Logistics operators

Logistics operators

The WMS as a key factor in reducing drudgery

In a highly competitive market, it is essential for logistics operators to reduce the drudgery of their work, in order to gain in efficiency, while improving their working conditions. In order picking, a logistics operator can travel up to 10 to 15 km a day, and carry from 1 to 10 tonnes a day. This arduous work often results in fatigue, recurring aches and pains, and permanent MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders), leading to a compulsory reorganization of the employee's work, and ultimately to a loss of performance in terms of human resources. We'll take a look at how best to remedy the situation, and how to optimize warehouse management without compromising the health of operators, or the financial health of the company.

Logistics operators at the forefront of arduous working conditions

Since 2012, "pénibilité" has been defined in French labor law as "exposure to one or more occupational risk factors linked to marked physical constraints, an aggressive physical environment or certain work rhythms likely to leave lasting, identifiable and irreversible traces on health." The decree of March 30, 2011 defines 10 factors of hardship, and according to the 2002-2003 SUMER survey, 56% of employees suffer from at least one physical hardship, 4% of whom suffer from at least two. So much so, in fact, that employers are now required to open a CPP or C2P (Compte Personnel de Prévention Pénibilité) for their employees, enabling them to earn points to bring forward their retirement, reduce their working hours or retrain through professional training courses.

Unfortunately, logistics operators are no exception to this rule, as their work rhythms are physical, sustained and intense. For example, "pickers", i.e. order-pickers who have to search for goods in the warehouse according to a given list, can walk up to 15 km a day, crossing and recrossing warehouse aisles. Despite the X35-109 standard, which recommends a limit of 15 kg for objects handled by hand, operators sometimes carry up to several tonnes a day to meet ever-growing orders, with the exponential development of e-commerce, drive-throughs and click-and-collect. What's more, these repetitive tasks are particularly physically tiring for operators, who can ultimately suffer from a variety of permanent ailments, resulting in a loss of income for the company. It is acknowledged that 3/4 of all MSDs are due to 4 types of illness: elbow and shoulder tendonitis (rotator cuff injury, well known among cashiers), carpal tunnel syndrome (common among people who handle the computer mouse on a daily basis), and back problems universally found in all physically demanding professions. At the end of the working day, these order-pickers end up bent over, exhausted and complaining of various aches and pains, resulting in an absenteeism rate that is detrimental to business activity, not to mention the poor image conveyed regarding human resources management.

However, solutions do exist to greatly reduce these painful factors in warehouse management. As technologies are deployed, working conditions are improving to facilitate operators' tasks, as detailed below.

Exoskeletons are used to reduce musculoskeletal disorders caused by carrying heavy loads.
Exoskeletons are used to reduce musculoskeletal disorders caused by carrying heavy loads.

Solutions exist to significantly reduce these painful factors in warehouse management

Best practices to reduce fatigue

Let's start by optimizing the workstation, particularly for order packers. This position is often the source of various MSDs, ranging from upper limbs to lower limbs, as a result of prolonged standing. A simple solution is to set up ergonomic, customizable order-picking tables, where all the elements (scissors, tape, cartons) needed to prepare the package are within easy reach of the operator, who himself can use a 3/4 sit-stand stool, or anti-fatigue mats that distribute body weight for lasting relief.
Secondly, to facilitate handling, the loading dock should be equipped with customized pallet trucks and pallet pullers, especially for B2B activities involving large volumes. Electric pallet trucks are a major asset when it comes to relieving tedious work
Then there are the automatic wrapping machines, because wrapping these same pallets, especially for B2B parcels, is a repetitive and physically demanding operation, rapidly and permanently fatiguing the upper limbs (shoulder tendonitis). Nearly 80% of distribution companies are equipped with these systems, and rightly so.

Secondly, to rationalize and limit movement within the warehouse. To this end, the indispensable variable-height truck has been specially designed for moving heavy products. These modular carts can be adapted to suit goods and orders, while avoiding the need to carry loads. The counterpart to the cart is the roll-container, which allows bulky products to be moved and loaded onto trucks without the need for pallets. It can be customized in a variety of ways, depending on its use, shipping volumes and goods.

Let's not forget that the essential role of technology is to be at the service of human beings, relieving them of tedious tasks. In the warehouse, for example, technologies such as Pick to Light (PTL) or Pick to Voice (PTV) are increasingly being adopted by logistics managers. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages; in general, PTV - i.e., the picker is guided by voice indicating his or her path - is more appropriate for high volumes in large warehouses, as it is more cost-effective PTLs - i.e., the picker is guided by indicator lights and his truck's LCD screen - are installed at physical picking locations and can be costly in very large spaces, but benefit from an economy of scale in the presence of many pickers. What's more, they allow greater flexibility in warehouse management in the event of regular reconfiguration of locations.

Finally, diversification and specialization of tasks for each operator are the hallmarks of optimized warehouse management. The more professional a warehouse becomes, the more specialized the operators' tasks become, and the more time and efficiency they gain. Good warehouse management, supported by a WMS (Warehouse Management System) or warehouse management software package, optimizes not only stock management but also flow management within the warehouse itself. The WMS will identify the best possible operations, both in structural terms (rails, conveyors, space layout) and in terms of flows (picker routes, optimized movements, best use of zones).

The WMS will help to classify each item of merchandise, optimizing shelf addressing to facilitate logistical picking paths, intelligently delimit zones and organize logistical flows (reception, pick, packing, dispatch), limiting unnecessary movements A WMS is therefore essential for good warehouse management, both commercially and in human terms, and it's a strategic choice that can quickly turn into a competitive advantage for the company.

Voice assistance keeps your eyes and hands free.
Voice assistance keeps your eyes and hands free.

Discover logistics software

Bext Logistics Software

The boom in e-commerce, omnichannel sales, changing purchasing habits and consumer expectations are all having an impact on logistics, and especially on warehousing, which is on the front line. BEXT WS frees you from unforeseen events such as stock-outs, discrepancies and picking errors; the solution optimizes your m2, your resources and digitalizes your processes for impeccable customer service.

Contact us