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Peoplevox Updates

Will robots wipe out warehousing jobs?

Will Grove
  • 01 March 2018
  • 4 min read

The following is an excerpt from our latest whitepaper, titled ‘Will robots wipe out warehousing jobs?’ It’s a 22 page document that looks at every function within the warehouse, providing definitive answers about which roles will be affected, and why. Get your copy of the whitepaper here to learn:

  • Exactly which roles are under immediate threat
  • The role that software and hardware automation should play in improving processes for the majority of e-commerce warehouses
  • Why ROI should be your number one priority


When the future feels so close, it’s difficult to not try to reach out and touch it. You’ve seen the headlines about the incredible robotics in use at multi-billion corporations Amazon and AliBaba. These headlines are usually followed by enthusiastic talk about how all-encompassing automation will become, framed with videos of little robots zipping around and outperforming their human counterparts with ease.

But this degree of automation isn’t yet actually within the reach of most companies - even those which are shipping up to 50,000 orders a day. These robots are used by multi-billion dollar corporations which can afford to play around a bit, to make expensive mistakes, to own the cutting edge of hardware. Although the innovations that stick will likely be made available to a wider market at a later date, they’re currently stuck beyond the horizon.

Complete robot domination in the warehouse is a long way off

Robotics isn't grounded in reality for the majority of warehouses, and here’s why:


  • The cost of introducing any hardware needs to be justified. Automated hardware is expensive and, owing to how quickly the technology is developing, it’s tricky to invest in a product that is vulnerable in an environment where continual change and obsolescence are rife.

  • Even if the cost of investing widely in robotics was justifiable from a business perspective, there are a tonne of smaller low value tasks that should first be considered for software automation before a complete robotics overhaul takes place.

  • It should be black or white whether to invest in automation. The results should be proven. Because a lot of the most innovative technology is so new, it’s not proven. It’s too great a risk. It’s incredibly difficult to define the true ROI of a major investment in robotics.

On the flipside of the excited frenzy surrounding robotics, you have the doom-ridden articles about how robots are going to wipe out a huge swathe of warehouse employees. It’s a valid concern; warehousing and logistics is one of the sectors predicted to see the highest percentage of jobs affected. McKinsey believes that around 57% of existing warehousing and logistics functions will be automated and handled by a variety of different robots and machines.  

So it’s important to address a few questions:

  • Exactly which functions are ripe for automation?
  • What does this automation look like, realistically?
  • Which functions can be automated by most companies, right now?
  • What role will humans have to play?

This whitepaper isn’t an opportunity for us to indulge our sci-fi fantasies by speculating about our new robot overlords. Nor is it a sensationalist piece about how these robots are going to leave a legion of unemployed human workers in their wake.  It’s an argument, grounded in the reality of day-to-day life of most warehouses, that the automation revolution isn’t going to be exclusively driven by robotics, but also with iterative changes to warehousing software.

 

Automation needs to help your staff to perform better

This is also a paper that will argue that, while automation can be effective at replacing humans in some roles, it will be at its most powerful when it enhances the jobs performed by ground staff.

Through an analysis of each job undertaken in the warehouse, and each function within these jobs, this paper explains how e-commerce companies shipping between 1,000 to 50,000 orders a day currently approach the automation of each role. It then assesses how future automation will likely affect each function.

It will answer the biggest questions that you have about how much you should be investing in automation, where you should automate first and how big an impact automation will have on the way that your warehouse can work both now and in the future.  Download your free copy below.

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