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happy employees are productive employees

Many of the newest generation of young workers lack basic employment skills such as good communications, a professional work ethic, leadership, self-direction, and critical thinking/problem sounding. Yet Millennials are much more prone than older workers to leave their current employer for another opportunity.

Those are among the findings of a new report issued earlier this month by a leading national human resources industry organization.

These types of shifts in the attitudes of tomorrow’s workforce has prompted 85% of companies to change or modify their work policies and rules in order to accommodate these changes, according to the new report, “Talent Sustainability Report: CHRO View from the Front Lines of the War on Talent“.

The report was based on surveys of leading US companies conducted by the HR Policy Foundation and was presented during the White House Upskill Summit, which was held earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

Making Room for Younger Workers

Companies are starting to make changes to facilitate the changing attitudes and work ethic of the newest generation of American workers. For example, 82% of the company leaders interviewed said they have developed a core recruiting strategy aimed at actively recruiting passive mid-career workers away from other companies.

That’s a testament to the transitory nature of Millennials,  who are more comfortable changing employers more frequently and who often have unrealistic expectations about career progression, at least when compared to a traditional perspective, according to the report.

Inter-Generational Information Transfer

Many companies are seeking to use innovative practices to help transfer knowledge from the aging Baby Boomer generation of workers to the much younger Millennials, including creating generation meetings for information exchanges, hosting more company events that include both older and younger workers, using older workers as faculty in leadership development programs, and establishing more mentoring relationships and apprenticeship programs.

Employers participating in the survey reported that Millennials often lack essential job skills such as communications (40%), professionalism/work ethic (33%), leadership (29%), self-direction (22%), and critical thinking/problem solving (20%).

But young workers aren’t the only ones causing headaches for companies, according to the report. Baby Boomers also are presenting some challenges as they approach retirement age.

Problems cited include difficulty effectively managing younger workers, keeping up with technological change, lack of social media skills, and becoming “blockers” to up and coming workers within an organization.

IT Jobs Most Competitive

The survey also found that IT professionals ar the most competitive positions for which companies recruit. and that 69% of human resource professionals reported that innovation and transformation are happening faster than normal.

Plus, 69% of human resource professionals reported that innovation and transformation are happening faster than normal while 28% said the pace is the fastest they have ever seen.

The report is the culmination of a year-long project conducted by the HR Policy Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to education, qualifying and hiring US workers through the development of research, services and resources that better inform students, job seekers, workers, educators and policy makers about the skills needed by large employers in today’s rapidly changing workplaces.



Picking: Part I – Objective of Picking

28 May 2015

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Material Handling - Rack

The most frequently picked products should be the easiest to access to ensure an efficient, quick picking operation.

One of the most important duties of a warehouse worker is picking orders. That’s because a warehouse spends more time on the outbound transactions than the inbound. Moreover, the labor in performing the task is extensive and could be the largest portion of a warehouse’s labor budget.

There is another element that makes picking orders important. It is directly related to customer satisfaction. A person who purchases a product, no matter how large or how small, wants it delivered yesterday. They won’t tolerate waiting days or weeks for their order to arrive.

So it is imperative that the elements of a pick – speed and accuracy in picking and processing the order properly — makes the chore the most critical aspect of a warehouse’s business.

There are three methods of picking orders –- piece picking, case picking, and pallet picking.

Which method you use depends on the products being picked, total number of transactions in an order, total number of orders per shipment, picks per order, quantity per pick, picks per SKU, total number of SKUs, value-added processing (for example, private label), and the manner in which the order is picked in each method. Software is available to analyze each measureable to help you decide on what picking method is best for you. Many times a warehouse manager will discover that it is more profitable and efficient to combine picking methods.

Things one considers when selecting a picking method include increasing productivity and accuracy and reducing cycle time.

One measures productivity by the pick rate. The amount of time to get an order from entry to shipping is cycle time. Accuracy, of course, pertains to picking the right SKU for each order. A number of technologies exist that assists in this including pick-to-light systems, counting scales, and bar code scanners.

Proper training of personnel, precision in tracking, and accountability are what is necessary in achieving the goal of high-level accuracy.

Achieving the utmost efficiency is essential regardless of the method of picking you use. So products that are most frequently picked should be the easiest to access and located as close to the pick point as possible. Each SKU should have its own designated area. In addition, there should be a reserve or overflow storage area. A replenishment system should be created to move product from other locations in the warehouse to the fixed picking location as inventories dwindle to predetermined numbers.

There should be a checkout location for all outgoing shipments where one or more workers can ascertain that the order has been properly picked.

