How to Train Warehouse Staff to Ensure Automation Success  

by Prime Robotics
May 14, 2024
staff training,warehouse automation

Implementing automation improves efficiency and throughput in the warehouse. Getting the best outcomes relies on the buy-in and preparedness of employees who will use the technology daily. A comprehensive change management plan and thorough training ensure staff have the tools to adopt and master the new system.  

Project leaders, engineers, and/or continuous improvement teams often underestimate the extent to which the new processes and technology must be explained to warehouse operators. Key stakeholders may have been immersed in the project for months, designing and testing new processes. Yet the warehouse staff may only be exposed to the new system in the final stages before implementation. It may take several explicit communications or training sessions for them to embrace the new ways of working. Recognizing this gap and providing continuous training opportunities is essential to minimize the learning curve and ensure a smooth transition to improved warehouse flow. 

Below, we explore key strategies for delivering effective training and empowering warehouse staff to successfully adopt automated workflows. 

1. Evaluate and communicate the goals of the automation. 

Before introducing a new automation system to the warehouse, project leaders must have a clear idea of what they want to achieve and how it will benefit staff, operations, and customers. The following questions should be addressed: 

  • What are the primary goals of the project? For example, do you want to reduce errors, increase throughput, optimize warehouse space, or improve inventory management? 
  • How will the new system integrate with existing warehouse processes and systems? 
  • What skills will my team need to successfully work alongside the new system? 
  • What are the costs and benefits of the change? 

Once these questions are answered, it’s critical to clearly communicate the project objectives to warehouse staff. Employees must understand the purpose and value of the automation to fully embrace it. Providing examples of how the automation will enhance their work processes, such as reducing manual labor-intensive tasks or increasing job safety, helps garner buy-in and enthusiasm from employees. 

Communicating the goals and benefits of the automation project creates a culture of understanding and collaboration among warehouse staff. At Prime Robotics, our highest performing clients have a team champion (or champions) who serves as an internal advocate for the project and resource for other team members. This person facilitates communication between leadership and operators, addressing concerns or resistance from team members and driving continuous improvement. This on-the-ground support helps ensure that warehouse staff understand the new system and integrate usage into their daily operations. 

2. Select the right automation partner. 

Choosing the right automation solution and robotics provider is essential to ensure a successful transition to automated operations. It’s also crucial to assess the support, training, and maintenance services offered by potential partners. Robotics providers may structure these offerings as part of a tiered program or support plan, so you will need to evaluate the appropriate level of services you need and expect from your provider to set the team up for success. For example, you should consider factors such as budget constraints, your staff’s level of experience with automation, and the role of your internal champion when selecting a provider and support plan.  

Prime works with your entire team to learn your environment and tailor the training program to meet your unique needs and preferences. Our team of experts is committed to delivering a custom package that aligns with your business goals. Whether it involves company-wide training or a train-the-trainer approach, Prime works with you to define and measure learning objectives and ensure staff have mastered the necessary skills to become proficient in the new system. 

3. Plan and implement training that accommodates staff’s unique needs. 

Planning, developing, and delivering the staff training is arguably the most important part of any change management program. People will only use a new technology correctly if they understand it. Making sure that operators fully understand the system is key. 

Things to consider include who will conduct the training, when and where it will take place, and the format that will be used. Working with your robotics provider to customize the training will help ensure its effectiveness, since they know the ins and outs of the technology. Delivering company-wide training is often a good place to start to ensure everyone receives the same message and basic understanding. This may be led by your robotics partner, or by internal champions who have received training from your partner. 

Following the initial training, it may be necessary to personalize sessions for different job roles. Let’s say a warehouse is deploying robotic pallet movers to automate the transport of heavy cases and pallets through the warehouse. Dock workers and order pickers may both use the system but in different ways. A dock worker will take goods off the truck and place them onto the robot to be inducted into the warehouse. An order picker may use the robots at the pick station, selecting goods and stacking cases onto the robot to be shipped out to customers. While both employees will use the same robots, separate training sessions that dive into their specific use-cases and the impact on other workflows will help ensure proper understanding and usage. 

It’s also important to consider your staff’s learning preferences and current operational knowledge. The training should be conducted in a way that is flexible, interactive, and hands-on, allowing operators to become familiar with the technology in their real-life work environment. The training should leverage their existing knowledge, building on it and showing them how to apply it within the new system. Accommodating different shift schedules and offering training sessions outside of working hours will ensure maximum participation and engagement. While in-person training and demonstrations will likely be required, offering virtual learning options may be helpful in certain situations where teams or facilities are spread out. 

4. Deliver comprehensive training—from safety protocols to system integrations. 

Delivering comprehensive training goes beyond introducing new technology and offering hands-on demonstrations. For example, a session around safety is critical, where staff will learn how to operate and interact with automated systems safely. This includes understanding emergency procedures, proper equipment handling, and built-in safety features such as LiDAR sensors on an autonomous mobile robot (AMR). This training should be designed with your safety department to ensure it covers the right topics according to your firm’s standards. 

It’s also important to equip staff with the skills to identify and resolve common issues to minimize downtime and optimize robot usage. This includes knowing what to do if a complex issue arises and cannot be solved internally. For example, in the event of a technical software issue, Prime’s robot technicians may need to connect to your system and troubleshoot remotely. Providing warehouse staff with the appropriate contact information and protocols is a must. 

Another major component is training staff on how the automated system integrates with existing warehouse infrastructure and processes. Prime does this by taking a day-in-the-life approach, offering insights from the perspective of those operating the system. This includes diving into how the automation integrates with your warehouse management system (WMS) and supports inbound and outbound workflows. With an understanding of the bigger picture and how everything works together, staff will feel empowered to use the system optimally and drive towards overarching business goals. 

Finally, automation may add new concepts and components into the warehouse. Ensuring that everyone uses the same terms and vocabulary reduces confusion and miscommunication when the system is used in production. 

5. Provide coaching, monitor performance, and implement feedback. 

Training alone is not always enough to ensure staff will use the technology effectively and confidently. Leaders must provide ongoing coaching and guidance for those who need help, monitor and review performance using KPIs, and adjust processes as needed to make the best use of the technology. This ensures warehouse operations, staff, and customers are benefitting from the automation and that project goals are being met. 

It’s important to foster a culture where constant learning, improvements, and evolution of staff skills are encouraged. Leaders can do this by establishing communication channels, via messaging tools or in-person meetings, where staff can share feedback, learnings, and best practices as they work alongside the automation. Ongoing training and educational sessions monthly or quarterly ensure that employees consistently update their skills and understanding of the system. Continuous sessions are especially critical as new employees are hired to ensure all staff receive sufficient training. 

Proper Training and Support Enables Successful Automation Adoption 

Achieving automation success is difficult without proper preparation and training of warehouse staff. From evaluating operational needs and selecting the right automation partner to delivering tailored training and providing ongoing support, each step is crucial for ensuring a smooth transition and realizing the full benefits of automation. By leading the project with open communication, encouraging feedback, and allowing continuous improvement, warehouses will empower their staff to embrace automation and exceed the desired business results. No matter the size of your robotic fleet, your human staff are the cornerstone of a successful automation project. 

Contact us to schedule your workflow assessment and learn how Prime’s implementation team will partner with you and your staff to ensure automation success. 

Prime Robotics