You’re hired: How 5G could help logistics companies attract younger workers

By: Jennifer Bringle

Technology is making logistics operations more efficient. Could that adoption of technology also help them recruit a new generation of workers?

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Young Talent Hired For Logistics Automation Job

The logistics industry has a staffing problem. And it was a problem even before the pandemic brought about issues with production, sourcing and other areas of the supply chain that few of us used to think about: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, turnover in warehousing has grown by 20% over the past five years.

The reasons behind the increases in turnover are complex, but for the team at Ice Mobility, a supply-chain and logistics company based in Lincolnshire, Illinois, the statistics ring true, particularly in its warehouse operations.

The company has long relied on manual labor to complete tasks such as pulling product from warehouse shelves and boxing it for shipment. Over time, those jobs have been increasingly hard to fill and keep filled.

“The young people who work in our warehouse aren’t as attracted to picking orders,” says Jesse Garcia, director of operations at Ice Mobility. “Many are not stimulated by putting stuff in a box, moving product from one area to another manually, there's no stimulation. They would rather engage with technology or the data as part of that process.”

For Ice Mobility, part of the solution for employee recruitment and retention is something that wasn’t initially thought of as related to the problem: automating the systems in their warehouse using Verizon 5G Edge.

The new technology workers

Today, research is pointing to an inflection point, where workers’ desire to work with technology will intersect with logistics companies’ focus on upgrading systems to be more efficient and accurate.

According to a recent study of Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) workers by Dell Technologies, 80% of respondents want to work with cutting-edge technology, and 91% say technology would influence choosing a job between similar employers. On top of that, 80% of Gen Z workers believe technology and automation will create a more equitable work environment.

Theresa Adams, senior advisor at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), is not surprised by those results. “These are digital natives, they’ve grown up with technology, and they’re very comfortable with it,” she says. “They tend to get frustrated with antiquated systems that are time-consuming and cumbersome to use, so updated technology will attract those people.”

On the corporate side, research shows that logistics companies are incorporating (or planning to incorporate) more technology and automation to improve accuracy and efficiency. According to Deloitte’s 2022 manufacturing industry outlook, 53% of surveyed logistics organizations plan to enhance data integration for supply-and-demand visibility and planning.

In other words, when those two sides intersect, it could benefit the emerging workforce in search of tech-driven jobs as well as the logistics companies trying to recruit them. It’s a step that Ice Mobility is already taking.

Changing the game with logistics automation

Ice Mobility first teamed with Verizon in 2020 to use Verizon’s on-site 5G Edge mobile edge computing (MEC) platform to help with computer-vision-assisted product packing. This process sped up processing time and improved quality assurance. Last year, the company set out to expand its use of 5G Edge to further develop opportunities with automation and efficiency.

Some of that automation is connected to picking and boxing product for shipment, using technology to help replace more repetitive manual tasks.

“Verizon helped us create a picking mechanism that reduces the number of steps in the package-handling process,” Garcia says. “Instead of product being taken by a physical operator from receiving to shelves where physical operators later need to go up and down aisles, packages can go from receiving to a conveyor for scanning and binning. The data transmitted via the 5G network allows the machine to ensure the order belongs in that bin. [...] With 5G, it can be as fast as possible but also accurate.”

‘I See 5G Becoming A Necessity As We Transition To A Bigger Automation Presence In Warehousing.’ By Jesse Garcia, Director Of Operations, Ice Mobility | Logistics Automation

Garcia sees the automation of product-picking in their distribution center as a plus—and a tool for retention—for younger employees who would prefer to operate the system rather than perform the manual labor it replaces.

“The way to deal with labor shortages is to address the mind shift of the next generation coming through,” he says. “Many don’t want to perform these manual labor-type jobs, and technology is helping us address that shift.”

Garcia says he’s seeing that shift start to happen at Ice Mobility and thinks that technology and logistics automation is a key part in bringing new workers into these types of careers.

“I think technology is absolutely important for job satisfaction and retention,” Adams says. “Technology is critical throughout the whole employee life cycle, starting with sourcing the candidates, recruiting and onboarding, and throughout the work experience.”

‘Technology Is Absolutely Important For Job Satisfaction And Retention.’ By Theresa Adams, Senior Advisor, Society For HR Management | Logistics Automation

“That’s where 5G comes into play,” Garcia says. “I see 5G becoming a necessity as we transition to a bigger automation presence in warehousing. It will support our infrastructure and automation, and it will enable the next generation of workers to stay engaged.”

Verizon is the network America relies on. See what 5G can do for you.


About the author:

Jennifer Bringle is a writer focusing on topics ranging from the supply chain to financial management.

The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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