Warehouses and distribution centers lose thousands of worker-hours of productivity each year due to inefficient processes that could be identified and corrected with appropriate high-tech workflow solutions, according to a survey of warehouse and DC managers released today.
The survey of 250 managers, commissioned by Everett, Wash.-based automatic identification equipment maker Intermec and conducted by research firm Vanson Bourne, found that in a typical eight-hour shift, each worker loses an average of 15 minutes of productivity because of process inefficiencies. For a small-to-mid-size warehouse staffed with 50 workers, that translates into 2,899 worker-hours a year in lost productivity. At larger organizations, the amount of unproductive time could be much higher, according to survey data.
Nearly 80 percent of the respondents said they have been asked to cut warehousing and DC costs, on average, by 19 percent. Most managers, in fact, know where the workflow inefficiencies lie, with "inventory control" and "picking" the leading areas where savings could be achieved.
Despite the mounting pressure to cut costs and their awareness of the problem areas, nearly one in three managers said they have not conducted a review of DC workflow processes in the past year, the survey found. The survey also found that companies are not proactive in ferreting out waste and inefficiency; of the managers that had not conducted a review, 71 percent said they would only do so if they were forced by compliance policies, poor performance reports, or a customer complaint.
Nearly 90 percent of managers surveyed said investment in new technology would allow them to improve worker productivity. About 60 percent of respondents said they could attain major time and cost-savings just by shaving seconds off workflow inefficiencies.
Examples of how to achieve this include having workers take fewer steps, investing in faster label printing and quicker bar-code label scanning, and eliminating battery changes in mid-shift, the survey said.
"Warehouse managers are faced with significant cost saving challenges, which means they can't afford to let such levels of time wastage continue," Bruce Stubbs, Intermec Industry Marketing Director for Distribution Center Operations, said in a statement accompanying the survey results. "Businesses should be looking at every workflow in detail on a regular basis to claim back the minutes and seconds they need to achieve these savings. As this research shows, reviewing their technology infrastructure may be the perfect place to start."