Is there an answer to the labor shortage?

Over the years, we’ve tried to steer clear of too many themed issues because we’re proud to offer our readers a wide breadth of industry information. The logistics and transportation market is so diverse, and shippers are looking to solve a multitude of challenges across a number of modes and services areas—never just one.

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However, we’ve found that “technology” and its ongoing adoption has become a running theme in a majority of feature stories we’ve planned out over the past decade. In that time, Logistics Management has trumpeted the benefits of implementing even the most rudimentary of supply chain execution (SCE) software offerings through case study examples of forward-thinking shippers as well as general “state of the market” stories that explore the evolution of SCE software and how it can help various organizations and their unique challenges.

As of late, “labor” has become another pervasive theme. For years we’ve tracked the driver shortage and have been stunned by the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) large truckload driver turnover rates, which at times in the past 10 years rose to more than 100%. The most recent rate is sitting at 78%.

But now, the labor shortage has moved into warehouse/DC operations and even up the stairs into the operations offices and C-suite. Today, the question is: How do we find, train and maintain the necessary talent to run our end-to-end logistics and supply chain operation? From what we’re hearing, no one knows the answer just yet.

“In fact, one of our best sources in the area of recruitment told me right off the bat that even she was surprised to hear just how hard it is to find good talent in logistics and supply chain today,” says contributing editor Bridget McCrea, the author of this month’s cover story. “Labor recruitment and development jetted up to the No. 1 challenge for many across the sector, but unfortunately we’re not hearing many concrete solutions or examples of internal programs to keep people engaged for the long term.”

The numbers appear to be stacking up against us. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) most recent jobs report, the unemployment rate declined to 3.6% in April—the lowest rate since December 1969. The BLS also recently projected that employment in logistics and transportation would grow 7% and 6%, respectively, between 2016 and 2026—meaning that demand will continue to grow while supply declines and competition for operational workers will become even more constrained over the next decade.

Is there a way that technology can come to the rescue? McCrea complements her cover story by taking a deep dive into the state of labor management systems (LMS) and their role in alleviating labor pressures.

“At this stage, there’s no magic bullet,” says McCrea. “LMS has traditionally focused on reporting labor retroactively and has been perceived as more disciplinary. However, more vendors and shippers are flipping the script to apply it to help with employee engagement that supports coaching and encourages incentives. Will that help? We’ll see.”

If your logistics and supply chain operation recently implemented a labor recruitment and retention initiative, I’d love to hear how you made it happen. Reach out to me at [ protected]

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of American Truck Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [ protected]

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