Ok, so it turns out warehouse productivity may need improvement. But what could be done to resolve the issue of low productivity in the warehouse? Find ways to reduce inventory cost? Or how about increasing workers’ motivation? After all, there is little doubt about the correlation between motivation and productivity. Additionally, we know that the one thing that can make people accomplish exceptional success is motivation.
But let’s face it: We also know warehouse work is both tedious and strenuous. So how can you make a job fun even though most workers would probably call it a grind. What is it in us that makes us want to compete or vie to become better at what we are doing? And can games in the warehouse improve productivity?
Productivity gains through play
As an ex-teacher, I would suggest to turn this into a game. Because playing games is an innate desire we all have. Not so fast, you may be tempted to retort. Will that be all it takes? How could you seriously turn warehousing into a game that people enjoy playing? And would that really help improve productivity?
Well, Amazon has done it. What some may describe as warehouse Tetris boils down to workers registering to complete customer orders. They do so via an application on the small screen devices they work with. In other words: a video game in the warehouse in which they move robots, and register results via onsite scanners.
And despite the concerns critics may voice, this seems to spark workers’ ambition and help them perform better. But make no mistake about it: Motivation – not coercion – is the critical trigger here. But what if that were different? What if there was a rule that obliged you to play along in the warehouse productivity game? Would it still be a game? And more importantly, would it still generate results that make a difference?
Monitoring and privacy: a need for reassurance
Some observers may claim organizations have been analyzing worker’s behavior by the help of software and sensors for quite some time. However, these businesses most likely only endeavored to identify room for warehouse productivity improvement rather than merely surveilling their staff. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that this is a sensitive matter, which requires utmost care as you certainly must not infringe upon worker’s privacy. It also calls for an open culture that lets people know what is going on and provides encouragement for your workforce. It needs to be about the reassurance that you keep your workers in mind and strive to strengthen their role rather than constantly being on their tail. Skeptics may argue that this is just a pretext to introduce surveillance. However, workers seem to perform better with no negative impact on their morale when alerted about active monitoring tools being in place.
Does a worker’s age matter?
Playing games and attempting to deliver the best performance sounds a lot like it requires the teen spirit of the young. However, many businesses may have a more pressing issue to address: According to an OECD study, roughly 16 percent of Europe’s workforce will retire by 2050. That is twice as much as in the United States.
This does not mean that enterprises will run out of workers, but it foreshadows a scarcity that could amplify the current productivity dip. But who knows, maybe the assumption that younger workers are more productive and efficient by nature is not necessarily true to begin with. As a recently published field test by BMW demonstrated, aging workers can “breath new life into the labor market” as the Wall Street Journal put it. According to that story, senior workers are not only more reliable and produce better quality, they are also more flexible and mobile than their juvenile peers.
At the end of the day, technology plays a pivotal role in the context of making things more productive. But it will be essential to place the focus on the needs of the human worker so that technology can and will help strengthening their role. I may be biased, but I think wearable technology delivers precisely what it takes to meet these requirements.