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business|efficiency|forklift|health|industrial|innovation|resources|safety|services|storage|training|solutions|operations

Pandemic-induced change demands upskilling

A woman and man in a warehouse looking at a tablet

POST COVID GROWTH The Covid-19 pandemic benefited the e-commerce sector by increasing the demand for efficient and streamlined warehousing and storage facilities

3rd November 2023

By: Halima Frost

Senior Writer

     

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The warehousing and storage sector has noted a substantial uptick in demand for space and associated services, following the significant increase in e-commerce buying after Covid-19.

The e-commerce “explosion” has, in turn, increased the need for industry-related skills, which employers and potential employees must address, says outsourced solutions provider Programmed Process Outsourcing (PPO) MD Willie Du Preez.

“The skills gap in the warehousing and storage sector must and can be addressed through the implementation of proper education and the upskilling of workers.”

He adds that employers can achieve this through specialised industry and operational training, which can be provided by tertiary institutions and/or incorporated into in-house training programmes.

“Employers must provide opportunities for career growth and offer opportunities for further training and development.”

Du Preez explains that certain skills are “refined and sharpened” through years of work experience, whereas others require specific certification, training or licences such as for forklift drivers.

Although many ‘hard’ skills are required by workers in the sector, ‘soft’ skills are equally, if not more, vital, and are often non-negotiable for these industries.

These soft skills, or attributes, include numeracy, accuracy, time management, self-motivation, ambition, communication and integrity.

Companies operating in the warehousing and storage sector can improve their staff efficiencies and effectiveness by partnering with the right business process outsourcing (BPO) provider – “one that is a specialist in warehousing, as well as a specialist in driving optimisation and efficiencies”.

Partnering with such a provider will enable businesses to benefit from a fresh perspective on their operations, says Du Preez.

The BPO partner will examine “every inch” of the relevant processes and highlight the concerns and inefficiencies through extensive time and motion studies, “finding better ways of doing things” while identifying opportunities for growth and innovation.

Better and faster ways of doing things means less time wasted and improved quality outputs, he adds.

Storing the Solution

“Consumer buying patterns have changed. Businesses in the warehousing and storage industry are faced with peaks that are lasting much longer than before while experiencing unpredictable dips in demand,” says PPO sales GM Tennille Bell.

A substantial challenge that the sector faces during these peaks is sustained efficiency and effectiveness while remaining agile.

This can be addressed by employing a productivity-focused BPO provider to assist the business in streamlining processes and enhancing productivity; an effective BPO will simultaneously minimise operational costs, she adds.

Clients can rest assured that staff are trained to the level required for high productivity when PPO is the chosen BPO.

Should supplementary resources be required, the company can also advise on scaling the client’s workforce accordingly.

Bell enthuses that PPO has access to a pool of skilled, qualified and vetted employees in the sector, and can enable businesses access to these skills on demand without the risk of having to increase fixed costs.

Essentially, BPO providers, such as PPO, deliver a plug-in, plug-out operational model that is ideal to address fluctuating demand on short notice.

Bell adds that risk mitigation is an important factor and also “without a doubt” a challenge in the warehousing and storage industry.

The company helps to mitigate a business's employment risks, health and safety risks, as well as risks pertaining to quality and performance.

“Businesses that partner with a BPO will also gain access to expertise that they wouldn’t typically be able to afford full-time in-house.”

This expertise includes process and industrial engineers, as well as human resources, industrial relations and legal specialists.

“This is all vital to any business that wants to remain competitive, expand or gain a foothold within the market,” says Bell.

“Because no two businesses are alike, there can be no one-size-fits-all solution, so PPO tailors its solutions to the exact needs of the organisation seeking its services,” Du Preez concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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