Onboard Technology to Ease Labor Crunch

The pandemic and resulting reassessment of what work and life should look like has led to unprecedented labor shortages that are handicapping nearly every industry. Foodservice distributors are not immune, and it shows in every aspect of the business from shipping to trucking to picking. Bloomberg recently reported that Sysco Corp., North America’s largest wholesale food distributor, is turning away customers in some areas where demand is exceeding capacity. They also report that United Natural Foods is having trouble getting food to stores on time, blaming delays mainly on labor shortages.

When asked what keeps distribution center executives up at night, labor shortages were second only to supply chain disruptions in an October IFDA report. It’s no wonder: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an 81% increase in distribution center job openings from March 2020 to June 2021.

To make up for labor shortages, distribution centers are implementing strategies such as reducing hours, which means lost revenue, or implementing pay hikes and signing bonuses (up to $10,000 for drivers) which increases expenses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hourly labor earnings have seen a 13% increase from January 2019 to June 2021. These strategies are not sustainable in the long term.

At the same time, customer service ratings are at an all-time low, clogged ports are causing shipping delays, and freight costs are rising daily. In an August 2021 Technomic survey, distributors’ performance satisfaction ratings dipped to 6.4 out of 10. Customers are getting frustrated, leading to retention issues.

Distributors know that a damaged reputation is difficult to repair, and that it’s more expensive to court and sign a new customer than to retain an existing one. Look inside many warehouses and you’ll see executives loading trucks, customer service reps on the floor picking products, and pickers working double shifts leading to burnout, all to keep service levels up and maintain customer relationships.

Technology Can Relieve Labor Shortage Stress

A good strategy to respond to this much industry disruption is to control what you can. You can’t produce more workers out of thin air, but you can use technology to be more efficient, reduce turnover, deliver on your customer service promises and protect your profitability and reputation. Technology can help small and mid-size distributors respond to competitive pressures and remain customer focused.

When discussing ‘technology,’ many distributors automatically think about the use of robotics. But robotics are expensive and require a warehouse overhaul. The technology proven to ease your stress right away: hands-free barcode scanning software. Transitioning to this picking technology is comparatively inexpensive and will deliver immediate improvement in efficiency and customer satisfaction, especially if you are moving from paper picking. Investing in this technology now will get you through the immediate difficulties and pay dividends in the future.

Solving Labor Shortages is Easier Than You Think with PickRight

ProCat Distribution Technologies has helped hundreds of small to mid-sized warehouses implement PickRight, the leading hands-free barcode scanning software that improves picking accuracy and employee productivity. PickRight:

  • Is easy to train, which means you can hire people with little to no experience. And with a short learning curve, new hires are quickly productive. In fact, PickRight increases all picker productivity 20-40%.
  • Eliminates human error and delivers 99.9% order accuracy, improving pick rates and customer satisfaction.
  • Improves employee satisfaction with immediate feedback and less job frustration, reducing turnover.
  • Enables employers to think beyond signing bonuses as a recruiting tactic with IncentRight, an incentive module that rewards employees with incentives tied to performance.
  • Has a robust reporting suite that provides insights into operations and employee productivity, which helps keep employees accountable and helps managers respond to challenges quickly.
  • Decreases customer claims–and their associated costs–due to picking and delivery errors.
  • Optimizes deliveries to ensure the right product is on right truck, which relieves pressure on a crucial resource: drivers.
  • Reduces the administrative burden of managing supply chain issues.

All these advantages add up to happier customers and a better bottom line.

The Right Time is Right Now

Distribution center staff and executives are so time-constrained right now, some might say they don’t have time to consider picking technology. But when you’re short-staffed and using high-value assets to pick orders or answer phones, it’s the perfect time to consider a picking technology that will relieve the stress on the entire organization. Since PickRight takes just eight weeks to implement from signature to startup, your labor shortage pain could be over in two months.

Whitepaper Resource

Why Foodservice Distributors Should Invest in Technology

For decades, small to mid-size foodservice distribution centers have been using manual and paper-based warehouse management systems, such as Excel spreadsheets. There may be several reasons why companies do not invest in technology including cost, generational inertia, a lack of understanding what it can do for your operation, or fear of it not working as expected.

Access the whitepaper below to read the top 4 reasons why an investment in technology is a sound decision.

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