There’s no mistaking the fact that small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. 47% of all em- ployees in the United States, or 60 million people, are mployed by small businesses. Small business ownerscreate two-thirds of net new jobs and are responsible for drivingnearly 44% of economic activity in the country. Often overlookedas technology leaders, small businesses are rapidly changing thatperception as many—especially small warehouse operators—prepare for the second e-commerce-driven holiday season.
Analysts predict that e-commerce will generate 18.9% of holidayretail sales in 2021. As more consumers do their shopping online,supply chain challenges are expected to continue adding pressureto an already stressed workforce. Smaller warehouse operators areincreasingly embracing technology and augmenting workers withautomated technology solutions. Their ultimate goals are to boosthiring and employee retention, automate smart workflows, improveinventory visibility and management, and protect both operationsand customer data with enhanced cybersecurity measures.
THE WAREHOUSE RECRUITMENT CHALLENGE
Despite more people entering the workforce, warehouses of allsizes face a labor shortage that threatens output and, eventually,customer satisfaction. In Zebra’s most recent Warehousing VisionStudy, 60% of surveyed IT and operational decision-makers citedrecruitment as a significant operational challenge.
Many larger companies may be leveraging perks like signing bonuses, subsidized education, and higher wages to attract new talent,creating stiff competition for the average small business looking tohire. Technology can be a differentiating factor for small- and medi-um-size warehouses in attracting and retaining talent. This differentiation is even more salient as the existing workforce ages and digitalnatives come to the fore. Prospective employees expect a tech-en-abled workplace because they already depend on mobile devices andconstant connectivity in their personal lives.
These expectations often translate to jobseekers choosingworkplaces where they can rely on technology to improve theirproductivity and make everyday tasks easier to complete. Warehouse leaders reported that it takes an average of 4. 5 weeks forworkers to reach full productivity. Mobile devices and task-spe-cific applications can speed up and supplement the training process, getting new employees up to speed faster.
Satisfied and supported employees also tendto be more invested in the company and their individual performance. While physical safety remains paramount in the warehouse environment,new priorities have arisen in the wake of the pandemic. Technology plays a vital role in keepingfront-line workers safe and healthy.
Many operators of small warehouses are optimizing their workers’ mobile computers, tabletsand wearables for the current pandemic realitywith software that monitors social distancing toalert them—and managers—when they are tooclose to others for an extended length of time.These operators are also opting more for ruggeddevices that can stand up to intense sanitization.Most devices in the warehouse are used by different workers throughout the day, so they mustbe cleaned often which, at a minimum, would bebefore and after workers check them out at thestart and end of a shift.
In today’s forward-thinking warehouse andlogistics environments, front-line workers areinvaluable. They are also much more than justwarehouse employees in the traditional sense—they’re tech operatives as well. The devices workers use may not require coding or extra school
The Time for Digitalization Has Arrived
As warehouses prepare for the holidays, even small steps toward digitalization can have a significant impact on operations.
By Amanda Honig
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