Inside Logistics

Can’t stop the signal

Device management matters


July 3, 2020
by Jacob Black

Ian Mackenzie is head of logistics and distribution at BAST Fiber Tech. (Jacob Black photo).

Efforts to keep workers off their phones might just be keeping quality workers out of warehouses, according to Ian MacKenzie, head of logistics and distribution at BAST Fiber Tech.

With an average turnover rate of 20 percent, it’s hard enough to keep workers engaged in the industry, and asking the most tech-savvy generation in history to pack away their phones can be a barrier to hiring quality staff. After all, “pick and pack is only so engaging after the first hour,” MacKenzie says.

MacKenzie sees value in allowing employees to use their own devices at work, and advocates incorporating personal devices into the workflow. “It might be the difference between an employee staying in the position you’ve offered versus a competitor.”

Millennials are also used to quickly adapting to new tech on their devices. “I’ve got a pretrained audience. I don’t have to spend a week in a room with an RF gun and walk them through screens. I can hand them an app or a phone preloaded with my software on it, and within an hour they can probably show me stuff I couldn’t do before!”

Some systems for managing device control are punitive, like one called Payphone Timekeeper. It clocks workers off payroll workers when they use their devices.

MacKenzie says behavioural apps such as Forest have the most impact on reducing cell phone use. It allows workers to set time goals and shows a small plant that grows into a forest of trees when people stay off their phones.

If you miss your goal, or check your phone too much, you kill your tree. If you grow enough trees the app provider will plant a real tree on your behalf.

It’s easy to focus on mobile devices, but MacKenzie says the real answer to a successful operation is cultural. “At the end of the day, devices aren’t the only source of lost productivity or distraction. It’s about managing behaviours. That’s what our roles as supervisors has become. Hire attitude and effort over skills and the tide will rise on culture.”