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Attracting a New Generation of Warehouse Workers


Attracting a New Generation of Warehouse Workers

One of the biggest problems facing the warehousing industry today is the shortage in warehouse workers. Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that the warehousing industry needed to fill roughly 450,000 jobs. Since then, the shortage has dramatically increased. 


As the world moves past the pandemic it is only natural for more workers to be hired, but the solution to the original problem was never resolved. The solution to a warehouse worker shortage lies in WMS and automation to attract a new generation of Workers.

Generational Differences


The Department of Labor Statistics released a study that shows the average tenure of individuals between the ages of 18-19 is 0.8 years, 20-24 is 1.3 years, and 25-34 is 2.3 years. This data shows Millennials and Generation Z are not inclined to work in warehouses. Within the next few years, kids who were born the same year as the first iPhone was released will enter the workforce. People who have only ever known touch screen cell phones will be applying for jobs in your warehouse.

To attract a generation of individuals who have lived with technology their entire lives you must offer them a place to work that does not leave them mentally exhausted, eases their labor with the assistance of safe technology and gives them a place to be proud to work.


Cameron Coffee Warehouse Efficiency


Cameron’s Coffee is a coffee roasting, packaging, and distribution company that receives its coffee beans from South America, stores them in Minnesota, and ships them to hundreds of stores across the country. They originally had a paper-only warehouse where individuals had to manually check and encode items.

They decided to update their warehouse and use a combination of the SOLOCHAIN WMS and MES that directly tied in their ERP. With the addition of the software coupled with iPads and handheld devices the efficiency of the warehouse skyrocketed leading to the growth of sales by 50%, e-commerce growth by 200% and 25% expansion of the warehouse.

With the new software and iPads, the workers efficiency and happiness also increased, due to a reduction in the time required to complete their jobs, the new technology and increased independence.


Updating Your Warehouse is Good for Employees


Choosing a WMS to update your warehouse, will not only lead to efficiency gains but will lead to an overall boost in employee morale. The more you reduce the mental and physical strain on your employees the happier they will be. Utilizing technologies that younger staff is comfortable with such as iPads and touch screen devices will make them more comfortable at work. Implementing voice commands into your warehouse will relieve the workers of the mental strain and lead to an increase in productivity.

Creating a smart warehouse and considering what the employee wants will decrease the rate of people leaving your warehouse and decrease the amount of time spent training new hires. It is important that you begin to consider employee happiness and retention when deciding to upgrade your warehouse.

Generix Group North America provides a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. From Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and more, software platforms can deliver a wide range of benefits that ultimately flow to the warehouse operator’s bottom line. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.


This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.


Rise of the Machines: Two Factors Driving Automation

Today I want to talk a little about automation. I’ve talked earlier about the future of work, and there are some obvious trends like remote work and digital transformation. But automation is a significantly growing field, especially in retail markets. Trends in the industry respond to market pressures that affect the supply of and demand for labor. When human labor is cheap, automation will be used less. When human labor is scarce or expensive, automation will be used more. Today, I want to focus on two key market pressures that are driving demand for more automation.

First, declining birth rates are signaling potential labor shortages in the future. According to the CDC, in 2020, the total fertility rate (TFR) for the U.S. dropped to 1637.5 births per 1000 women, a decline of 4% compared to 2019. While some might blame the pandemic for the decrease, the 2020 number follows a downward trend that started in the 1970s. With fertility below the replacement rate of 2100 births per 1000 women, the U.S. labor force may be starting to decline. With an aging population and fewer workers, companies will likely be forced to increase automation or increase pay to attract and retain employees.

Second, rising labor costs are already encouraging companies to experiment with more automation. Depending on which pundit you ask, you will get very different answers as to why labor costs are rising now, but whatever the reason, businesses are grappling with higher personnel costs. As an article in Forbes recently noted, “The law of supply and demand says this scarcity makes existing workers more valuable, letting them insist on higher pay and better conditions.” As a result, some companies are turning to automation.  Fast-food chains are experimenting with automated fry cooks. The drive-thru is also poised to see more automation. Other experiments include cashier-less grocery stores and last-mile delivery.

Retail automation, therefore, seems poised for growth, but automation likely will not be a good fit for every job. Peanut the robot, for example, demonstrates that automation cannot effectively replace wait staff yet, but you may have noticed an increase in self-checkout lines in many stores. Kiosk ordering at restaurants has also been rising in popularity over the last few years, and as noted above, fast-food restaurants are experimenting with highly automated systems. In many cases, automation has the advantage of driving down operating costs. Robotic systems, for example, may have high capital costs, but they do not tire or want health benefits like human workers. Therefore, robotic systems can reduce long-term costs and save companies money.

All of these automation systems build on technology trends that have been growing for years: voice recognition, touchscreen interfaces, online shopping, and robotics, to name a few. Companies investing in these spaces will likely do well once retail automation really takes off. Some may worry that automation will eliminate jobs, but that likely will not become a serious problem. Throughout history, automation has eliminated some jobs while creating others.  I recommend worrying less about the jobs that automation will eliminate and instead focusing on what new kinds of jobs will be enabled by the new technologies.


