Mhlnews 1967 Quickpoll4 06

April Quickpoll Results: Is Typical Warehouse and Factory Design Dehumanizing?

May 1, 2006
Respondents to MHMs April Quickpoll question were equally divided on the issue of whether the typical design of warehouses and factories dehumanizes the

Respondents to MHM’s April Quickpoll question were equally divided on the issue of whether the typical design of warehouses and factories dehumanizes the work environment. Respondents who commented acknowledged that warehouses could be cold and unwelcoming, but defended the typical building design based on its utilitarian purpose. Several comments noted that it is not the facility per se that dehumanizes the work environment, but managers whose actions set the tone for the facility. Another cited research showing that actions taken to improve worker comfort (air conditioning, more light, etc.) improve productivity.

Verbatim comments:

Posted By Richard Warren Harrell: If you’ve ever considered a warehouse to be anything more, it is, after all, a WAREHOUSE what do we WANT in a warehouse :: do we want a spa,,or a pool or I know, how about a game room?!!! ha,man, c'mon,it is a warehouse, designed as a work enviroment, most warehouses have the tools there to get the job done, not to have "fun" but just consider for a moment if we played music in a warehouse not every one is going to be happy because every one likes different music, and it keeps going the questions about what to play when to play what,u-see it throws more of a hassle than a helpmanagers worry about enough!!

Posted By Don Benson: Clearly dehumanization can be intentional or unconscious on the part of owners, management, building designers, architects, WMS designers, Re-engineers, HR policies, and aspects of the business or elements of the work environment. And, the evaluation of a dehumanizing work environment can be very subjective.

At a very basic level, OSHA, building codes, fire codes, etc, provide some level of sensitivity to the humanity of employees. The level of government enforcement of these laws can also be thought of as dehumanizing

So, to your question, a building is only an instrument, the result of a set of design requirements, and influences people through the actions of the user (company, managers, etc.). People dehumanizing other people, when they begin to think of others as separate, not one of us, as something to be used, as objects. And then buildings, guns, and other instruments all are used to dehumanize.

Posted By Don Kuzma: A warehouse or DC by itself is not dehumanizing no matter what tools or equipment are employed. The important factor in making people feel that they are an active and important part of the team is the management of the warehouse. It is the management that sets the tone for the facility.

Posted By Jim Pepitone: Though a warehouse may not be anyone's preferred environment, most engineered warehouses are designed for their primary objective in a way that considers and accommodates important human factors (e.g., adequate visibility, tolerable temperature, fresh air ventilation, rest area). Moreover, research data show that warehouses designed to provide workers an even more comfortable and supportive environment (e.g., more light, air conditioning, labor-saving equipment, visual and auditory support systems) result in greater productivity.

Perhaps most humane about warehouses is the fact that they provide people an opportunity to create value (i.e., work) in exchange for income. When management's strategy looks beyond creating a warehouse environment that is just humane to creating a warehouse environment that supports, engages, and inspires workers to achieve high standards of quality and productivity, then both management and warehouse workers win big. To accomplish this greater design goal, management must look beyond the engineering (i.e., application of the physical sciences) of warehouse facilities to the humaneering (i.e., application of the life sciences) of the human work that creates value within warehouse facilities.

Posted By Gerald Schulman: The topic is a very generalized statement. I don’t want my warehouse to look my office area in front of our building. Or as quaint or "cozy" as a living area! What I think I have seen in my 25 years experience in warehousing is that companies need to realize, that even though they think of the warehouse as a liability instead of an asset, a little investment in the team and a breakroom area will go along way in the employees production in the sterile warehouse environment that we have created. A place to cool off in the summer and warm up in the winter along with a fridge for lunches and maybe a couch and TV go along way, you wouldn't believe the look on their faces when it was done and the respect for it they have and enjoy a comfortable room to "break" in.