During the next few weeks I will be describing each method of pick ordering including piece, case, and pallet. I will also describe the best equipment to use for each method.

Keep note as you read each blog that no method may be absolutely perfect for your operation. At times there may be elements of a method that conflicts with other elements causing affects on productivity, cycle time, or accuracy. Under these circumstances you may have to tweak somewhat the method you select to ensure optimum performance.


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the fatal injury rate for warehouse workers is higher than the national average for all industries.

If you are a warehouse worker, then you don’t need anyone to tell you how hazardous your job is. A potential for an accident that can harm or even kill a worker lurks in all sections of a warehouse. From heavily laden shelves and rapidly moving forklifts to slippery floors, the work environment of a warehouse is an accident that is waiting to happen.

It is more than essential for warehouse workers to be aware of the hazards and know what to do to avoid them.

Top safety hazards include:

·      Heavy equipment
·      Slipping or tripping over an obstacle
·      Falls
·      Fires
·      Exposure to harmful substances
·      Ergonomics issues
·      Falling objects
·      Lack of knowledge about safety concerns

Understanding where the dangers lie and taking steps to prevent an incident from happening can go a long way to achieving a safe environment in which to work.

There is something that can be done to prevent each of the eight warehouse hazards listed from causing problems.

Exposure to harmful substances is just one of many hazards that can occur in a warehouse. (Courtesy: Kristi)

Exposure to harmful substances is just one of many hazards that can occur in a warehouse.
(Courtesy: Kristi)

For example, employees who work with heavy equipment every day become complacent about their dangers. After operating a forklift for five, 10, or 15 years, a worker may take his ability to drive it safely for granted. No matter how comfortable you may feel about operating or working with heavy equipment, always take caution. Moreover, warehouse managers should be certain that workers who operate heavy equipment are properly trained in their use.

Preventing a worker from tripping or slipping can be achieved simply by keeping the floor clean. Make certain that hazardous materials like sawdust, liquid, boxes, and dark spots are cleaned from the floor regularly and that there are no unnecessary steps or ridges over which laborers must climb.

A worker can prevent falling by paying attention and having knowledge of what is happening around him. Warehouse managers should place guardrails where there is a large drop between floors.

Knowing what can cause fires is a good start to preventing them. Take steps to avoid the presence of worn and exposed wires, leaks of flammable fluids and gases, and electrical cords routed under carpet.

Knowing what substances are suspect is a good start to preventing worker exposure to toxins or other dangerous materials. Prevent worker exposer to these substances and ensure that the warehouse facilities are regularly inspected.

Good warehouse design can enhance better ergonomics and assure that an employee can perform his work safely. Workers who are forced into awkward positions as they do their jobs can suffer injuries. Warehouse managers need to assure that the equipment being used prevents this from happening.  Providing equipment that helps workers do their jobs without being forced into unwieldy postures or extending beyond their physical capabilities and training them in proper lifting techniques will prevent injuries.

Heavy items and cylindrical objects should be stacked properly on shelves to prevent them from falling or rolling off and striking a worker close by.

Finally, all employees should be properly trained on safety.


Here’s a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find this week on the Bahrns blog:

  • Your trash cans are probably the last thing you think about when you consider operational efficiency. But having a waste removal plan in place can actually increase your productivity and lower your costs. We’ll explain why …
  • Millennials are starting to make their way into the workplace. But is business ready to deal with their unconventional attitudes? Maybe not, according to a new HR survey.

All this and much, much more can be found this week on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!



trash binEvery workplace generates trash. Some of this garbage is industrial waste that is a byproduct of the manufacturing process while others are just normal trash typically produced by human workers.

In both instances, in order to maintain a safe and comfortable workspace, trash must be removed on a regular basis. Generally, this will be done at least once per shift, but you may require more frequent garbage removal if you generate an unusual amount of trash on a daily basis.

Ask the Experts

What’s the best way to remove the trash? One of the easiest ways to plan your trash removal procedure and schedule is to ask the experts:  The people who remove your garbage every day.

Your maintenance or sanitation crew is the most experienced and knowledgeable about how much garbage is produced in your factory or warehouse every day. So they are the people with the best ideas about removing it efficiently and safely.

Generally, there is one central location where all or most of the trash is dumped, such as a dumpster area. To optimize efficiency, it’s important that the most amount of trash can be collected and dumped in the fewest number of trips.

This usually requires a standardized schedule and route for your garbage collection. In many workplaces, a sanitation or maintenance worker will roll a wheeled trash cart along this route and empty each trash can along the route into it, terminating in the dumpster area where the cart is emptied.

Using the Appropriate Waste Disposal Containers

The waste disposal containers you use should be able to accommodate the type of trash you are disposing. For example, if you are dumping hit slag or melted plastic byproducts of your manufacturing process, you probably don’t want to deposit them into plastic containers that can melt or be damaged or destroyed by the waste.

Similarly, garbage containers need to be large enough to hold all of the trash they will receive in between the times they are emptied. But they shouldn’t be too big, otherwise they can interfere with the efficient operations of the area in which they are located.

Waste Carts

Wheeled waste carts also come in many different sizes and materials. The ones you choose for your operation will depend on your specific needs. Once again, when selecting the right waste cart for your business, it’s often helpful to ask the people using this equipment on an everyday basis.

Letting your maintenance staff or environmental services crew select their own equipment will make them feel empowered and also will prevent them from complaining later that you picked out the wrong carts.

Recycling Plastic and Glass Bottles

In some places, recycling is the law. But it’s also a good idea in all places.

Consider installing separate recycling bins for plastic, metal and glass bottles and other recyclables. In many instances, a separate recycling bin is installed next to or near the main garbage dumpster so that it can be conveniently removed by your waste removal service.



(Courtesy of Brad Boad)

The leader in eCommerce is making a wave in warehouse efficiency. has been opening up new fulfillment centers at a brisk pace and introducing robots and other high technology features to make their operations more efficient.

One example is the warehouse center in Tracy, California. There are about 1,500 full-time laborers working in 1.2 million square feet and they are getting a hand from about 3,000 robots that gracefully glide along coded stickers on the floor and receiving and decoding commands sent wireless from one central computer.

These squat orange gizmos look like the stones that curlers navigate across ice using brooms that we see at the winter Olympics every four years. They are specifically designed to slide under and stop directly below the shelves.  Then they are strong enough to lift four feet wide shelves that have 750 pounds of merchandise piled on them.

The bar codes on the floor direct the robots to the proper shelves where the items they are commanded to look for are stacked.  And, since they can travel under the shelves, the shelves can be stacked closer together, which means that the 1.2 million square foot warehouse can hold more of them and, therefore, more goods.

The system allows the warehouse to accommodate 20 million items or about 3.5 million different products.  More than 700,000 items are shipped from there each day.

The robots are manufactured by Kiva Systems in North Reading, Massachusetts, which Amazon acquired specifically for this purpose. A warehouse using this system can save 20 percent in operating costs. It is not designed to take jobs away from people, but rather to work with the human staff and makes the job for human’s more tolerable. Humans are used to do the more sophisticated tasks including shelving, packing and monitoring for damaged goods.

Amazon claims that it hasn’t eliminated jobs as it continues to introduce the Kiva robot system. Matter of fact, it claims that it has added jobs, but did not say how many.

The human employees seem to be fine with it. A feeling of fraternity with the robots is encouraged and as many as 87 robots have been named after many of the human workers –- the names written to the outer shell of the gizmos.

The humans and robots cooperate during a normal day. Human laborers unload boxes from trucks, put them on to a conveyor belt, unpack the boxes and place the goods in carts that go to other workers who sort the items onto shelves.

One might think that since there are 3,000 robots scurrying along the floor they are always bumping into one another. That’s not the case because each machine includes sensors that allow them to talk to one another.

The robots have been known to break down. However, the warehouse staff includes engineers who fix them within two or so hours.

The bottom line is that previous to the system, it took hours for Amazon warehouse employees to walk and pick products from rows and rows of shelves. Thanks to the robots the routine takes just a few minutes.


Editor’s Note: In today’s Thursday Feature, we look at the reasons behind the recent multi-billion expansions of the Suez and Panama canals and how they could ultimately affect the ordinary consumer.

Photo courtesy US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Public Domain)

Photo courtesy US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Public Domain)

The Suez Canal is in the middle of a $6.8 billion expansion project that will nearly double its capacity and allow super oil tankers to pass through it safely.

Meanwhile, the finishing touches are being put on a $5.25 billion upgrade to the Panama Canal that will finally allow supersized cargo ships from Asia to pass through and dock at ports up and down the East Coast for the first time.

As a result, ports on both US coasts and in Europe are investing billions more on upgrades, including new facilities and deeper trenches to accommodate these new monster-sized ships.

The question is: Why now?

Catching Up with the World Economy

Both the Suez and Panama canals have been operational for more than a century. Both shave thousands of miles off of the journies of sea-going vessels, allowing tankers, cargo container ships, and other vessels to reach their final destinations faster and more cheaply.

