If you run one of the four types of eCommerce businesses, or want to work for one, you may be researching warehouse jobs. Employment in warehouses has grown 90% since 2000 and is projected to grow by 21% over the next 10 years. These numbers demonstrate a healthy industry with increasing demand.
Warehouses are integral to the success of physical goods getting packed and delivered on time. Warehouse work includes any task related to warehouse organization, maintenance, product handling, packing, and shipping. (For more information, see what is warehouse.)
To understand how your warehouse should be staffed or apply for a warehouse job, it’s good to have familiarity with job types. Keep reading to discover seven different types of warehouse roles and the similarities between some of them.
What Is a Warehouse Associate?
A warehouse associate is any staff member who handles daily responsibilities and tasks throughout the warehouse. The term “associate” is one of the most common suffixes for warehouse employee titles.
What a warehouse associate does at work depends on the business type, the size of a warehouse, complexity of the goods stored, and other factors. Warehouse associates handle a variety of functions, which may include:
- Receiving deliveries, communicating with third parties, and signing for goods.
- Preparing new stock for unloading and shelving.
- Reporting any errors, lost product, or broken materials.
- Picking and packing individual or bundle orders as needed.
- Adding packing slips to orders and updating inventory records.
- Operating machinery or equipment based as daily needs dictate.
- Implementing solutions on the fly or as directed by a supervisor.
- Communicating with team members about daily operations, problems, and completed work.
Warehouse associates may also be temporary, part-time, or seasonal employees. During busy shopping periods like Black Friday and Christmas, you may consider hiring additional associates to help with product demand (including fluctuations in a wholesale marketplace).
What Is a Warehouse Clerk?
Warehouse clerks maintain detailed records of the materials, products, and shipments found in a warehouse. In large warehouses, a clerk is typically a dedicated role, and separate from machine operators or pickers and packers. Smaller warehouses may have a warehouse clerk who’s responsible for record keeping, forklift operation, picking, and so on.
Responsibilities of a warehouse clerk often entail the following:
- Retrieving items for customers and staff.
- Updating product records.
- Moving and replenishing stock.
- Catching inconsistencies and correcting errors.
- Ordering relevant types of eCommerce packaging.
- Reporting inflow and outflow trends to managers.
- Maintaining organizational excellence and safety throughout the warehouse.
Depending on the needs of a business, warehouse clerks may also unload and shelve stock, manually audit inventory (for further reading, see what is inventory), adhere to a cleaning schedule, and operate equipment. If you’re applying to this kind of job, be sure you understand the responsibilities of the role, as outcomes often differ between companies.
What Is a Warehouse Specialist?
A warehouse specialist is responsible for overseeing daily operations and upholding regulatory compliance for activities in a warehouse. They may or may not manage a team of warehouse associates, and sometimes report to managers or foremen. Warehouse specialists may also use a warehouse management system to streamline tasks.
Here are some of the duties handled by warehouse specialists:
- Coordinate receiving, stocking, and shipping of goods.
- Oversee staff assignments and ensure team functionality.
- Maintain compliance with OSHA and applicable health and safety regulations.
- Develop and execute systems for inventory accuracy.
- Operate equipment to transport, unload, stack, or deliver goods.
In many cases, warehouse specialists serve in an assistant managerial or managerial role for employees. Large warehouses have multiple pickers, packers, technicians, and operators, all of whom accept daily assignments. Specialists both provide these assignments and oversee them to ensure proper outcomes are achieved.
What Is a Warehouse Technician?
A warehouse technician is responsible for some or all of the tasks associated with physical objects in a warehouse. It’s possible to see multiple warehouse technicians under the guidance of a warehouse operator, foreman, coordinator, or specialist.
The duties of a warehouse technician may include:
- Signing for receipt of deliveries and updating inventory systems accordingly.
- Operating forklifts, dollies, carts, and other equipment.
- Moving stock from receiving areas to shelves, pallets, bins, or containers.
- Opening, arranging, preparing, and organizing stock for smooth operations.
Warehouse technicians are often in fairly high demand. If this seems like a role you’re interested in, be sure to research available positions near your place of residence.
What Is a Warehouse Coordinator?
Warehouse coordinators bear similarities to other supervisory warehouse roles. The exact responsibilities of warehouse coordinators depend on the nature of the business, number of staff needed, and the scope of products.
Skilled warehouse coordinators have experience in multiple dimensions of warehouse operations, including:
- Inventory control, record-keeping, and databases
- Executing inventory best practices, like the HIFO, LIFO, and FIFO method
- Overseeing all inbound and outbound packages
- Assigning docks and stations for deliveries and pickups
- Utilizing proper signage, warehouse labels, and marking for inventory
- Coordinating all channels of communication between third parties and the warehouse’s staff
Coordinators sometimes work with warehouse foremen or managers to provide the smoothest operations possible. It’s more common to see warehouse job title variance in large facilities, where increasingly specialized responsibilities are needed.
What Is a Warehouse Foreman?
A warehouse foreman is responsible for overseeing one or more teams in a warehouse, as well as the direction and output of those teams. Foremen are the first line of communication between third parties, the warehouse, and the team members they manage.
Responsibilities of a warehouse foreman often include:
- Coordinating and monitoring the inflow and outflow of all goods in a warehouse.
- Assigning daily and ongoing duties for team members.
- Implementing policies mandated by the business and safety organizations like OSHA.
- Contributing to or developing hiring processes for the warehouse.
- Providing quality training in essential job functions for individuals and teams.
- Establishing a cleaning and maintenance schedule for the warehouse.
- Ensuring operations run in a timely manner by leveraging warehouse inventory management software.
Foremen have a lot to manage, and often delegate specific tasks to warehouse associates or clerks. This allows them to streamline operations at a higher level, and recommend improvements where needed.
Warehouse foremen are also sometimes called warehouse managers. If you need a skilled leader for your location, you can attract them with an appealing warehouse manager job description, as well as the right right warehouse manager salary.
What Is a Warehouse Operator?
The role of a warehouse operator often spans a wide range of responsibilities. An operator uses pallet jacks, forklifts, flatbed carts, and cherry pickers to accomplish daily needs.
Warehouse operators may work in conjunction with associates, or they may be the equivalent to an associate at a different warehouse. Operators may also fulfill the following:
- Optimizing storage space and inventory practices (learn more about SKU rationalization benefits).
- Conducting product checks to handle any missing, damaged, or spoiled goods.
- Communicating with third parties both in and outside the warehouse to resolve any receiving or delivery issues.
- Handling responsibilities throughout the warehouse management process flow in a timely manner.
- Weighing, packing, and preparing items for eCommerce shipping.
A skilled warehouse operator knows how and when to make adjustments that lead to tangible results in a warehouse. This insight comes from spending months or years on the job, and taking time to understand functional shortcomings of a warehouse. A warehouse operator can take advantage of ERP software to improve their warehousing management process. That's why it's crucial to understand the benefits of ERP.
Working Efficiently and Effectively
Each business is different, which means warehouse staffing needs are different. The individuals you hire or titles you assign largely depend on the needs of your operations. A warehouse that stores hundreds of electronic or mechanical parts likely has a staff structure different from a cold storage warehouse.
As your average monthly order volume grows, you may discover that restructuring your warehouse staff is the best move. Using these details about different warehouse staff roles can help you make efficient, valuable hiring decisions. You should also look for a manager that knows how to use a wholesale directory to find reputable and reliable suppliers.
Got questions about what to assign your new warehouse staff? Learn all the ins and outs in our warehouse management guide.
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