By Simon Dunlop, Solutions Architect, Lucas Systems

Workforce planning remains a top priority for leaders in warehouses and distribution centres, particularly due to ongoing labour shortages that show no signs of easing. In fact, according to Logistics UK’s 2022 performance tracker, more than 18% of businesses reported severe to very severe problems in recruiting warehouse staff.

To address the labour shortage challenge, numerous companies are increasingly turning to technology. When it comes to investments in technology and automation solutions, artificial intelligence (AI) can play a pivotal role. Recent research conducted by Lucas highlighted that organisations expect AI-based software implementations to deliver substantial benefits, particularly in terms of enhancing safety and boosting workforce retention.

Given that labour costs are typically the most significant operational expense for distribution centres, effective workforce management plays a crucial role in ensuring cost-efficient operations. It’s imperative to allocate workers optimally to meet anticipated demand for each shift, day, or week, eliminating both overstaffing and understaffing while minimising overtime expenses, all while ensuring timely order fulfilment.

For instance, during a shift, a supervisor often has to make a series of decisions regarding staff allocation across various areas to meet shipping deadlines tied to a wave of orders. Making sound decisions in these situations necessitates access to a diverse range of real-time data to promptly respond to changing conditions and make informed choices.

This is where AI-based solutions for workforce planning come into play. Machine learning can be employed at various levels, predicting factors such as travel times between locations and estimating when work waves in different areas will be completed based on current staffing levels and remaining tasks. Armed with these predictions, AI solutions can conduct near-real-time simulations to determine the most efficient allocation of workers to ensure that shipping deadlines are met.

In theory, the scope could cover every functional aspect of the warehouse and not just picking.  The objective is in a dynamic style, workers are scheduled to work in functional areas like inbound, put-away, replenishment, picking, marshalling, returns, or inventory management, based on actuals/predictions of activity determined by the work force planning tool.

Implementing intelligent workforce planning software driven by AI often results in significant improvements for operations. Through such solutions, it’s not uncommon to gain a 5-10% increase in throughput and a remarkable 50% reduction in overtime costs, while simultaneously enhancing customer service levels and reducing penalty costs.

About Lucas Systems

Lucas Systems helps companies transform their distribution centre by dramatically increasing worker productivity, operational agility, and customer and worker satisfaction using voice and AI optimisation technologies.

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