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Making the Most of Labor Management Software (LMS)

In the demanding world of warehousing and order fulfillment, efficiency is critical to success. And while most readily acknowledge the value of Warehouse Management Software (WMS) in directing the activity of warehouse workers, Labor Management Software (LMS)—which tracks the efficiency of workers—is frequently underutilized. Here we take a quick look at LMS and highlight 6 ways it can help improve operations at your facility.

Background

Since the 1990s, computer software has become an integral part of warehouse operations and order fulfillment—helping to govern everything from facility layout and equipment purchases to workflows. Most often, WMS is marketed as the primary product, while LMS is often sold as a supplementary item. As a result, LMS has come to be regarded by many as an “add on” rather than a necessity. Many who get it in bundled-purchases don’t implement it, or if they do, they often abandon it after a few months. But if we diligently assess the performance quality of our overall fulfillment processes, shouldn’t we apply the same diligence to assessing the performance quality of our people -who are key to making it work? The answer is yes.

Why LMS is Important

By looking at the human aspect of warehouse productivity, LMS performs some key functions that WMS alone cannot. It helps assure that employees meet all workforce requirements, tracks their productivity, and identifies both top performers and those performing below their potential. In this way, LMS boosts worker engagement, identifies hidden and potential problems, and helps managers properly incentivize workers to boost their job performance—all of which help your warehouse operate more efficiently.

When LMS and WMS work together, LMS data tells us who did what activities at which location at what time, helping to quantify each worker’s performance relative to a set of labor standards. By knowing how and where workers spend their time, you can then accurately calculate employee efficiency, as represented by the following equation:

Employee Performance%  = (Minutes Earned / Minutes Worked).

Here, minutes earned would include: minutes doing activities, minutes spent traveling, and minutes given for approved reasons, e.g. special tasks, meetings. Minutes worked would include: time between the clock in and clock out, minus breaks, lunch, and anything else approved by management as ‘free time.’ Using this quick and easy metric, you can gauge worker performance, incentivize peak performers, and identify workers in need of improvement.

The Big Six

Here are our 6 picks for the ways LMS can help you run a more efficient and productive facility:

  1. Review all activities at the Distribution Center (DC). The process of developing fair measures of employee performance forces you to really dig and understand your processes. LMS improves your understanding of the operations and activities at a DC and can lead to lots of process improvements.
  2. Determine if every employee is assigned a job. LMS provides the hard data needed to determine if employees are staying busy. It helps determine if every employee is assigned to a specific job, or if they are waiting on work. Increased visibility to labor utilization can lead to all sorts of valuable changes in how you manage your DC.
  3. Determine the level of system interface for each activity. LMS helps you understand the details in the data needed by employees to perform a task and its source. In addition, it reveals how employees track task completion.
  4. Determine if there are standard operating procedures for each activity at the DC. LMS projects frequently lead to associates and management coming to understand the “one best way” to do a job. This gets taught to everyone via SOPs so all can benefit.
  5. Identify if there is a level of accountability between manager and workers. LMS can provide the basis for talking with management about enforcement of SOPs, if any, and how employee performance is tracked.
  6. Provide new reports to compare the performance of workers. LMS can help each employee see how they are doing with daily reports and illustrations. Through this, LMS can become the basis for well defined and trackable incentive programs.

Conclusion

By better understanding the human element of warehouse operations, you can gain valuable insights about job performance, productivity, workplace safety, workplace standards, and perhaps most important—time management. With efficiency being so critical to successful warehouse operations, now’s the time to give LMS another look.

 

Photo Credit: Reckitt-Benckiser shoot for Ryder. (Davis Turner photos)

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Published in March 2018

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