Rather than using technology to replace human workers, the future of logistics depends on collaboration between humans and robots.
Now in its sixth year, Elevate — HighJump’s annual user conference — has become an, and we quote, “unmissable” industry event. Spanning four action-packed days, Elevate unites 700 supply chain professionals for unparalleled educational trainings, networking opportunities, panel discussions, and brainstorming sessions.
At the beginning of 2019, I came across an article that was titled "Record Number of Robots Replaced Humans in 2018". Naturally, I clicked on the article to see what this was all about, and quite frankly, came away a bit disappointed. The disappointment was not at the number of robots shipped to North America, which was indeed a record number. What was disappointing was the lack of information about the actual replacement of jobs due to the increased shipments of robots. While the article did a good job of highlighting data published by the Association for Advanced Automation (A3), it lacked drawing any alignment to how this record number of robotic shipments actually impacted employment.
The lack of alignment brings up the question of whether or not there is an actual correlation between jobs and robotics and automation? Clearly there is a correlation, but does this correlation have to be negative? Is it possible that the growth in automation technology is actually helping to create new jobs and opportunities? These are the types of questions we should all be asking ourselves, because the fact is, robotics and automation technology is increasing in its use and we must be preparing for how automation will impact the future of employment. The question is no longer if robotics will become useful in new ways and industries (it is) rather the question is how fast will the growth in the use of robots be and how will this impact economic and employment opportunities.
The next five years show potential for massive growth of robotics in supply chain management. Here’s how warehouse robots can reduce costs and increase efficiency in the warehouse.
While it may seem like the entire logistics and supply chain management industry is talking about robotics, the hype has not yet led to widespread adoption. In fact, recent research from DHL shows that 80 percent of warehouses are still manually operated. However, we expect that to change as the technologies mature, managers flip their mindset from manual to automated operations, and the warehouse labor shortages continue to push businesses to alternate workforce solutions.
There are many benefits offered by warehouse robotics. From workforce shortage solutions to improvements in inventory management to increased safety and reduced risk of employee injuries, the operational value is there. Also, there’s a concept of logistics elasticity that comes into play here. With robotics, we refer to this elasticity as the enhanced strategic capabilities afforded through robotics. Examples could be quickly deploying more units to support increased demand during peak or re-programming robots at scale to implement new processes.
There’s a lot of moving pieces in the robotics field right now. So, we thought it would be good to hit pause and go back to the basics. Here’s a general overview of robotics in the supply chain, including what the different technologies can do to enhance everyday operations.