Gamifying Logistics

Our supply chain applications have made giant strides forward in usability in the last several years. There are improved user interfaces, real time alerts and analytics, social media capabilities, and better supply chain visibility (with Google maps, telematics). But supply chain applications have not applied gamification principals.

Games are engaging, encouraging, rewarding, competitive and collaborative at the same time. They provide an inherent way to collaborate, make enthusiastic attempts after failures, innovate, and take up the challenge to solve the most difficult problems which is difficult in a real world. This is exactly what an employee is expected to deliver in a work environment.

Harnessing the power of a game in business context is not easy. It requires a lot of effort in the design process. All games are not engaging just because they are games. Similarly, games inspired for businesses can be boring if not designed well. Secondly, understanding the nuances of a business strategy and mapping it with the desired gaming outcome is a tough task.

Employee training may be the area where gamification offers the biggest opportunities.  Complex supply chain applications can be taught to new employees in small, engaging, digestible blocks of learning.  As they learn, users get points and get to move to higher levels.  A block they performed badly on, can be replayed.  It may be that companies don’t hire new employees until they have shown good progress on a learning program.  Duolingo, an online tool for learning languages, offers a good example of gamification design harnessed to learning.

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Using gamification concepts where players are pitted against each other is more delicate, particularly if they are doing physical labor.  You don’t want employees being accused of being quota busters and making other employers look bad.  If gamification can be achieved in a fun and engaging way, if the business culture is not too overbearing, gamification can work.

In the warehouse, labor management systems based upon granular labor standards already have the mechanism in place to accurately and fairly calculate how pickers are doing against labor standards. If groups of pickers are made into a team and scores are posted on a public board; if there are fun beeps and graphics and the winning team gets to celebrate with a free Pizza lunch at week’s end; and if the same team does not win every week, then productivity and fun can go hand in hand. But ARC is also a proponent of paying bonuses based upon exceeding standards. And exceeding standards cannot be achieved at the sake of safety.

Among planners doing similar tasks, like fleet planners, gamification has fewer risks. But again, it must be kept fun.

In some regions of the world, an older generation is getting ready to retire, and there don’t appear to be enough young people with the right skills to replace that generation.  Gamification may be part of the answer.