Louis Lehot is an emerging growth company, venture capital, and M&A lawyer at Foley & Lardner in Silicon Valley. Louis spends his time providing entrepreneurs, innovative companies, and investors with practical and commercial legal strategies and solutions at all stages of growth, from the garage to global.



Skills of the Trade: Asphalt Technologists Wanted

There are 2.2 million miles of roads and highways that criss-cross the United States. Chances are that you’ve never thought about the blacktop asphalt beneath your wheels as you drive across the country, the state or to your local grocery store.

Asphalt is, however, the obsession of Allen Miller, who works at the Cedar Mountain Stone Corporation in Culpeper, Virginia, as one of five apprentices learning industrial maintenance and the emerging discipline of “asphalt technology.” Under the tutelage of a mentor at the company, Miller spends his days learning how to operate the asphalt plant that operates 24-7 at Cedar Mountain’s vast quarry during construction season; how to formulate asphalt so that it can withstand 20 years of freezes, thaws and the weight of thousands of tractor-trailers every day, and how to test it so that the quality of the state’s roadways passes the standards of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

“We have to have certain gradations of stone, the right amount of dust, and not too much asphalt binder in it,” said Ed Dalrymple, Miller’s boss and the fourth-generation owner of Cedar Mountain Stone Corporation. “If we have all of that in the right proportions, the road’s going to last.” Moreover, under VDOT’s pay-for-performance requirements, well-built roads earn a bonus, while inferior blacktop will cost the company penalties. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are potentially at stake, which means Dalrymple is counting on Miller to do his job right. On any given day, you might see Miller out drilling core samples from freshly laid road beds, watching the computerized control panels monitoring the moisture levels of asphalt being mixed at the plant or taking 20-pound samples of asphalt to the on-site laboratory for analysis.

More Than Half of New Jobs Are “Middle-Skill” Jobs

Miller’s job may sound obscure, but it is one of millions of so-called “middle-skill” jobs – well-paying jobs that require post-secondary education and credentials but not a four-year degree – that have remained steadily in demand among employers. According to the National Skills Coalition, 52 percent of job openings are “middle skill” jobs, in fields as varied as construction, health care, information technology and a host of other fields.

Globalization and the rise of technologies such as automation have ushered in myriad anxieties about worker displacement, stagnant wages, and the loss of low-skilled jobs. The steady presence of middle-skill jobs could prove a potent buffer against these worries. For one thing, many middle-skill positions are in fields that cannot be easily outsourced or automated, such as construction, or where demand is growing, such as health care, thanks to the aging of the Baby Boom generation.

TradeVistas | More Than Half of New Jobs Are “Middle-Skill” Jobs

But Less than Half of U.S. Workers are Trained Up to the Middle Level

Moreover, there is a shortage of workers with the right skills and training to fill all of the middle skill opportunities currently available. Despite the prominence of middle-skill jobs as a share of the economy, the National Skills Coalition also reports that just 43 percent of U.S. workers are trained up to the middle level. This means that thousands of U.S. workers are potentially missing out on opportunities to earn good wages and move ahead in their careers. At the same time, employers are losing opportunities to grow their businesses.

Promoting middle-skill jobs – such as through apprenticeships, dual enrollment at high schools and community colleges and employer-sponsored training – would not only help businesses find the workers they need, it would create new opportunities for workers to get ahead without requiring the time and financial commitment of a four-year degree that ultimately may or may not have market value. The U.S. federal government could also help create millions of new middle-skill jobs by passing an infrastructure bill, which President Donald Trump and both political parties agree should be a top priority. According to a 2017 report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create as many as 11 million jobs over the next 10 years while creating high demand for workers such as welders, “concrete strength-testing technicians,” construction managers, and construction health and safety technicians – all jobs that require a post-secondary credential but not necessarily a four-year degree.

Which takes us back to Allen Miller.

At the end of his four-year apprenticeship with Cedar Mountain Stone, Miller will hold a journeyman’s license in industrial maintenance as well as an associate’s degree from nearby Germanna Community College. In addition, he’ll hold a certificate in “asphalt technology” issued by the Virginia Asphalt Association, the trade association for the state’s road construction industry. He could stay at Cedar Mountain Stone or go elsewhere. Either way, he is destined to make a comfortable living that approaches six figures. He will also achieve this without a cent in student loans. “I’m going to be done with no debt, and I’m getting valuable on the job training along the way,” he said. “It’s working out great for me.”

As policymakers look for strategies to help the U.S. workforce adapt to the global economy, Allen Miller might be the model for the kind of worker the U.S. economy needs more of to succeed.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of July 2020. Since the original publication of this article, Allen received an Associate’s Degree from Germanna Community College in December 2019. He continues to work for Cedar Mountain Stone and is teaching night classes in asphalt technology to the next generation of apprentices.


Anne Kim

Anne Kim is a contributing editor to Washington Monthly and the author of Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection, forthcoming in 2020 from the New Press. Her writings on economic opportunity, social policy, and higher education have appeared in numerous national outlets, including the Washington Monthly, the Washington Post, Governing and, among others. She is a veteran of the think tanks the Progressive Policy Institute and Third Way as well as of Capitol Hill, where she worked for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). Anne has a law degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.