Yet for the past several decades, both canals have been operating well below capacity.

The Suez Canal — which links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean — is the primary waterway connecting the Indian Ocean with the Atlantic. But in some parts the 145-year-old canal is so narrow that vessels are not able to able to pass through in either direction at the same time. So wait times for ships seeking to pass through the canal averaged 11 hours.

But in some parts the 145-year-old canal is so narrow that vessels are not able to able to pass through in either direction at the same time. So wait times for ships seeking to pass through the canal averaged 11 hours.

Plus, the Suez Canal couldn’t accommodate super-sized tankers transporting crude oil from Middle East oil tankers. Oil companies were forced to use either smaller sized ships or make the longer journey around the Cape of Good Horn off the coast of Africa in order to reach US and European ports — both of which pushed transportation costs higher, were then passed on to consumers.

Asian Mega Ships 

Meanwhile, the Panama Canal, which connects the Pacific with the Atlantic oceans, was too shallow. New super-sized cargo ships had a displacement that was too deep to make it through the 50-mile long canal.

So they could only dock at West Coast ports, once again resulting in higher transportation costs for the Asian-made products they carried that were bound for the central or Eastern US.

Although Panamanian and Egyptian officials have known for decades that their canals weren’t big enough to deal with modern sea traffic volumes, it wasn’t until this decade that they finally bit the bullet and decided to make the massive necessary investments.

Two things prompted this: The booming Chinese economy and the increasing dangers associated with traveling along the coast of East Africa.

China’s Massive Exports

Although the People’s Republic of China technically remains one of the few remaining Communist countries, since the death of its founder Chairman Mao Tse Tung in 1976, the giant Asian nation has been inching ever closer to capitalism. It currently has a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment.

Thanks to a combination of having both the world’s largest population and a sustained annual economic growth rate of 11.2%, China has become a leading world power and one of the biggest global manufacturer of durable goods, including clothing, shoes, electronics, and housewares.

Most of these products are sold to the West, where they are shipped on ever-increasingly larger cargo container ships. But up until recently, Asian cargo ships could go no further than West Coast ports without having to make the arduous and costly trip around Tierra del Fuego on the tip of South America.

21st Century Pirates

Meanwhile, ships bound for the West from the Middle East and the Indian Ocean that were too large to fit through the Suez Canal had to travel through increasingly dangerous shipping lanes along the coast of East Africa, where they were potential prey to bold and desperate pirates from Somalia and Ethiopia.

Widening and deepening the Suez and Panama canals offers a solution to both problems. Plus, the operators of the canals can pay for the improvements quickly by collecting higher fees from the increasing number of ships that will be passing through them.

The real winner, however, is the consumer who can now get better access to cheaper goods more quickly, something that is critical now that the world economy is shifting to web-based ordering in which consumers demand near-instantaneous delivery.





Protect yourself from noise pollution by having acoustic blankets on your working or living space.

Protect yourself from noise pollution by having acoustic blankets on your working or living space.

The Second Harvest Food Bank, in Springfield, Ohio, is manned mostly by volunteers. But executive director Keith Williamson was having a hard time retaining unpaid workers because of conditions at the charity’s warehouse.

Because of the 58,000 square foot warehouse’s open floor plan, volunteers packing boxes of food to be distributed to the area’s needy were frequently exposed to loud noises from industrial machinery, blasts of freezing air whenever the freezer doors were opened, and the constant flow of traffic as forklifts, trucks and other vehicles loaded and unloaded pallets all around them.

In some instances, volunteers literally had to shout at each other just to be heard over the din of the warehouse.

Improve Conditions or Lose Volunteers

Williamson knew he had to do something increase the workers’ safety and comfort, or else there would be nobody to handle the more than 6 million pounds of food the charity distributes each year to 90 area soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries.

But given the charity’s small budget, building permanent walls to block off the areas where volunteers worked from other parts of the warehouse was not practical.

That’s when Williamson learned about fabric curtain walls.

Noise and Temperature Resistant

Curtains are temporary, portable walls that dampen noise and block temperature variations so that the workers can be safer and more comfortable while working in the warehouse.

They define the volunteer work space, provide temperature separation, and even help buffer loud noises coming from other parts of the facility.

The walls installed at the Second Harvest warehouse are made of fire-retardant industrial vinyl that’s wrapped around anti-microbial polyester batting. They can provide up to 40 degrees of temperature variation from adjacent spaces and reduce noise levels by up to 25 decibels.

They feature three custom vinyl strip doorways — one for foot traffic and two fitted to accommodate pallet jacks and forklifts.

