Improving productivity in logistics and warehouse fulfilment

Improving productivity in logistics and warehouse fulfilment

Engaging the human workforce is crucial to the success of digital efficiency programmes. That was just one of the key takeaways from a round-table discussion on ‘Human-Centred Productivity in Logistics and Warehouse Fulfilment’, held on Tuesday October 25.

Manufacturing Matters Editor Barry Hunt was privileged to be invited to sit in on the exclusive event hosted by David Krebs (Executive Vice-president of VDC Research). Participants included Alan Parsons (Operations IT Portfolio Director for Yodel) and Ilhan Kolko (Chief Product Officer and President of North America for ProGlove).

The event marked the launch of new research, commissioned by ProGlove, into warehouse and manufacturing workers in the US and UK. The key findings included concerns around maintaining productivity in the warehouse, and trends shaping the future of industrial wearable cobots.

“One of the biggest surprises in our digital transformation has been the participation of our last-mile colleagues, such as couriers and drivers,” said Mr Parsons.

“Over the past three years one of our projects has involved a consultation with all stakeholders and beta testing systems. We found that people were willing to give up their own time to help us transform our business. The sheer level of appetite for change was quite a big surprise.”

He added: “Our digital transformation has seen Yodel go from a loss-making organisation to a profitable business in two and a half years. We have seen an improvement in the bottom line of more than £5 million. This is partly down to the work of our supply chain colleagues, so they have done a great job.

I’m proud to have been a part of that. There is still more to do, but it has been a great journey.”

Mr Krebs led discussions covering a range of subjects, including putting people first in productivity drives, ensuring an effective use of data and how automation and robotics can help create a “human digital twin” that drives transparency and optimisation.

Many of the discussions centred around the ProGlove wearable barcode scanners which are helping to transform logistics hubs. The innovative technology connects individual workers with the internet of things to provide management with valuable data.

ProGlove’s Mr Kolko said: “Sometimes too much data is available for analysts, which creates a lot of work. The challenge is to find ways to collect clean data sets with a schedule of events in the right order. Contextualising data with the individual steps in the process can help you find more value. This produces real-time data, which can be really effective.

“We have been helping Yodel to optimise its processes and what we have been seeing is that we can create a number of minor efficiencies, even with our more basic products. If we can save a few seconds on every scan, that can be huge when multiplied across the business.”

The research commissioned by ProGlove revealed that attracting and retaining the right people is the biggest concern for warehouse productivity, a major problem with today’s macro-economic climate.

Other findings from the research included that 42% of floor workers highlighted staff exhaustion and fatigue as significant challenges in the warehouse. Potential areas of improvement were improving processes and workflows (72%), and optimising space and layout (66%).

Mr Kolko commented: “The findings in our survey lay bare the pressing need to embrace human-centric technology products, to deliver better working conditions, higher productivity, and improved customer service. Facilitating human-machine collaboration in the warehouse, through wearable tech, will not only enhance workers, but it will also keep them safer and happier.”

The full survey report is available at: