People Analytics: How & Why It Should Be Used

Businesses the world over are constantly incorporating data analytics into their daily operations. This is especially true in the warehouse environment. Warehouses need to think of receiving inventory, storing, shipping, returns, order receipt, stock, carrier logistics/coordination, customer satisfaction, revenue generation and the list goes on. Having good data analytics becomes integral to supporting what warehouses do.

At its base concept analytics is the process of using information to gain insights into a business’s operations with the goal of improving efficiency and solving challenges. Data analytics can be used for any of the number of functions listed above to implement constructive change or to verify that operations are running accordingly. Think of it as taking the temperature of the warehouse. Without analytics decision makers are likely to struggle with visibility and lack the information to take useful actions.

One aspect of analytics that often gets forgotten or is not deployed is in people resource analytics. There are a couple reasons or hurdles as to why this is the case. Analytics tend to be driven by three main categories: descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive. Generally speaking, people don’t exactly fit into those categories. Their behavior and makeup are quite different from an inanimate product or storage location. The other major factor is privacy invasion. This a legitimate concern by employees as no one likes to feel that they are being constantly tracked and evaluated or worse that the information gleaned from data analytics may put them out of a job. Yet people resource analytics can impart valuable information to warehouse operations and reveal great opportunities that benefit both a business and employees. So, let’s discuss why warehouses would want to consider implementing people analytics into their information gathering and how this can be done in a constructive manner.

While people don’t necessarily fit into the three traditional analytics categories mentioned before (descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive) there are plenty of reasons and ways to gather useful data. Wearable devices that track the routes an employee takes to get through a pick or putaway process can help warehouses plan their staff’s work better so that they are more productive or make their jobs easier. Employee-facing systems like scanners are also a great way to collect valuable data. Data like time spent fulfilling certain orders and within different zones of a warehouse can be invaluable. For example, if the time between scans within a given fulfillment process are consistently longer for some employees located in one area of the warehouse comparatively to others, there may be a good reason why this is happening. Perhaps the products are difficult to access or are not being stored efficiently. Every action an employee takes has a quantifiable cost associated to it. By improving a process through the gathering of people specific data, businesses can help raise productivity by making their employee’s jobs easier.

One great use case is Akatia customer, BlueScope Steel. One of the world’s leading steel product manufacturers. BlueScope uses Akatia’s WMS, WAM, to manage their warehouse and fulfillment center. By implementing WAM mobile app scanner technology they track the time it takes employees to fulfill on various product types and within certain zones of their warehouse. By tracking and gathering this information through employee user sign in on the mobile scanner app, time stamps associated with their fulfillment process, correlating it to product types being handled, tasks specific to the fulfillment, and warehouse zones the employee is working in, BlueScope gets a clear picture of how operations are running. They are then able to create and generate reports on this data with the reporting and dashboard tools available to WAM users. This consolidated data environment that WAM provides is also important to any data collection and analytics initiatives as it gives a clear view rather than gathering information from disjointed systems or sources. With this people resource data businesses can then make decisions that directly impact their turn around times and improve their processes.

Of course, no one likes to feel that they are being micromanaged or constantly tracked. But that’s not what people analytics is about, nor should it be. Businesses should not be in the habit of using people analytics to evaluate people or keep tabs on them. This is counterproductive and wouldn’t be of great value to a business. Rather employees should be brought on board as part of the data gathering process and shown how their participation is beneficial to their overall work happiness and morale. Goals and procedures for such data analytics should be clearly articulated and explained with supporting policies put in place. There are also a great many benefits for employees when done right. For example, biometric wearables can help businesses make decisions that help with safety and health. As well devices that can be tracked, like the scanners and mobile application technology Akatia offers, can improve warehouse routes or layouts that simplify work for employees, which make them more efficient and productive. Those types of data have real cost impact for businesses. They can also be used to incentivize employees. Imagine if a business improves productivity by 20% by implementing strategic changes based on real time employee data analytics. Businesses can then reinvest part of those revenues into employee salaries or programs that benefit them directly.

As demonstrated people analytics can be of tremendous benefit to the data collection and reporting initiatives of warehouses. It can help a business dial in on potential improvements to operations that can impact productivity and revenue generation. It also aides in bridging the gap between warehouse employees and management. When done correctly and with the right goals in mind employees can be made to feel that they’re actively helping make their workplace better for themselves and their fellow colleagues. Couple that with incentivization and reinvestment into employees a business can thrive and become a growth apparatus not only for revenue but for the people who work for them too.