Williamson said the fabric curtain walls have made a big difference and he is now able to keep volunteers longer because working conditions are greatly improved.

Many Types of Curtain Walls and Temporary Doors

Curtain walls are used in many industrial applications. And they can be made of many different materials.

Bahrns offers many different types of temporary walls and doors, including clear plastic temporary curtains, strip doors for dock doors or semi-trailer hatches, and even acoustical blankets.

Temporary curtain walls can be custom-built to fit any sized area. And they are available in a variety of materials to fit specific requirements, whether it’s temperature control, sound deadening or other uses.

They also are a much more affordable option than building renovation or installing permanent walls. Plus they offer the versatility of being able to be moved from one location to another whenever you want.

As for Williamson, he said his warehouse’s new curtain walls have made all the difference. Volunteers can now work in more comfort and security.



Here’s a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find this week on the Bahrns blog:

  • If your warehouse or factory is too loud, too hot, too cold, or too anything, you could undergo an expensive renovation project, or … you could choose a different solution that’s cheaper, faster and just as efficient. We’ll tell you what that is …
  • Both the Panama and Suez canals are in the midst of multi-billion dollar upgrades. But why now? The answer may surprise you …
  • Plus, selecting the proper shelves for your warehouse should not be taken for granted. We’ll tell you how to make the right choice based on your specific needs

All this and much, much more can be found this week on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!


Don’t Take Shelves For Granted

18 May 2015

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There are a number of things to consider when selecting shelves for a warehouse including weight rating, size, and height. (Courtesy Flickr)

There are a number of things to consider when selecting shelves for a warehouse including weight rating, size, and height.
(Courtesy Flickr)

Whether you are managing a brand new warehouse or one that’s been around for years, the one thing you can’t take for granted is shelving. The shelves you select need to be able to hold the amount of weight piled on them; they must allow easy access to the items they hold; they must be sturdy enough to take abuse from forklifts that ram into them; they need to be visually appealing; they need to hold a lot of items and be safe to use; and on and on.

You need to understand how the warehouse operates; what type of products are being stored, whether or not the physical construction of the shelves assures efficient picking and loading, whether its size fits in with the physical layout of the warehouse, and on and on.

Here are a number of things you need to consider when inspecting shelves either in person at a store or online.

·      The weight rating of the shelf. Keep in mind that the rating is based on the even distribution of items on a shelf. So if a shelf has the capability of holding 400 pounds, then it is best for holding 10 items of 40 pounds spread evenly across the entire surface. It probably wouldn’t hold one 400 pound item positioned in the center of the shelf.
·      The shelf needs to accommodate what is being stored. If you expect to store 12-inch wide boxes in a configuration of three across, then a quick calculation tells you that you will require a shelf that is 36-inches wide. However, such an arrangement could make a box awkward to take off or put on and adversely affect a laborer’s productivity
·      The height of the shelf must properly fit in the warehouse. Select shelves that fit within the confines of the warehouse and still allow you to pile inventory on the top shelf.  Make certain that the height of the shelf doesn’t encounter lighting fixtures, pipes, a sprinkler system, or any other objects that might be attached to the ceiling.
·      Consider buying a stock sized shelf. Shelves come in a number of stock sizes one of which could prove appropriate to your specific situation. Common standard sizes include 18-inches by 36-inches, 18-inches by 48-inches, 24-inches by 36-inches and 24-inches by 48-inches. Height varies from 72-inches to 96-inches. It’s best to consult with a supplier who can answer questions concerning this.

Shelves come in three basic styles  – rivet, steel clip, and wire.

If you are looking for a multipurpose shelf that is strong and easy to assemble, you may want to consider the rivet shelf. These shelves have a weight capability of up to 1,850 pounds, offers easy access, and good stability. It is made of solid steel frame and features 5/8-inch particleboard, wire, plywood, or a solid steel deck.

Advantages include easy installation, the most sizes, and higher weight capacities. Disadvantages include its visual appearance, and its weight. Moreover, it costs more to ship.

Steel shelving is ideal for high-density applications and is offered in open and closed styles. Back and sway braces keep it steady. It is easy to customize and accessorize and include built-in bin; and multiple types of dividers, doors, and modular drawer inserts. These shelves are more expensive than the other options, and they are a little more difficult to install.

If cosmetics and accessibility are important to you, then you may want wired shelves. This style of shelf has open construction and open back and sides so there is access from all four sides.

Advantages include easy adjustability and several configurations. However, it is more expensive than rivet and metal shelving, there are a limited number of sizes, and its maximum weight capability is about 1,200 pounds.