Redesigning jobs in retail for happier workers
Words by Julia Chan
Outdoor Venture is well known in the sports fraternity for its distribution and retail of the best-in-class sports and outdoor footwear, apparel, and equipment since its founding in 2005. Currently, the company has secured exclusive distribution rights from brands such as The North Face, Salomon, Helly Hansen, and On Running.
Starting from its first retail concept, Running Lab in Funan Centre in 2005, Outdoor Venture has since expanded its retail footprint to 20 retail points of sales located across Singapore and Malaysia. Due to a trend of more active lifestyles resulting in an increasing demand for quality sports apparel, the company has increased their retail format offerings with the addition of Liv Activ, The North Face, and Sports & Lifestyle stores over the years.
Outdoor Venture aims to maintain its position as a leader in the Running and Outdoor Specialty by representing the most authentic and innovative products to their customers. Therefore, they also distribute to over 150 doors across Southeast Asia from department stores to sporting goods chain, specialty outdoor, running and cycling retailers as well as lifestyle and health and wellness shops.
Using technology to improve productivity
With a lean workforce of about 70 staff (the majority of whom are locals), the staff working at the warehouse and retail outlets often face the laborious and time-consuming task of manually counting and recording the inventory during inbound and outbound operations. Mature workers in the warehouse team found the inventory-checking process slow and tedious and often had to deal with errors.
Retail staff also required between 2 to 3 hours to manually check and sort their weekly replenishment with the assistance of 2 to 3 staff, depending on the shipment size. This job task could even extend to half a day during peak selling season when delivery and replenishment is at their highest, taking away precious time that the retail staff could have spent serving customers.
Recognising that jobs needed to be redesigned using productivity in inventory management, Outdoor Venture enlisted assistance from NTUC’s Employment & Employability Institute (e2i) to tap on the latter’s expertise in helping SMEs improve their overall productivity under the WorkPro Job Redesign Initiative. This initiative provides funding for companies that implement scalable and innovative solutions to create easier, safer and smarter workplaces benefitting mature workers.
To alleviate the issues faced using manual inventory management, Outdoor Venture purchased 15 sets of mobile warehouse software with handheld inventory scanners for their staff managing the inventory in the warehouse and retail outlets.
The scanners scan the barcode on every item in the inventory stock and send the total number of items per stock-keeping unit back to the overall system. This data is then added to the overall inventory count, stored, and backed up so that the staff can always keep an eye on the current inventory and are notified to purchase any low-on-stock product if necessary.
Time savings = better jobs and higher wages
With the help of the handheld scanners, most of the retail staff have significantly reduced their stock-taking time to within an hour now. With better efficiency in stock management, they can spend more time interacting with customers or executing other higher-value tasks, leading to better sales for the stores.
Over at the warehouse, the mature staff also use handheld scanners to enhance their productivity. Besides reducing the stock-taking time, the new devices also offer respite to their eyes as there is a lot less eye work on checking and hence eliminating the possibility of human error that comes with manually counting the inventory.
Besides streamlining the stocktaking process, replacing manual counting with handheld inventory scanners has several other advantages as well. Outdoor Venture is now able to churn out discrepancy reports to alert managers of any missing inventory. This ensures that their inventory count is accurate and updated in real-time.
With happier workers, better jobs, and higher wages for impacted mature workers under the WorkPro Job Redesign Grant, Outdoor Venture is grateful towards NTUC’s e2i for the latter’s generous sharing of ideas and working with the company to elevate their work staff capability.
To learn more about Outdoor Venture, visit:
Instagram Link: @runninglabsg @livactiv