- The job market for warehouse and distribution center workers is rising steadily, as are pay rates, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
- Warehouse starting pay rose 6% from 2016 to 2017, averaging $12.15 in February, ProLogistix, a logistics staffing firm reported. Hourly earnings rose only 2.8% across other positions during the same period, a 3.2% lag behind warehouses. A total of 945,200 jobs existed within the field in March, a 5.3% increase since 2016.
- Competition between employers is growing, with poaching workers becoming common. Increased automation is also frequent, allowing pickers to increase speed with the aid of directions.
As the needs for distribution centers grow, so does the need for increased sorting velocity.
Industrial vacancies are at record lows in many metropolises and big box warehouses continue to be built as e-commerce drives demand for quick fulfillment. Given these market trends, it is no wonder materials handling conferences are over-run with automated picking vendors and other robotic solutions.
Yet, the Journal report reveals increased warehousing demands also benefit the laborer, as a supply gap of skilled workers is forcing companies to increase incentives such as pay.
In fact, various reports suggest automation is working to help laborers increase their own picking rate and will not necessarily override the need for human involvement. Though this could happen eventually, and may in fact be happening in some smaller warehouses, the demand for labor remains strong enough to quell concerns.
What is happening, however, is an increase in the number of strategically located DCs increasing their level of automation and staff simultaneously.
One example is the expansion of a Carlisle, PA distribution center run by Distribution Management, a wholesale distributor of IT equipment and print services. In order to serve its growing northeastern customer base, the company invested concurrently in order automation technology and staff, building in room to grow should future need demand it.
Such mixed strategies appear to be more common, with companies like FedEx, Amazon among the various pursuing hybrid warehouse growth strategies. The question, then, appears to be how warehouse workers and managers can continue to push the envelope on picking speed at the lowest expense and in the most strategic places. Automation is not a question of when, but how and where.