Survey Says? Warehouse Managers Must Get Mobile

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

In this environment, it’s 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 center 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 labor management systems (LMS) are effectively chaining managers to their desks, and preventing them from spending valuable time with associates. For example, 63 percent of respondents said lack of access to a computer keeps them from the warehouse floor, and 58 percent pointed to the need to review reports as another barrier against more associate engagement.

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’s essential that distribution center 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 percent of respondents said a mobile solution would increase their floor time by 50 percent or more, and an additional 28 percent indicated that mobile would free up at least 25 percent 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 percent)
  • Real-time data (33 percent)
  • Supervisor productivity (21 percent)
  • Exception management (19 percent)

In addition to recognizing the benefits of mobility, our survey results indicate that warehouse managers are well on their way to implementing these solutions. Eighty-one percent 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 percent)
  • Work management (85 percent)
  • Exception management (66 percent)
  • Labor requirements (49 percent)

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


Peter Schnorbach is the Senior Director of Product Management for Manhattan Associates.  Peter has responsibility for both Labor Management and Slotting Optimization and specializes in developing solutions to enable distribution professionals to increase productivity in their operations, particularly around labor. Peter has been instrumental in pushing the labor management to the forefront as a mainstream supply chain solution.  He has been interviewed extensively and has been quoted in publications such as Information Week, Supply Chain Executive and DC Velocity. He has spent 7 years focusing on labor management in supply chain.  Before joining Manhattan he was the Vice President of Product Marketing at RedPrairie.  Prior to that Peter spent 12 years in logistics positions at United Defense, Alliant Techsystems and Honeywell. Peter has a Law Degree from William Mitchell College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of St. Thomas.