According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently just over 10,000 managers working in the warehousing and storage industries. If you are one of these professionals – or you are in the process of hiring one – you know that the often stressful job comes with a host of responsibilities, including holistic decision-making, planning, staff scheduling, system creation, training, auditing, and much more.
Like any category of worker, not all warehouse managers are created equal; some might come in with little to no experience, while others might have resumes 5 pages long. But years in the business aside, the best warehouse managers possess a unique set of skills that are sometimes hard to pin down. In fact, some of them require a certain level of fortitude, charisma, and prudence that are rarely detailed in job descriptions.
Here are the most commonly shared skills of the nation’s top warehouse managers:
They understand the importance of an optimized warehouse layout
A competent warehouse manager has a perfect handle on their inventory counts and their budget, but the most capable are the ones who have had a hand in optimizing their warehouse’s layout. When warehouse layouts are masterfully planned, no space is underutilized, each and ever aisleway has just the “right” amount of space for equipment or personnel to pass, and the paths of movement are streamlined so that every step taken is a purposeful one.
Ostensibly, not every warehouse manager will have had a hand in designing a layout, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be in touch with the powers that be, sharing their ideas and experiences so that relevant changes to the infrastructure can be shifted over time. Using this power means adopting a mindset in which the floor, the processes, and the storage mechanisms are always questioned and the associates that interact with them the most are surveyed. Without this level of awareness, the warehouse manager will never be able to fully leverage their influence to optimize productivity in such a way.
They run consistently safe operations
Safety compliance should never be a struggle but considering that, in 2016, roughly 3.2% of full-time warehouse workers were injured on the job, it is perhaps not prioritized in the way that it should be. Now, this statistic isn’t meant to say that some accidents aren’t avoidable, warehouse work, by nature, is more dangerous than most other professions, but agencies like OSHA exist so that the right framework can be put into place so that these workers stay as safe as possible.
A good warehouse manager will not just adhere to the regulations that make sure the safety audits pass, they will provide every employee with comprehensive training (not just the minimum required certification hours), conduct daily safety checks, and complete regular check-ins with associates to better understand any weak spots in the current safety program.
This plan of action helps to guarantee that the warehouse is as safe a workplace as possible, and it will also bring workers who may not always feel that they have a voice into the dialogue. A study has shown that most warehouse workers would be willing to quit an operation for as little as an extra $1/hour, so the more they feel valued at their current facility, the better of a chance they will stay on-board longer.
They are always looking to the future
These days, automation is the name of the game, which means you’d be hard-pressed to find a warehouse that isn’t taking advantage of a management system, such as a WMS or WES, at the very least. That said, just because a warehouse manager has helped to integrate some software doesn’t mean that they have acquired a practiced understanding of warehousing trends.
For warehouses that deal in fulfillment, there is a slew of technologies that are changing the face of tasks, such as order picking, packing, and storage techniques. While most facilities won’t be first-in-line to invest in pricey drone technology, for example, there’s no reason why a warehouse manager can’t use their influence to aid the company in investing in a pick-to-light system that is flexible enough to add value for years to come.
Of course, there are other ways in which warehouse managers can keep their eye on future trends, but the most powerful of the lot do one thing–they continuously network with and/or keep in touch with other warehouse managers in the field. With all of the soliciting that goes on, it can be hard to believe a salesperson, especially if their main objective is to unload the warehouse automation element du jour. To get a better idea of what’s truly going on in the industry, nurture relationships and always ask questions.
As you can see, there are a few, very important elements that set apart the great warehouse managers from the good ones. Take the time to foster these three qualities, and you too will see a positive improvement in your managerial skills, your staff’s morale, and even your warehouse’s output.