Okay, so the title of this blog post is deliberately misleading. It’s not about how to keep your warehouse workforce fit by having them run around the site perimeter and perform pull-ups on your racking cross-beams, although you might have employees who could benefit from such exercise.
Actually, I’m going to share some thoughts and ideas about cross-training a warehouse workforce, something which gets talked about more often than implemented. It’s a shame that more companies don’t take action to cross-train warehouse employees, because the benefits of doing so are many.
It’s not as if the costs involved have to be prohibitive, especially if a little creative thinking is applied to the training strategy. In a future post I’ll share some tips for planning and executing a cross training program, but for now let’s focus on the benefits.
5 Key benefits of a Cross-trained Warehouse Workforce
The beauty of warehouse workforce cross-training is that it’s a win-win initiative, or maybe a win-win-win initiative, offering benefits to your company, your warehouse employees, and potentially, your company’s customers too. To qualify why that’s so, here are five key reasons to get your warehouse workforce cross fit.
1. Reduced impacts from employee absence
When your warehouse workforce is “cross-fit”, you will be better able to cover an absent employee by substituting somebody from a less-busy shift or another warehouse function, knowing that the substitute has the skills and knowledge to stand in for a while.
2. More variety in your employees’ lives
Quite a few warehouse activities are repetitive and can become monotonous after a while. In a cross-fit warehouse workforce, employees can be cycled through different tasks over a period of time, increasing their engagement by providing them with some variety.
3. Greater visibility of the bigger picture
In a cross-fit warehouse workforce, people see how their tasks fit into the bigger picture, how their working practices and outcomes impact others, and why for example, it’s better to slow down and pick every order right first time than to be super-fast at the expense of picking accuracy.
4. A better balanced workflow
Got an influx of goods-in due to a stock-build? Shift some cross-trained pickers and deploy them on put-away for a while. Orders flying out in response to a promotion? Augment your picking teams with one or two yard operatives. Cross training makes it much easier to meet unexpected workflow fluctuations without the expense of hiring temporary labour.
5. Improved employee retention
Because cross-training equips warehouse staff with a broader range of skills, employees will feel that they are being invested in and so become more engaged. When your workforce is engaged, employees tend to stick around for longer. That gives you the opportunity to continuously hone the skills of long-term employees, instead of continually training new hires from scratch.
Cross-train for Quality, Productivity, and Customer Satisfaction
A cross-fit warehouse workforce is more flexible, more engaged, and more vested in operational performance; conditions which help to ensure quality, raise productivity, and enhance the customer experience.
If you find yourself in a position of influence over a warehouse operation, an understanding of cross-training will be a valuable tool for performance improvement. But don’t keep it in your toolbox if you can help it. Cross-training is much better in practice than as a conversation-piece.
You can learn a lot more about workforce training and other aspects of warehouse and DC operations in our e-Classes, especially class numbers 14 to 16, and number 88.
These e-Classes are only accessible to Supply Chain Leaders Academy Members though, so if you haven’t signed up yet, stop by at our homepage, where you can get started on the path to practical, relevant, and readily accessible supply chain insight and education.