Skip to main content

Overcoming Labor Shortages with Streamlined Warehouse Operations

April 28, 2023

bld-employees-use-devices-in-warehouse - article banner

The skilled labor shortage continues to be a headache for many building supply businesses. When employees left their jobs during COVID, many didn’t come back, making it harder to staff factories and stores. Though some businesses are filling roles again, not everyone can do it at a fast-enough rate. And with an industry that’s growing an average of 3.2% every year, labor concerns will continue to be a factor in how well businesses can meet their obligations to customers. 

But the labor shortage is also an opportunity. Building suppliers dealing with reduced personnel can actually increase the efficiency and productivity of the employees they do have by streamlining warehouse operations. With a warehouse management system, building suppliers can get more done with fewer people.

Warehouse management technology helps building supply businesses organize workflows, connect teams and data, and manage and control inventory—without needing to fill every open role or add a bunch of new job roles to the mix. Instead of focusing time and money on recruiting, hiring, and onboarding, businesses can digitize, analyze, and optimize warehouse operations, saving on labor costs while improving business performance. 

Here’s a closer look at how a labor shortage can impact building supply businesses, and the benefits of a warehouse management solution—especially when skilled, reliable employees are hard to come by.

1.How a tight labor market impacts building suppliers

Every building supply business needs a steady workforce to stock and sell its materials, not to mention maintain good relationships with customers. So when there’s a labor shortage that affects warehouse management and operations, the pinch can be especially painful. 

The truth is, it’s hard to hire employees right now. There is a surplus of jobs but not enough qualified or interested professionals to fill them. And while filling open positions is one thing, keeping good employees around is a completely different challenge.

Every time an employee leaves—of their own volition or the company’s—organizational leadership has to decide: Do they go through the hiring process to replace the employee, or do they make do without them? It’s a tough call. The loss of one employee can make a difference in how quickly and competently work gets done. But hiring to fill an open role can sometimes feel like it’s more hassle and cost than it’s worth. Here’s what a hiring decision has to account for:

  • Time and cost of recruiting and hiring

The cost of finding and hiring a new employee goes far beyond salary. There are multiple expenses and hours involved to advertise the job, review resumes, run background checks, interview candidates, drug screen them if necessary, and more. These days, the average cost of recruiting a single new employee is around $4,700

  • Time and cost of onboarding and training

Once a new employee is hired, it takes more time and expenses to onboard them. There are employment and tax forms they need to fill out, payroll and other HR-related systems they need to get set up in, and workplace technology and processes they need to get comfortable with. Job training only adds to this investment. In fact, it can take up to six months to break even on the cost of hiring just one person.

  • Cost of employee turnover

The reality is that even if an employee is a great fit, there’s no guarantee they’ll stick around after onboarding and training. If they leave, all the costs listed above have to be shelled out all over again. All told, it can cost as much as three to four times the previous employee’s salary to replace them. 

This isn’t to say building suppliers shouldn’t hire when they clearly need to. A business has to function with employees, especially in the warehouse or yard. But with a solid warehouse management solution at the center of operations, not every hiring decision needs to feel urgent or reactive.

2.The benefits of Epicor WMS

When building suppliers lack skilled warehouse labor, existing problems get magnified—whether it’s widespread human error, sluggish productivity, or inefficient processes that burn up hours. Epicor Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) can improve inventory accuracy by over 95%, boost productivity and reduce shipping errors. The complete system not only decreases the impact of low staffing but also keeps the warehouse running smoothly when staffing is optimal. 

WMS collects, manages, and maintains all warehouse data so that everyone can do their job better: 

  • Employees can complete their daily activities much more efficiently, with fewer mistakes. 
  • Business leaders get a window into specific aspects of operations—from shipments and receipts to cycle counts and replenishments—and can track and measure important information about the overall productivity of the warehouse. 
  • Warehouse managers can easily manage everyday activities—such as order status, cycle counts, and the productivity of individual employees—and get notified of potential problems that need to be addressed to avoid a bigger issue down the road. 

