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Warehouse Managers Must Get Mobile

Warehouse Managers Must Get Mobile





By William Chaylis, Regional Sales Manager of Southeast Asia, Manhattan Associates

Today’s warehouse managers face many challenges, not the least of which are meeting higher service levels and operational cost constraints.

In this environment, it is more important than ever that managers spend time on the floor, managing associates to drive optimal levels of productivity and monitoring work throughout the warehouse. This represents a difficult balancing act, however, as distribution centre managers and supervisors traditionally lack access to critical real-time data anywhere but the office.

With this issue in mind, Manhattan Associates recently conducted a survey of supply chain executives and managers to better understand their struggle—and how mobile tools may be able to alleviate the challenges. The findings underscore that legacy PC-based labour management systems (LMS) are effectively chaining managers to their desks, and preventing them from spending valuable time with associates. For example, 63 per cent of respondents said lack of access to a computer keeps them from the warehouse floor, and 58 per cent pointed to the need to review reports as another barrier against more associate engagement.

Immediacy is key

Numerous studies have documented that employees are more productive when given frequent, real-time feedback on their performance, and how their work aligns with broader company goals. As such, it is essential that distribution centre managers break out of the back-office for good, or risk poor morale and warehouse throughput.

According to Manhattan Associates’ survey, increased mobility could address these challenges. Thirty-three per cent of respondents said a mobile solution would increase their floor time by 50 per cent or more, and an additional 28 per cent indicated that mobile would free up at least 25 per cent more time for on-site activities. In keeping with these findings, respondents reported that greater engagement is the chief benefit of providing managers with mobile tools. Additional advantages include:

• Increased oversight (42 per cent)

• Real-time data (33 per cent)

• Supervisor productivity (21 per cent)

• Exception management (19 per cent)

Mobile future is bright

In addition to recognising the benefits of mobility, the survey results indicate that warehouse managers are well on their way to implementing these solutions. Eightyone per cent of respondents said they either currently have mobile capabilities for managers, or have plans to deploy them in the near-term. Among the most desired functions in a mobile app were:

• Employee productivity (85 per cent)

• Work management (85 per cent)

• Exception management (66 per cent)

• Labour requirements (49 per cent)

It is evident that mobile solutions enable warehouse managers to spend much needed time engaging with employees without sacrificing reporting requirements or other equally critical responsibilities.

To help distribution managers and staff alike break away from their desktops and be more engaged and effective in the warehouse, Manhattan Associates launched its own Mobile Distribution Management solution earlier this year. The Manhattan solution provides everything warehouse managers need to interact and effect change among employees and execute tasks out on the warehouse floor. Combining data and functionality from Manhattan’s Warehouse Management and Labour Management solutions, Mobile Distribution Management allows warehouse and distribution managers to:

• Systematically record active interactions with employees, including observations and performance measurements

• Review work in the warehouse by wave, job function and task/activity

• Put a task on hold, re-prioritise a task, assign a task to an employee or release a set of tasks to be completed

• Monitor, plan and forecast work in realtime

• Track the status for a particular customer, including order look-ups and wave progress

While Labour Management and Warehouse Management Solutions have long been integrated, sharing performance data in person with employees was limited to static reports run at infrequent intervals. Mobile management, however, improves the manager/employee interaction by connecting both parties to performance reports in real time.

Intelligent decision

With mobile solutions, managers can also update information while an operational change is being made, and potentially reverse changes quickly to avoid work stoppages. Examples of active capabilities include task reprioritisation, release and reassignment. Outbound tasks in particular have the potential to benefit the most due to their high complexity and rapid pace.

Supervisors can send real-time metrics (e.g. picking and packing rates by team or individual members; rankings; actual versus goal performance) via display screens and desktop dashboards to employees on the warehouse floor. This enables them to make better decisions in real time. The data also can be pushed to mobile devices, enabling management to monitor activity from any location or through pre-set, threshold alert notifications.

What is the market’s understanding of mobile supply chain management?

Engagement and communication techniques in the warehouse were traditionally centred on decidedly low-tech items, like bulletin boards and newsletters. With the increasing adoption of technology in the warehouse, big screen television sets for example, companies are introducing some great new ways to facilitate informational flow with minimal work. Large 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 anytime while integrating both quantitative and qualitative data.

With mobile phones and tablets entering the scene also and showing up on the warehouse floor, mobility is having a huge impact on warehouse management. With a continuous drive for greater efficiency, improved productivity and enhanced service levels by companies in the Southeast Asia region, mobile is becoming a major focus for supply chain infrastructure upgrades and this should remain the case for many years to come.