Lessen the Labor with Unexplored Efficiencies

This frustrated worker is standing looking at a bunch of dropped and likely damaged boxes he was unloading from the back of a delivery truck. Slight motion blur as he mops his brow with his sleeve.

Your supermarket can have the best marketing plan, outstanding customer service, a great location and total dominance in the marketplace, but without products to sell, you’re nowhere. Those products must come to your store in trucks, and getting stock off the truck and into your store aisles is mission critical. It’s also one of the most time-consuming, injury-prone and morale-suppressing tasks in all of retail, and especially in the retail grocery industry.

In a 52-comment Reddit thread, user uno_01 sums unloading thusly: “In my experience, getting unloaders isn’t hard, because on paper this job pretty much just requires you to be able to lift 50 pounds and/or fog a mirror. In practice, keeping unloaders is very hard…” Thread commenters bemoaned a lack of training, poor supervision, obstructionist supervisors, low wages, low morale, lack of positive reinforcement, and physical aches and pains.

The costs of moving stock from truck to floor

As unpleasant as unloading a truck can be for the employees performing the task, it can be just as painful for your grocery store. The costs are both tangible and intangible. Lengthy unloading times and worker injuries cost stores money, undermine employee morale and lead to costly turnover.

Multiple government studies from agencies like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have proven that the grocery industry is among the most accident prone, and the costs of worker injuries is significant for stores. As you might expect, back injuries are among the most common types of injuries in retail operations. These injuries occur during the unloading process, but also in the store aisles as workers move and lift heavy pallets and cartons.

Moving large, heavy pallets, unpacking unwieldy and unreliable cartons, lifting stock from handcarts onto shelves — all of these jobs take time. Labor hours associated with stocking can be among the most significant wage costs a grocery store can face. In any business, time is money and workers who hasten to unpack inconveniently packaged boxes and pallets in order to speedily stock shelves may make more errors or cause damage to products.

Finally, as that Reddit thread demonstrates, if a worker perceives the job as being more difficult than it needs to be — thanks to poor management of resources — employee morale can suffer. Negative reinforcement won’t lift employee morale. Rather, it’s a much more rewarding strategy to provide workers with the training, skills and resources they need in order to do their job well.

One solution with multiple payouts

Of course, better management of the movement of stock from truck to shelves requires a multi-faceted approach. But one simple change in your supply chain management can yield significant improvement on multiple levels.

Adopting reusable plastic containers can help trim the time workers spend unloading trucks and pallets, as well as stocking shelves. Lightweight yet sturdy, RPCs are designed to be easy to manage. Easy-to-grip, dependable handles mean employees will struggle less with lifting chores. Designed with stability in mind, RPCs move and shift less during transportation, so workers know what they’ll get when they open the back of the truck – neat, orderly stacked RPCs, rather than dangerously shifted pallets or cartons. As a result, RPCs can help an operator reduce costly employee injury.

They also reduce labor time because RPCs are designed to come off the pallet and go directly onto a store shelf. They’re a cost-effective, fast and easy way to attractively display products like eggs or dairy. Instead of meticulously removing each carton of eggs from a cardboard box and stacking them on a shelf, associates can simply lift the packed RPC into place on the shelf.

Replacing corrugated cardboard boxes with RPCs can also eliminate time spent breaking down cardboard and baling it for recycling. RPCs are made of recycled plastic and can be reused repeatedly. Collapsing and storing an empty RPC takes seconds.

Unloading trucks and stocking shelves may never be anyone’s favorite job, but when you use RPCs those tasks don’t have to be time-consuming, physically risky and demoralizing for your employees. Nor do those necessary tasks have to be a cost of doing business for your grocery store — they can become cost-saving opportunities, instead.