With smoother warehouse operations, building suppliers can focus their efforts on improving other areas of the business, so that the entire enterprise is optimized for efficiency and profitability. Here are some of the biggest benefits building suppliers can see with WMS:

Cost-effective labor

WMS integrates all warehouse workflows and information, enabling business leaders to see where labor waste or inefficiencies exist. Senior leaders can in turn work with managers to tighten up processes and make strategic workforce decisions about whom to hire, for what roles, and in which locations. 

Employee training is also easier when new hires can easily access clear information about daily tasks to complete, which tasks to prioritize, and step-by-step prompts for task completion. The end result? New employees who are well-versed in their priorities, and ready to add value quickly.

Increased productivity 

When employees have the tools to work smarter and faster, overall productivity increases. With WMS, daily workflows can be adjusted to reduce wasted time and effort, and instead focus employees on the exact tasks and steps that directly contribute to efficiency and productivity. With this system in place, the business gets more done with fewer employees. 


Employee activity is also trackable, giving managers concrete numbers on picking, receiving, and other tasks that help them hold employees accountable for the amount and pace of work they complete. And because WMS boosts the accuracy of inventory, employees and managers alike can spend less time on the emergencies and exceptions that kill productivity. 

Automated data entry

Manually tracking inventory and entering data is no longer necessary with WMS. Employees can use handheld barcode scanners right from the yard or warehouse floor. Because these scanners integrate with the software, they eliminate the risk of the typical error-prone analog data transfer between teams, pieces of paper, and computer systems. 

Employees can use scanners to record inventory information, whether in picking, receiving, shipping, or stock counting. They’re able to track inventory on the go while completing their daily tasks. Because the data entry is automated, it vastly improves the accuracy of the items recorded. 

Greater ease and accuracy of inventory 

Accurate inventory stems from having the right products in the right quantities at the right locations. WMS gives employees clear visibility into inventory at any given time, ensuring inventory numbers match what’s expected. Variance reports can be run at any time so that if there is a discrepancy, the source of it can quickly be found and the problem fixed—resulting in more accurate stock levels. Just as importantly, cycle counts are much easier and eliminate the need for physical counts.  

When inventory is accurate, the business also reduces delayed shipments, shipments that go out with the wrong items, and the unhappy customers that often result from these errors. It also prevents wasted hours trying to track down items that are missing or misplaced. 

High degree of user-friendliness

Picking and fulfilling orders is easier and less time-consuming with WMS, especially when there’s a lot of square footage to cover. The handheld scanners direct warehouse employees to the items and locations they’re picking, using number-based information that neutralizes language barriers. New hires can get comfortable with the system in as little as two to three days, and be working competently on their own in just a couple of weeks.

WMS also standardizes processes so that everyone completes tasks in the same way, reducing the errors and inconsistencies that develop when multiple employees each have their own way of doing things and don’t have structured workflows in place. 

Well-equipped managers

A well-run warehouse is the result of great technology systems and employees working together. But it’s also the result of great managers who have the accurate, updated information and decision-making capabilities they need to ensure warehouse operations are as effective as possible. 

WMS provides easy-to-understand dashboards and query tools that allow managers to exercise control over processes, as well as to track employee performance. Using the dashboard data, managers can uncover problems and solve them quickly to avoid undue costs. They can also see where opportunities exist on the warehouse floor to help the business increase efficiency and profitability.

3.Make Labor Less of an Obstacle with Epicor

When there’s a skilled labor shortage, building suppliers are some of the first to feel its effects. But with a warehouse management solution developed to meet your industry’s specific needs, you don’t have to spin your wheels trying to find and hire employees to keep up with operational demands. 

Epicor WMS gives your current personnel the tools they need to do more with less, so your business remains productive and profitable regardless of industry labor strains. You’re able to gain insight into warehouse data and workflows, so you can improve warehouse operations and make informed decisions. If and when you do hire to fill open roles, you can go through the process more strategically and cost-effectively, knowing that your warehouse operations are running smoothly even in changing markets.

As the leading software partner of the building supply industry, Epicor maintains a deep understanding of the technology solutions building suppliers need to be successful. With the complete WMS system of software and hardware, you can optimize and streamline your warehouse operations, as well as integrate WMS with Epicor’s cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool to improve overall visibility, provide clearer insight, and drive performance across your entire business. 


To learn more about how Epicor’s WMS can benefit your warehouse operations, download our eBook.