Busting Six Myths From the Warehouse
In many ways, the warehouse is a microcosm of society at large. There are those workers who conform to all the rules, those who break each and every one and then those who don’t even realize there are rules to begin with.
From my observations helping e-commerce providers adjust workflow and processes and deploy our mobilized power workstations, I’ve seen it all. In this installation of our Customer Tales blog, I’m revealing the not-so-pretty realities of a day in the warehouse and busting six myths to set the record straight.
Myth #1: Equipment doesn’t bounce off concrete. Everyone knows this, right? Apparently not so much. I’ve seen laptops, printers and other devices smashed to pieces in the concrete jungle that we know as the warehouse. Untethered items can become like a Boeing 747 in a thunderstorm when in the hands of a harried picker. It’s important that workstations hold a place for everything, and that the devices used are rugged enough to withstand a drop to cement – or maybe a Hail Mary pass to a fellow worker who misplaced his scanner.
Myth #2: Carts are meant for your racing pleasure. It continues to amaze me how much abuse a cart can take before it cries, uncle. In the warehouse, carts are rammed up against walls, used as drag racing vehicles, plowed into forklifts, and used as whipping boards for frustrated workers trying to meet quota. If a cart is not designed to handle the toughest of crash tests, it will never survive the rigors of the warehouse. The abuse is real. Once we learned that workers call carts “box plows,” we changed things up. We moved the battery system and the controller from the front of the cart to the back and added a steel bumper along with steel rims.
Myth #3: Shedding hair happens only in the shower. It’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day, but apparently, most of it occurs in the warehouse. If you ever saw how much hair and debris is picked up from cart casters, you’d think every worker should be bald by now. The problem is that the hair gets caught up in the casters and ball bearings, making it more challenging to roll correctly. Whenever this happens, I can expect a call from the site saying that the carts are not working properly. It’s not the cart’s fault – it’s Charlie with the striking “flow” who’s losing his daily shedding of hair in a single shift.
Myth #4: Cart handles are just for decoration. Do you remember when kids would decorate their bikes with tassels and add long handlebars just to look cool? Yeah, well, that’s not what cart manufacturers are trying to do. Cart handles are meant to direct carts safely down specific aisles and reduce worker fatigue, but it’s amazing how much they’re not used. Workers have been seen to simply shove the cart forward from wherever they can grab it, and Newton’s Law is put to the test: an object in motion, continues in motion – until it hits a concrete wall.
Myth #5: Yours is mine, and mine is ours. Ownership goes out the window when it comes to the warehouse. If someone’s mouse is broken, they’ll just take one from their coworker’s cart. A battery needing charging? Grab one from another cart and continue on your shift. The problem is, with no ownership, devices go missing at the drop of a hat and hold no accountability. And, the same thinking is applied to carts. Many workers have been seen to simply leave their carts wherever they choose, without a thought of putting them back in a specified coral (it’s a good thing they’re not shepherds).
Myth #6: Supervisors belong in a comfy office. Wrong. Supervisors belong where they can supervise. It simply makes no sense to ensconce a supervisor in a far-removed place where the work is happening and expect that they know what’s going on. Maybe if they read the above myth busters, they’d head on down to the warehouse floor in a hurry. Just as it’s important to bring the cart to the point of task; it’s also important to bring supervision and training to the point of task.
Just when I think I’ve seen it all in a warehouse or distribution center, another thing pops up that continues to amaze me. To be fair, the increasing demand for on-time order fulfillment, worker shortages, and supply chain disruption is making the job of a warehouse worker, not the easiest one, but come on, folks, if a cart was meant to be a plow, we would have called it that. And, for heaven’s sake, tie back your hair!
STEVE SHAHEEN: CEO & Founder
Steve has worked in the mobile workstation and battery systems business since they became popular for use in healthcare and was a Value Added Reseller for over 30 years. He co-founded Definitive Technology Group to help companies in a wide range of industries solve workflow problems and decrease costs by leveraging the power of mobility. Steve enjoys offshore fishing, surfing, martial arts and spending time with his family.