Exploring 21st Century Distribution Management

By Peter Schnorbach,
Exploring 21st Century Distribution Management

Earlier this month I took part in a DC Velocity webinar titled 21st Century Distribution Management – A New Way to Monitor Work and People.

In it, we delved into some of the traditional employee engagement techniques in the warehouse, how mobile technology is impacting the future of warehouse management, and what 21st century distribution management looks like. Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways.

What's Worked In The Past

Traditional engagement and communication techniques in the warehouse are centered around decidedly low-tech items, like bulletin boards and newsletters. With the increasing adoption of technology in the warehouse, however, we’re beginning to see that change. Big screen TVs, for example, are popping up in some facilities and are proving to be a great way to facilitate informational flow with minimal work. The screens broadcast details like top performers on the floor and the most current KPIs, so that everyone is on the same page. This enables managers to make information available anywhere and any time while integrating both quantitative and qualitative data.

The Promise Of Mobility

Tablets are also entering the scene and showing up on the warehouse floor. 

In fact, mobility is having a huge impact on warehouse management. To get a sense of how mobility impacts the space, Manhattan recently conducted a study called Unbound, which looksat mobility and the modern distribution manager. I explore the results of the study in a recent post, but the main takeaway is clear: mobile technology promotes productivity in the warehouse. It allows managers to get out on the floor and interact with their staff, versus being tethered to a desktop computer in an office. This also frees up managers’ time for more on-site activities and fosters greater engagement across the team.

Gaming The Warehouse

Gamification elements are also making their way into labor management systems (LMS). Again, I explore this concept in greater depth in a different post, but in short, gamification techniques help to incentivize employees and promote greater productivity through friendly competition and recognition. Everyone wants a pat on the back and some positive feedback to help know when and where we’re improving – it’s what drives us as humans. Gamification can help deliver this positive reinforcement.

No matter what elements you choose to utilize, effective 21st century distribution management systems have a few key characteristics in common:

  • Intelligence: today’s labor management systems must be intelligent enough to identify and expose labor challenges and accomplishments
  • Collaboration: effective management systems must provide real-time feedback, coaching and recognition
  • Personalization: what one supervisor is concerned about may differ greatly from what another supervisor worries about – one size does not fit all
  • Mobility: managers must be able to action information easily, anytime, from anywhere. This means information must be accessible in real-time in an easy to use, intuitive way

Distribution and labor management have certainly come leaps and bounds in recent years, and the future of the space is exciting and bright. The increasing adoption of mobile devices in the warehouse promises great things in terms of improved productivity and engagement across the warehouse. 

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