General Labor Positions – A Great Start

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Hello all, Marty with you again from Warehouse and Operations as a Career.  It always makes us feel good to wrap up another week doesn’t it.  And I guess for many of us it’s a Holiday week as its Thanksgiving here in the States.  In any event the weeks coming to a close, and I hope we’ve all had a Safe and Productive one!

Last week, on two separate occasions the topic of general labor came up and I’d like to talk about it a little bit today.  The term general labor is a pretty broad term and encompasses a lot of different tasks in the warehouse and transportations fields I guess but I think there’s some confusion, at least in my opinion of what general labor jobs are.

Last week I was asked about the difficulty of finding candidates for general labor positions.  In my experience General Labor work is readily available as well as there’s people to work those positions.  When I think of G/L positions I’m seeing a task that doesn’t require any type of machine operation or equipment maybe usage.  The way I’ve always thought is that if your trained on a particular machine you’d be a machine operator or if your operating a piece of warehouse equipment then you’re an equipment operator.  With both of these examples theirs some training involved, you can’t just walk up to the machine, hit a green button and its done.  I mean we have to know what that button operates, why the machine runs as it does and what it’s accomplishing.  I bet since it’s electric, gas or fueled there’s going to be some sort of Safety training involved also.  And of course, the same goes for any equipment as well, the way I view it is even if we’re using a hand truck or dolly there ought to have been some time spent training us on its proper use.

I know of one facility that boxes and bags food products.  A general labor task there is a person reaches out and grabs a #40 bag of meal or flour and stacks it on a pallet right there beside them.  Their responsible for the proper ti and hi and to make sure its stacked well and somebody else hauls it away with an electric palletjack.  It’s repetitious, and requires someone that can stand for long periods of time, takes their stacking seriously and enjoys the workout.  This facility considers the palletizer position as an entry level position and then promotes from within on to the palletjack operators, forklifts, and receivers etc.  Of course, the normal safety procedures are given and reviewed daily, they really teach proper lifting and ergonomics to the new hires but the job description and hazard analysis for the position is pretty general.  A good general labor position is a great way to break into our field and start learning warehousing.

My talks last week we’re focused around unloading or lumping trailers and containers.  At this particular building they unload hundreds of items, all of which are separated by item and stacked or separated as to fit into a certain slot according to their WMS or warehouse management system with a proper ti and hi etc.  As we’ve learned a ti is how many cases are on each layer & hi tells us how many layers to stack up, rotating the configuration or reversing it with each layer as to kind of lock the cases together creating a sturdier pallet or load.  I definitely do not consider this a general labor position.  We have to be taught to read the load breakdown sheets, understand the pallet configurations and the importance of separating all the products correctly and in the most efficient manner possible.  Now if we’re talking loads and loads, trailers and trailers of the same item or product I’d agree that’s more of a general labor task.  You take the cases out of the trailer, place them on a pallet in the same configuration every time with somebody hauling them away for us and we repeat our task the same way all day long.  That, to me, is more of a general labor job.

I think we may see more general labor jobs in the production side of warehousing than we do in distribution but that could just be my opinion.  I think the construction industry probably has a lot of general labor duties.  I honestly know very little about construction positions, but I’d think there could be a whole lot of positions we could learn around us and it’d be a good solid industry to be in as well.  Actually, during the winter months, I see a lot of construction experience looking for warehouse work and to be honest find, in many instances, their great hires and wanting to learn and work.  Dang, I got off topic again, where was I, oh yeah

One of the conversations that brought up todays topic was a young recruit had asked me what I thought of an unloading job.  He did not have a lot of warehousing experience per say but had worked for a grocery store for about 3 months stocking shelves at night and for a lumber yard for about 5 months.  He had applied for a lumping or unloading position and was told he wasn’t qualified for that job and that they didn’t have any general labor positions open right now.  He had felt that unloading trailers was a general labor job and stopped me outside to ask what skills were needed to unload freight.  Of course, I’m sure he really just wanted to vent to someone and I’m certain he didn’t like my thoughts on the subject either, but I think he parted that afternoon with a bit more understanding than he’d planned on!

You all know, or will know if you’ve listened to all our shows that I’m very passionate about our tasks and jobs AND I believe a general labor position is a great job to lead us into any direction we may desire within Operations.  A good entry level or general labor position can expose us to production, productivity and how a warehouse runs and distributes goods AND can provide us exposure to equipment usage and the many different positions we can reach for, become proficient at and learn to be the best of the best at.  Anyway, I’ll quit ranting and get back on topic here now.

You know how I love self-education and looking things up, so I cruised on over to Answers.com to see how far off the page I was.  Answers.com says general labor is: another term for unskilled labor and you will be doing tasks that need little to no training.

General Labor positions, or in my opinion a few tasks that I see listed on Recruiting groups, social media and advertisements of positions are like:

Stackers – remember the palletizer position we spoke about earlier

Stockers – Grocery Stores and big box stores

Sorters – Separating items on conveyors may be an example

Packers – I think this could mean like closing the boxes or cases after production has filled them.

Assembly Workers – Light assembly, maybe placing A and B together, I’d think anything more shouldn’t really be considered G/L

Wrappers – Shrink wrapping pallets after selection has them stacked and before the loaders run them onto the trailer is what comes to my mind.

I think we can get the idea of general labor.  Not menial, the task has to get done but no involved or specific training or operational experiences may be needed.

It’s true general labor doesn’t usually start out paying all that great but hey, we’re learning something, and we have our foot in the door.  We’ve spoken before about how our first objective is to get hired on, perform our task well and start learning all the other jobs around us or that touches ours and making sure we communicate to our bosses that we want more duties and responsibilities.

If we’re changing jobs or even industries, we should do a little research on the company that’s placed a general labor ad or opening.  A lot of times we can figure out what the general labor position may entail and where it could lead us!

A couple of quick examples.  I myself answered an ad for a loader position, it was advertised as a G/L position.  I applied, got hired, and like on night 1 I started looking around at equipment operators, order selectors, inventory control people, leads and supervisors and something like 26 years later left that company as V.P. of Operations.

I know of a good man, hired on as a maintenance man for a general labor job of changing air filters in air systems and light bulbs through a staffing agency and now something like 12 years later he is running the Safety department for that very facility and has been with the company for maybe 10 years.

If we’re looking for work, even if we’re coming from another Industry try and not get hung up with the general labor word or position.  It may not pay what we’re looking for or even needing to make but try and focus on what the Company can bring us and what other positions that job could lead to.  I bet in many instances by working hard and being there for every shift and of course making sure our managers know we want more we’ll be surprised in just how short of time we can achieve our goals with both position and pay!

Speaking of job’s and postings be sure to follow us on Twitter where we retweet as many postings as possible each week and we’d appreciate a quick like of Facebook too!  You’ll find us @whseandops on both of them! And of course, you can catch up on any missed episodes on iTunes, Apple Podcast and Google Play, shoot subscribe today to be sure you catch our episode each Thursday! Send us suggestions and/or topics or even just say hey, our email is host@warehouseandoperationsasacareer.com.

To close this weeks episode I’d like to leave you on a thought of Family & Working Safe, we’ve all got others counting on us, lets take care of them!

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