Jim Lawton answers how robots and automation are shaping the future of work in warehouses.
(Click video above for full story, summary below)
Robots Are Changing What it Means to Work Warehouse Operations
There’s a lot of noise around robots replacing humans in all kinds of jobs, but I prefer to focus on the opportunities that robots and automation create for people. If you go into a typical manufacturing environment today, or you look in a warehouse environment, do you see people enjoying their jobs? The reality is they don’t and that’s borne out in the turnover rates in those spaces – in 2021, the churn rate was more than 40% in manufacturing and close to 50% in warehousing. In warehouses, workers often spend 50% of their time just getting from place to place in order to be get the items needed to fulfill an order. That’s a waste of human talent, and doesn’t do anything to improve operational performance.
When robots do what they are designed to do, and people do what they are designed, everything works better. Robots and automation allow us to think differently about the future of work in all kinds of places, including warehouse environments. Advances in machine vision, perception and artificial intelligence, are allowing us to do things with robots that we couldn’t do five or 10 years ago. The innovation is opening up new opportunities to deploy robots in places that can add much, much more value. One of the most interesting aspects to that whole evolution is that, as these environments become more technology driven, the work appeals to the number one thing that the next generation of workers are interested in doing with their careers: pursuing STEM related jobs. It’s a compelling vision, too, for the current workforce: Zebra’s 2022 Warehousing Vision Study found that 83% of associates shared that that they are more likely to work for an employer that gives them modern devices to use for tasks. For jobs once defined as dirty, dull and dangerous, robots are shaping a transformation for the warehouse and manufacturing workforces of today and tomorrow that’s most welcome.