How E-Commerce Is Affecting Warehouse Labor

Thanks to the rise of e-commerce, the warehousing industry has never been busier or more profitable than it is right now. However, an economy built around consumers ordering what they need at the click of a mouse does have its drawbacks, especially when it comes to protecting the hardworking employees who make it all happen.

The nature of warehouse labor has changed rapidly and dramatically in response to modern technological advances. Understanding how e-commerce is affecting warehouse labor is crucial to maximizing productivity and efficiency.

The Changing Warehouse Landscape

More customers are ordering online than ever, so the demand for immediate service made possible by the internet is increasing. For instance, shipping needs to be efficient and fast. While many existing warehouses were built away from population centers due to zoning restrictions, the e-commerce economy demands “last mile” delivery into urban areas. The goal of last mile shipping is to transport goods to consumers as quickly as possible. This has resulted in many warehouses opening locations much closer to where their customers live.

This shift could have positive and negative aspects for warehouse workers. While you may be able to decrease shipping costs and simplify otherwise complex supply chains, housing costs for employees in major metropolitan areas can be expensive in certain cities.

The rise in automation could lead to a decline in available work as machines take over more and more warehouse functions that used to depend on human capital. How much the industry will continue to evolve in response to changes in customer demand and availability of supply remains to be seen.

The Trade-Off between Demand and Productivity

In the meantime, this shifting landscape has led to an increase in work availability. Since the Internet never closes, demand for 24-hour warehouse operation has created thousands of opportunities for laborers seeking employment.

However, the increase in warehouse output has been correlated with a decrease in workforce productivity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity – which compares hours worked to output produced – declined by 7.6 percent in the warehousing and storage industry between 2017 and 2018, consistent with a declining trend that first became noticeable in 2013.

The most likely culprit for this dip in productivity is, unfortunately, the e-commerce economy. Simply put, it takes more manpower to ship one unit of a product to a hundred customers than it does to ship a hundred units to one customer.

Various technological and procedural innovations have helped reduce inefficiencies over the last few years, but the core problem still remains: how can warehouse owners keep operations running around the clock to meet the demands of our evolving economy?

Fortunately, dependable flex labor is available. With a platform like HapiGig, it’s easier than ever to fill positions on an as-needed basis. Our service allows warehouse managers to pick and choose from a roster of experienced warehouse workers when they need extra manpower, allowing them to fill their exact labor needs on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis. Consider becoming a HapiEmployer today to learn more about how e-commerce is affecting warehouse labor.