Data Integration: The Future of Labor Tracking and Management

Data Integration: The Future of Labor Tracking and Management (Part 1)

Nov 01, 2018
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Internet of Things

Labor costs are continually on the rise and every minute of every day is affecting your bottom line.

As managers, you are responsible for an overabundance of labor management processes, from recruiting and hiring to monitoring performance and progress. All the while, customer service requirements continue to accelerate, with shorter cycle times and more challenging value-added service requirements.

The good news is that most of the information you need to effectively track and manage your labor force is available.  However, the unfortunate reality that many companies face is that this information is not easily accessible and if it is, it resides in multiple systems, making it virtually impossible to do anything with it.  The good news is that in today’s world there is technology available to help you combine and access this information.

In this four-part series we are going to explore where Labor Management technology is going, the various types of data available and how to effectively use that data to manage your labor force.

Data tells a story

The historical methodology for looking at labor metrics has been through utilizing WMS and/or ERP information. However, as we look forward, hardware, whether it resides on forklifts, conveyors, semi-trucks or other types of industrial equipment, are having more and more embedded software.

All of that software is tracking and reporting some type of data, for one purpose or another. However, much of this data can be leveraged to tell a more complete story about your labor. Technology is rolling out faster and it is becoming less expensive. In today’s world data is king, so it is important to understand how to utilize it. First you must understand where your baseline is today, and what steps you should be thinking about both in terms of specific technologies, as well as the general mindset in terms of how you plan for the future.

Labor, software, hardware and automation not only coexist, but are actually interdependent in that the combined data from all these systems provides valuable information about where you are spending money, how your labor is performing, and what decisions you should be making for the future.

Internet of Things

Essentially, the Internet of Things is the concept of all systems around you creating data and tying it all together.

If you think about an average person’s home, many people have already started to integrate various devices that fall into this Internet of Things category, such as voice activated speakers. Perhaps you have an app that controls lighting in your bedroom or living room. You might have a thermostat that you can control from anywhere on the globe. All of these systems that had traditionally been analog, are now being connected via internet to applications, and you can already start to see how all this data combines together.

Maybe two years ago, each one of these systems was controlled by themselves through a specific interface that was designed for that system.  Now if you look at what’s being offered in the marketplace, we’re actually looking at integrated systems. You have one interface that controls everything from your temperature, to your refrigerator, to your lights.

The idea is that not only do all of these systems create and receive data, but the future is really understanding how they all interconnect together, instead of being stand-alone systems.

Similar to your home, a distribution center also has a wide variety of different data points coming from a multitude of different systems.  You might have timeclocks, which is critical because that can be your benchmark for understanding what labor is out there, how many hours you are paying for, and how much you are  spending on that labor.

From there, we need to examine the other devices and systems you may have, to ensure that we understand what types of information you have access to and how that data can be used to better understand your labor force. Depending on how your facility is designed, these other systems may include telematics systems, ERP software and job coding as well as other internal technology.

No matter what systems you are currently using, when it comes to distribution the value of the Internet of Things lies not only in tying together the data that comes out of your systems, but also making sure that you can retrieve that data so you can get the right information to the right people.  You need to be able to access all this valuable data in order to get the benefit out of it.

Everyone in the industry is evaluating what they should be doing in terms of labor tracking, and they’re trying to find the best solution for their operation. Everyone’s operation is a little bit different, everyone’s systems that they’re using are different, and really finding the sweet spot based on your industry, client base and labor needs is just a process that everyone is going through.

Stay tuned for our next blog that will look at the different approaches to pulling in data, and how creating a labor management system with multiple data sources is the way of the future.