Is Your Warehouse ‘Employee Friendly?’

Aug 06, 2008 2:23 AM  By

The warehouse isn’t exactly the cheeriest of work environments.

But your distribution center doesn’t have to be a gloomy, depressing place that your employees hate coming to every day. There are a lot of things you can do to make your facility more “employee friendly” – and they don’t have to cost a lot either. The most important thing is to involve your employees in the improvement process.

Keep in mind that an employee-friendly facility will result in a happier and more motivated workforce. Plus, you will have the opportunity to retain better employees than neighboring “unfriendly” facilities. A friendly facility isn’t just a benefit for your workers; it will result in better performance and higher accuracy as well. Here are some things you should consider to make your facility a better place:

Provide a bright and warm cafeteria or break area
Make the cafeteria a cheerful and homey place, a place where your associates are happy to go for their breaks and lunch. Consider adding a TV, Internet access, and an employee information center. If you are in a warmer climate, you can supplement the cafeteria with a pleasant outdoor area. And if you have a large staff, consider adding a weight room and or treadmill, or even a basketball court that staff can use during break or after shift.

Embrace natural lighting
If you are in a warm sunny climate, consider putting skylights in your facility. Natural lighting really brightens up a facility in the day, and skylights can be strategically placed to bring light to areas or aisles that can use it. You can also save on energy costs. As an alternative to skylights, you can always add more strategic lighting. Bright lighting helps reduce fatigue, reduce errors, and improve productivity.

Invest in easy-to-understand signage

Could a stranger figure out what is going on in your facility in a few minutes by simply looking around? Consider adding signage that identifies functional work and storage area, and that make it easy for a new employee to find their way around. You should also replace or update your faded and torn location labels with ones that are easier to read. Also consider changing your location scheme so that it is easy to understand (for example, alternating numbers and letters).

Help new associates to learn their jobs quickly
Make it easy for new associates to learn the ropes. Provide hands-on training and make sure that there is someone to ask questions to. Have documentation that is easy to understand and easy to access.

Tell people how they are doing
Put up an information board or electronic display that tells you people how they are doing. Update it regularly and thank those folks who are doing a good job. The same information can be displayed on a bulletin board.

Let your staff make the DC more colorful
Give your staff a chance to spruce up the facility with some color. Perhaps have a contest for a theme. Put up some photos, or a banner. In Rochester, NY, I saw a DC where the employer put up a beach-themed environment by painting blue pastels and some seascape images.

Sam Flanders is president of Durham, NH-based Warehouse Management Consultants (www.2wmc.com).