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Research shows there are currently over 2,025,059 individuals employed in the warehousing industry in the United States. These workers have an average age of 39 with an average annual salary of $32,677. While over 82 percent of warehouse workers are male, it is only one of a handful of industries with gender pay equity, with female warehouse workers reportedly making 99 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2021.
Warehouse workers need to possess a range of skills to find success in the workplace, including time efficiency, attention to detail, and the ability to quickly sort and organize products and information. However, the warehousing industry is changing fast. Many companies are automating key aspects of the supply chain to improve efficiency. But instead of replacing workers, companies need workers to manage and operate these machines to keep products moving. Warehouse workers of the future will need to possess highly technical skills as the supply chain continues to evolve.
Demand for warehouse workers is at an all-time high in many parts of the country but it’s not clear if the U.S. has enough workers to fill in the gaps. Promoting and training existing employees is often cheaper and more efficient than hiring someone new. If you are having trouble hiring workers or thinking about updating your operations, focus on instilling the following skills in your employees to help them rise to the occasion:
Types of Warehouse Jobs
Lots of different workers are needed to fulfill orders in most warehouse settings. If you run a small business with less than a hundred employees, your workers may need to take on multiple roles throughout the day.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down the warehouse labor workforce into the following categories:
- Industrial truck and tractor operators
- Laborers and freight, stock and material movers
- Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks
- Stock clerks and order fillers
- Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
Technology and Digital Workflows
Many companies in the industry use or are in the process of implementing an automated warehouse system. Every item/order gets logged into the system for accurate inventory management. Workers will need to learn how to use the company’s preferred software system when fulfilling orders. This may include scanning items, manually updating digital records, and troubleshooting technical problems.
The good news is that most people own a computer or smartphone, but many rural areas do not have access to the internet, which can make it difficult to find workers proficient in this technology.
The warehouse management system will produce large volumes of data. Workers should be able to keep track of and differentiate between different SKUs and order numbers when navigating the software.
You can simplify the training process by selecting a user-friendly WMS with an intuitive interface. Workers should be able to select from a series of preselected options when updating orders. The system automatically collects data based on the latest order information as well. You will also need to hire IT specialists or choose a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider with reliable customer service so your workers can quickly resolve issues as they arise.
Working in a warehouse can be dangerous, especially when workers are required to physically lift or move items by hand. There were 21 injuries for every 100 full-time employees in the warehouse and storage industry in 2020, a slight decrease from the years before.
Workers should know how to safely lift containers using their legs and back to prevent muscle aches and long-term pain. It’s best to have your workers move items with a forklift or lift truck whenever possible to improve the ergonomics of your workplace. Store your goods in a pallet container to make them easier to move. Your workers must know how to safely operate this equipment without over-stacking or improperly packing items when moving loads from one side of the facility to another.
You can use your warehouse management system to keep your workers on track throughout the day. Voice and light-to-pick systems automatically direct your workers to certain products using the most efficient picking path. Automated instructions will also help them keep track of important information when fulfilling orders and sending your containers out for delivery.
Flexibility and Prioritization
The average workday in the warehousing industry can be anything but predictable. Orders come in 24/7 and customers want their products faster than ever before. Your workers may need to switch from one task to another as changes arise. A customer may change their order at the last minute, while another person requests an express delivery. Workers will need to balance a range of different tasks while managing their time effectively.
This requires workers to be light on their feet. They will need to use their instincts when setting their priorities for the day and deciding how to spend their time. The warehouse management system can direct the worker throughout the day so they don’t have to worry about falling behind on urgent requests.
Technology is changing the warehousing industry for the better. Workers need more advanced skills to survive in the business, but these devices and programs can also help them avoid certain pitfalls that come with the job. Good behavior starts at the top. Lead by example and use your management skills to set the right tone for your organization.