I think we all know the answer is no, but that didn’t stop Cornerstone Edge Principal, Brian Carlson, and JBF Consulting founder and CEO, Brad Forester, from sitting together with a beverage in hand to discuss one of the hottest topics around – labor challenges. For their last LinkedIn Live of 2023, Brian and Brad talked about:
- How to smooth out order flow and improve labor planning with technology.
- Different inbound and outbound strategies for optimizing labor utilization and reducing peak activity.
- How cross-functional integration and master data quality impact labor efficiency.
- Real-world examples of successful labor optimization.
If you missed the LinkedIn live, don’t stress, you can watch a recording of it here. or, for a condensed version of the discussion, read an edited script of the session below. And, of course, if you have any needs we can help you with, we’re only a phone call away, give us a shout!
Brian: Hello and welcome to our last LinkedIn live event of the year. If you’ve been following us throughout the year, we’ve shared whiskey and tequila, and today we decided to let loose and open up the space to any old liquor, welcome to our Liquor and Labor event.
Brad: That’s right, we don’t discriminate, so whether you have some lager, limoncello, or long island iced tea… join us, and let’s dig into a topic we’re sure everybody has insight, experience, and strong opinions about, labor. I’m Brad Forester, CEO of JBF Consulting and I’m joined today by Brian Carlson, Principal of Cornerstone Edge, welcome Brian.
Brian: Good to be here, Brad, thank you. Labor continues to be a very common topic, and while the challenges we’ve been facing with labor aren’t new, the ways to combat it certainly are.
Brad: Most definitely. What we’re seeing and hearing from our clients regarding new approaches to labor are mainly focused on visibility and orchestration between supply chain functions, to balance or smooth the peaks and valleys that are common in the DC. Instead of blasting the DC with heavy volumes on a single day, let’s leverage upstream systems like a TMS to help orchestrate the flow of order fulfillment across multiple days. Conversely, when there are typically periods of low DC demand, we look to capitalize on these troughs to feed the DC work. Smoothing this out has a material impact on labor planning, and scheduling, and can also have a material impact on overtime and part-time hiring.
Brian: That’s a great way to make full use of a transportation management system, using it not only to ensure the timely delivery of freight and goods but to manage your labor while you’re at it. And that ties in well with how a TMS and WMS work together to improve efficiencies as well.
Workflows can be optimized from the TMS with the WMS based on units of measure, resource availability, and tasks. Essentially, the macro view from the TMS gets fed into the WMS, consequently splitting everything into individual tasks, the micro level. So, how does inbound labor planning play into this?
Brad: Great question, this is where technology really takes the spotlight. Visibility solutions go a long way in fostering efficient inbound labor planning. With modern real-time tracking and visibility solutions, shippers can now leverage dynamically calculated ETAs with far greater precision than before. Fundamentally, understanding when inbound loads should arrive can provide the management view to support better labor planning for the receiving and put-away functions. Other technologies like Yard Management Systems and Dock / Appointment Scheduling applications can further improve labor planning. So, the DC can get ‘wins’ on both inbound and outbound flows from a labor perspective.
Brian: Right, similarly a WMS can help with labor planning within the warehouse, and different technology integrations like a goods-to-person system, automated mobile robots (AMRs), and mini-load systems bring product to the worker, increasing efficiency and saving labor. Having a clear vision of what is coming in from a transportation perspective has proven to help manage labor from a scheduling and resource perspective. It has been stated many times that managing a warehouse is an art and a science. What many people don’t realize is that the technology behind managing information from both transportation and warehousing systems can take the art and turn it into more of a science. I remember a retail organization that was struggling with inbound labor that implemented technologies for both transportation and ASN information by case. After that, their labor throughput went up over 50% due to improved visibility and inbound container management.
Brad: The value of visibility cannot be underestimated. There are countless more examples of how it helps not only in tackling labor constraints, but other supply chain challenges too, but we’re out of time. We could probably drink an entire alphabet’s worth of liquors and still not cover all things labor. Thank you for your insights, Brian, and thanks to all of you for joining us today. If anybody watching has any questions, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.