Carton Counts and Scan Rates

SDA members often ask whether 'carton counts' or ‘scan rates’ are enforceable and whether they can be disciplined or even warned for not reaching targets set by management.

A carton count or a roll-cage carton count is the rate at which night-fill or fulfilment staff get stock out onto the shelves. Similarly, scan rates are the rates set down by some employers which they believe to be the number of items you can or should scan per minute.

The SDA does not accept the universal applicability of carton counts nor scan rates. This is because they are not necessarily a true or fair indication of how hard a person is working or their contribution to the business.

Different employees have different strengths, weaknesses and abilities and work at a different pace.

In addition, some cartons and products are easier to unpack or scan than others, while some take longer or are heavier, and some are fiddlier.

Unpacking a carton of non-perishable items is often quicker than unpacking perishable food items which must first be rotated to ensure stock is always fresh. Likewise scanning six packets of cake mix cannot be compared to scanning six bags of dog biscuits.

To consider all cartons and packaging the same, is an over-simplistic view which can lead to workers injuring themselves while trying to meet set targets.

The SDA strongly supports the concept of a 'fair day's work for a fair day's pay' but workers should not be placed under pressure to work at an excessive, unsafe and stressful pace.

It can also lead to employees being improperly, unfairly or incorrectly warned for not meeting artificially determined carton counts or scan rates when they're already working at 100% capacity.

Carton counts should only be used as a guideline (if they are used at all) by management, to estimate the required amount of staff and hours needed for each shift, because the use of universal rates does not take into consideration individual circumstances. Circumstances can include being called to the front end or providing service to customers.

A reasonable employer who is discerning and observant knows and appreciates the capacity of each employee and doesn’t need any computer assistance to identify those who are not working to ‘their own capacity’. A competent employer will appreciate that human physiology is diverse and capacities vary from person to person, that variations in size, shape and amounts of stock make a difference and they appreciate the capacity of each employee. They can also identify those, who are working hard without having to resort to the use of an often inaccurate and artificial assessment like carton counts or scan rate amounts.

It is also inappropriate for your employer to put scan rates up in public view with names on them as this can belittle a worker that may not have been scanning as fast as someone else. Your performance at work is not a matter for public broadcast unless it celebrates high achievement.

If you work in grocery, night-fill or stock replenishment and are concerned about carton counts or you work on registers and constantly being badgered about scan rates, perhaps you have even been counselled or warned for not reaching set targets, you should contact your store SDA Delegate, or call our Information Helpline on 1300 SDA HELP (1300 732 4357).

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