How automation amps up your workforce

3 minutes to read



Personnel management in material handling is of utmost importance due to a shortfall of skilled labor and a demand for high wages.  The distribution and warehousing industry averages a 25% annual turnover rate. High turnover means more money spent on recruiting, hiring, and training replacements. In addition,  new employees come with a learning curve. As they transition into the operation productivity and accuracy rates will decrease.

To identify what type of automation will make the biggest impact on your labor costs you need to uncover the areas in need of improvement, concern, and waste.

Step 1: What are your facility’s workforce KPIs? (key performance indicators)
  • Receiving productivity (volume of goods received per warehouse clerk per hour)
  • Receiving cycle time (time taken to process each receipt)
  • Putaway productivity (volume of stock put away per warehouse clerk per hour)
  • Putaway cycle time (total time taken during the process of each putaway task)
  • Picking productivity (the number of order lines picked per hour)
  • Picking cycle time (time taken to pick each order)
Step 2: Which non-value added activities are consuming most of your workforce’s time?
  • Walking
  • Looking for products
  • Driving without material goods
  • Defective equipment and tools
  • Time on consumer-grade devices and computers
  • Waiting for equipment to arrive (or for equipment to be available)
  • Throughput backlog on crowded conveyors
Step 3: How frequently do you have to worry about hiring?
  • What is your labor turnover rate?


  • What is the most common complaint among employees?


  • How much overtime are you paying out every month?


  • Do employees ever recommend a friend to also work at your facility?


  • Do you have a dedicated hiring, training, and retention program?
How Automation can help

One of the toughest challenges of successfully staffing a logistics job is being prepared for the unexpected. Managers may find themselves faced with a sudden, unexpected, upturn in business but may not have a contingency plan in place for temporary warehouse staffing. New automation solutions are often expandable; when the KPIs indicate a need for more throughput, new automation supplement existing personnel to increase productivity.

Augmenting workforces with automation allows for easier fluctuations between times of high demand and lulls. Many operations have the same peak seasons, so they’re all trying to staff up for those spikes in demand. New automation equipment may be utilized to either maintain a baseline of operations, where personnel is responsible for responding to fluctuations in activity, or flexible automation helps in times of peak demand.

Material handling labor is often doing some kind of pick: whether its a pick by hand in e-commerce, picking pallets with a fork truck, or transferring cases between conveyors. Operation centers with the highest efficiency rates use highly organized pick lists for better timing, predictability, and reducing travel time. Automation tools come with intuitive UIs that display SKU image, quantity, and tote information. These easy to read screens ensure easy, fast pick rates with up to 99.5% accuracy

Want to know more?

Learn about Vecna Robotics’ entire fleet of self-driving vehicles from our Automated Material Handling and Hybrid Fulfillment brochures. Vecna will be displaying a wide range of vehicles, including its autonomous Tugger and Pallet Jack at booth #S4583. We’ll be showcasing our Automated Material Handling, Hybrid Fulfillment, and Workflow Optimization solutions, along with the self-driving vehicles and technology that fuels them.


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