the old and established (but highly inefficient) ways and resist change.
Any change management plan worth its salt must identify and communicate the obvious benefits in a meaningful way, so for me the following four established fundamentals go a long way toward achieving buy-in from your employees: Formalise what’s about to happen – start by developing a list of actions you have to take before implementing the WMS, including all the digital advancements, new dashboards and other systematic procedures you’ll need to learn.
Then define the change itself for all levels of staff to build a clear picture of the training and pre-emptive support required to get everyone on the same page.
Determine what to measure and how – state your goals clearly and also break them down relative to change management. How quickly do you want teams to start using the new system? What measurements are required after you implement a phase of the project? How can you ascertain if someone is using the software correctly?
Narrowing each big goal into a small measurable piece for each position helps you ensure that you’ve thought about the WMS holistically and are ready for the knock-on effects it may have. For example, more efficient workers mean inventory and accuracy both improve, with less time required to fix miss-picks and address performance issues, creating more opportunities to explore further cost-saving improvements.
Prioritise help and support – your team will have concerns and questions along the way, so providing a feedback tool is essential. You’ll also need to communicate that feedback to everyone involved. For example, consider setting up a series of online informational sessions, or lunch & learns, to build an open line of communication between management and your pick, pack and ship teams.
Promote training and professional development – help employees develop new skill sets to manage these more advanced WMS solutions. Providing training sessions is a great way to show you’re investing in people as well as technology and will help increase employee satisfaction and performance, as well as preparing them for their new roles.
In short, make it easy for your staff to ask for help and you’ve got the best chance of getting ahead of any implementation and adoption issues.
This along with proper planning, communication and investment will help speed your warehouse operations – and your employees – into this here-to-stay and rewarding age of digital fulfilment.
By SnapFulfil CEO, Tony Dobson