Attracting Millennials to Your Warehouse Workforce

Baby boomers had a dramatic impact on the domestic economy, raising home ownership, consumer spending and employment rates to unprecedented heights. This was once the largest generation in America, recently being beat out by millennials, 83.1 million people (#sorrynotsorry). As baby boomers retire, however, so does the available workforce. But why you ask? What about the Millennials?

Millennials want to work for flexible, attractive and innovative companies –  they’re not thinking supply chain, distribution centers, manufacturing, warehouses or materials handling – their thinking tech and medical industries. As a millennial myself, I think it’s time to educate my generation on the possibilities of an industry they clearly have all wrong.

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Not Your Daddy's Warehouse

Warehouses are imagined as being dark and dusty; manufacturing as boring, repetitive and outdated. However, none of this is true in today’s modern distribution centers and manufacturing facilities, but Millennials are not immune to these impressions. I thought this myself until I fell into it.

We’re drawn to jobs that allow us to use our inherent comfort, familiarity and adeptness with technology. After all, we grew up during the age of the Internet explosion and we were still young adults when the iPhone debuted in 2007. Ok, ok – I’m not that young, if anything, I’m on the upper end of the Millennial spectrum, but yes, I grew up with technology and a lot of it! Think about it, to attract the Millennial audience, invest in the technology they can work with. Turn your dark and dusty warehouse into an pristine, automated facility.

Gamification of Work

As part of the generation who grew up with video games as a ubiquitous form of entertainment, it’s been suggested that before age 21 today’s average American has spent close to 9,000 hours playing video games. (Yikes – not for me! But I’m probably an outlier.) Automated systems with computerized or touchscreen human-machine interfaces (HMIs) therefore not only don’t phase Millennials, we actually prefer them.

Automated picking machines support our desire for qualitative, ongoing feedback. That’s because such systems deliver information about required tasks and their rate of completion through gamificiation – as the on-board HMI can be programmed to display picking rates at that machine. When several of these automation solutions are arranged in a pod, a separate monitor can display performance rates by each picker in the zone or within the facility, so operators know how their productivity compares to that of their colleagues.

Work Flexibility

Another desire of Millennials, is flexibility. This could mean flexible work hours or more than the standard two vacation weeks a year. But how does that benefit you, the employer? Because automation can be used to optimize an existing labor force, increasing productivity from 200% to 600%, systems like horizontal and vertical carousels, VLMs and VBMs support flexible staffing measures by enabling just one worker to handle the picking assignments of multiple operators. With automation in place, a company can comfortably allow all its employees—not just Millennials—greater flexibility in choosing when they want to start and finish work, or to implement variable shift schedules that give employees more time off.

In Summary

So for my Millennial friends, take a deeper look into how companies are modernizing their warehouses and distribution centers, creating  fast paced work environments in a high tech space. Manufacturing companies have to stay on the cutting edge of technology to succeed, so don’t scoff at the idea of working in the supply chain - it’s not the dark and dusty warehouse job you’re stereotyping.

Though an investment in a Millennial employee can seem risky, it’s worthwhile. Millennials are changing the industry by asking questions, speeding up processes and bending the rules to innovate outdated practices. As baby boomers retire and Gen X moves into the C-suite, attracting Millennials to supply chain jobs is going to be critical.  Embrace the Millennials, iGen (aka Gen Z) is right behind them.

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