How to Get the Most Out of Your Labor Management System Using Engineered Labor Standards to Impact Warehouse Output
You were smart enough to invest in a tier one labor management system (LMS), but is your LMS smart enough to deliver the productivity you expected? Like any intelligent system, your LMS is only as smart as the quality of content you feed it and the ability to quantify that information.
Ask yourself, are you able to gauge fluctuating factors in your warehouse, such as pick density, case sizes, slotting arrangements and other variables? Or are you strictly measuring productivity based on cases or units per hour per worker?
The former pertains to engineered labor standards, which is just a more scientific way of saying multiple variable standards (MVS). The latter refers to a single variable standard (SVS), by which one metric, such as cases per hour, is expected to tell all.
If you’re like many LMS users, you may find the concept of MVS a bit confusing. If so, MVS is a form of work measurement designed to gauge the time it takes for a trained worker to accomplish a specific task to an acceptable level of performance. MVS uses engineered work-measurement techniques to derive fair and accurate productivity goals for warehouse workers based on variables fed from your warehouse management system (WMS). The more you dissect a warehouse task into its composite variables, the better you can test how subtle changes in a routine can create rapid improvements.
The Difference Between SVS and MVS
An SVS represents a static snapshot in time. You may be getting a worker to move 100 cases an hour today, but if a new line of product is introduced into the warehouse that doesn’t match the same size and weight as the cases used to set your 100-case metric, you will have to measure and input the new product data to arrive at a new performance goal. Every change in the routine requires another change in your SVS. Ad infinitum.
What’s more, because an SVS approach only accounts for one metric at a time, a host of other equally if not more important metrics are bypassed, leaving you largely in the dark. Using our cases per hour example, you would overlook travel distances involved, equipment used, or any other countless important variables involved in the task.
With an MVS, every task in your warehouse gets measured and input once. After that, regardless of what changes, your WMS has all the data it needs to inform your LMS of the expected outcomes. Work proceeds uninterrupted. You gain a running picture of performance standards in your warehouse. Your LMS suddenly becomes the smart support manager you knew it could be and serves as your platform for continuous improvement.
What to Measure
Training your LMS to be smart enough to deliver the productivity you expect can be a complex operation. Think of it like this. If your WMS is the brains behind your operation, your LMS serves as its reporter and interpreter. To operate effectively, your WMS must first learn each of your worker’s jobs in minute detail. Then, your LMS can offer intelligent assessments of warehouse activities to arrive at a fair assessment of worker output.
We recommend hiring a qualified, experienced engineer to assist with the input as a best practice. Some of the items you will want to quantify include:
- Warehouse layout and locations
- Travel distances
- Horizontal or vertical rack configurations
- Slotting arrangements
- Types and speeds of equipment
- Pick stations
- Case versus single unit picking
- Item, case and pallet sizes, weights and dimensions
- Packaging and handling requirements (i.e., value-added services)
- Temperatures (dry rooms, freezers, coolers, working conditions, etc.)
- Seasonal volumes
- Inventory mix
- Times of day
- And many others
As well, be sure to perform a full assessment of your workflow processes and an in-depth time study as part of your engineering survey. This will help you benchmark progress and uncover new areas for improvement, such as changing wave assignments to fit shifting warehouse conditions.
Any MVS data you input into your WMS will help your LMS intelligently render productivity scores based on realistic metrics. Best yet, as you learn more about your operation and make the necessary changes to improve, you won’t have to input further data to get an accurate read. That’s the beauty of MVS versus SVS. Once you’re set, you’re set.
The Benefits of Running Your LMS with MVS Input
By now, you can probably imagine many reasons why it pays to perform an engineered labor study to establish MVS on your WMS. Some of the benefits include:
- Increased throughput
- Proper and fair goal setting
- Appropriate shift staffing
- Reduced overtime hours
- Removal of subjectivity in employee performance evaluations
- Recognition of top employees
- Spotting areas for further training
- Setting reasonable pay incentives
- Improved employee morale
- Solving bottlenecks through informed modifications
Give your LMS the data it needs to function optimally with MVS. That one-time investment of effort will pay dividends on your road to continuous improvement.
Jason Milbrandt, Senior Director, Client Services brings over 20 years of engineering and labor management system experience across retail, food and beverage and healthcare industries to Open Sky Group. Jason’s focus is leading the labor management practice, driving teams to deliver exceptional results in productivity and incentive programs for clients. Open Sky Group’s mission is to deliver solutions that allow our customers to achieve more, often with less, while having the flexibility to adapt to change. Jason lives that mission focusing on labor management solutions that improve warehouse performance, providing the best results for our clients.
Open Sky Group, global specialists in the Blue Yonder supply chain solutions (formerly JDA RedPrairie Software), helps companies like yours implement and upgrade warehouse, labor and transportation management systems. To learn more, visit Open Sky Group today.
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