The labor shortage continues to make headlines as the American economy struggles with the effects of a pandemic showing signs of resurgence. “Help wanted” signs adorn shop and restaurant windows in most communities. Job fairs showcasing dozens of companies have seen poor jobseeker turnout. CEOs around the country complain they simply can’t find enough supply chain workers to meet growing consumer demand.
The explanations for this shortage are varied and sometimes complex. Many workers remain reluctant to return to in-person, frontline jobs, citing everything from low pay, poor working conditions, job insecurity, expanded federal unemployment benefits, lack of childcare, and the new, more transmissible COVID Delta variant as reasons for staying away or finding different work. Traditional hiring networks and pipelines, both formal and informal, were disrupted by the pandemic and are only slowly being reconstituted. Before the pandemic the US was already struggling with a worker skills gap, especially in advanced manufacturing and skilled trades, and COVID has only exacerbated the problem.
The retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries have received the most attention during this labor crisis. But the crisis has also led to a significant shortage of supply chain workers, with severe consequences for global logistics.
Shortages of Truckers and Warehouse Workers
The trucking industry, like skilled trade industries, was already having difficulties recruiting new talent before the pandemic. The median age for this cohort of supply chain workers is now 55, while about 68 percent of all freight continues to be transported along US highways. COVID made the recruiting situation worse, as many trucking schools shut down at least temporarily, putting an even greater strain on a shrinking pool of often overworked truckers.
The warehouse industry, like the trucking industry, faced recruiting problems and an aging workforce before the pandemic. Many supply chain workers in warehouses fall into the employee category of shift workers. Some of these positions were deemed essential, but a wide range of shift jobs were still cut or saw hours reduced. With the economy reopening, many former employees have been reluctant to return to their old positions, for reasons listed earlier such as low pay, bad working conditions, risks associated with COVID, unpredictable hours, and job instability. Giants like Amazon have been able to expand their warehouse workforces, but there are still not enough employees to meet surging consumer demand.
These shortages, along with a lack of shipping material and other disruptions, have combined to create massive bottlenecks and delays all along American supply chains. Products and goods sit idly outside ports and inside fulfillment centers, while the expense of transporting these goods continues to climb. This in turn has led to higher costs which are now being passed on to consumers.
Logistics experts are urging companies to introduce labor management visibility solutions to amplify employee recognition, reward high performance standards financially, and address health risk fears and childcare needs, all to help recruit and retain supply chain workers. They also recommend investing in logistics software that can analyze how workforces perform in real time, to optimize their deployment throughout supply chains.
The use of automation and robotics in warehouses and fulfillment centers can help alleviate the labor shortage, while also increasing efficiency and limiting human contact that would allow the spread of COVID. Companies that choose to automate these facilities should invest in shipping materials with care. Wood pallets, for example, have size variations that can cause automated machinery to miscalculate and damage products. They can also lose nails or splinter, damaging machinery, delaying production, and driving up warehousing costs.
iGPS plastic pallets are lighter, stronger and uniform in dimensions, and also incorporate RFID technology , making them traceable and readable by automated systems. This allows accurate data capture at all points of a supply chain, ensuring greater efficiency and helping to lower a company’s Total Cost of Business (TCOB). These features make iGPS plastic pallets ideal for all types of warehouse automation.
Logistics companies are likely to continue to suffer from a shortage of supply chain workers for the foreseeable future. They can mitigate the effects of this shortage by investing in labor management solutions, technology, and automation. Doing so will help them stay competitive as the economy continues to grapple with a labor crisis brought on by the pandemic.
Companies impacted by the labor shortage can improve their efficiency by using iGPS plastic pallets for all their shipping needs. Our pallets are ideal for all types of warehouse automation and help reduce your Total Cost of Business. For more information, contact us at 1-866-557-0047, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.