News & Insights: Future of Warehouses

Automation in warehouses

Automation in warehouses

This is an area that we can see grow and grow in the coming years, making warehouses more automated. We have seen this with food production factories, in the 1950’s these had a high staff head count whereas now the roles are more high skilled roles to look after the machines. Automation is a next step for warehouses for many reasons.

But what exactly is Automation in warehousing operations? It’s a mix of many things working together to make the whole process easier. Utilising AI, Machine learning, Robotic Process Automation. All these things sound more complex then they are, AI is just software that has the tools to make decisions, machine learning is like AI but designed to learn about specific things, Robotic Process Automation is stuff like automated e-mails or the delivery drones of Amazon, this article will be exploring Automation in Warehouses in general.

 

 

Higher demand

With a sharp rise in interest in the field. Automation is on track to become the most demanded investment of 2021. One aspect of this is due to unprecedented demand due to the recent boom of e-commerce and online shopping alongside market interest from tech firms and Logistics leaders. With demand rising as customers express changing shopping habits, which is where this rise in demand has comes from. Prior to the pandemic, e-commerce was growing at a wonderful rate, the pandemic only furthered it’s growth, however as things slowed down on the supply chain, causing industry panic and widespread counter planning. The continued growth of e-commerce companies alongside an almost unprecedented level of demand had forced the e-commerce industry to grow into many new areas like Logistics and the larger supply chain, being more involved with supply chain, it simply had to in order to cope with the demand. To put it into perspective, before the pandemic about 50% of orders were single item, that number is at 80% now, meaning more orders are being made with less items per order, resulting in more labour intensive operations occurring.

 

Reduction in none skilled labour

With the effects of Brexit setting in, we’re seeing the knock-on effects, currently there is a surplus of work and a lack of workers. Caused primarily by a mass exodus of the EU workforce, this is what caused the gap in work regarding warehousing, there aren’t enough warehouse staff to be on the floor and in lorries, so investors are having to look to alternative avenues to bridge the gap created by the lack of workforce.

With all of this, companies like ISN, a logistics company now using automation across a lot of it’s warehouses, states that by partnering with Locus Robotics, they formed a plan to introduce autonomous mobile robots to reduce travel time, allowing the human packers time to actually pack, as the strenuous journeying was being done by robots. This is only possible because of two things, rapid growth in the e-commerce industry and the lack of available labour, the lack of readily trained warehouse operatives meant ISN had to look to other strategies, while making sure those strategies supported and propped up the activities of the warehouse operatives.

 

Consumers want goods 24/7 and fast

When the first lockdown was incurred, people were advised against non-essential spending, this and the rules regarding crowds and gatherings meant people couldn’t eat out at restaurants or buy luxury goods. People still wanted to spend, so they turned to the online spaces to find ways of buying goods they now couldn’t.

This surge in demand for e-commerce acted as a catalyst for the already growing industry. This created a bigger market for investors to look into e-commerce, it’s also an industry that relies heavily on automation. Ocado is an exclusively online grocer, which provides all the usual amenities of a grocery store. Boasting an ability to deliver on time and to a good standard. This is due to how people feel about consumerism now. People want to buy locally sourced stuff with as little contact as possible, as quickly as reasonable.

Consumer needs shifted wildly too, as supply chain insecurity went on, which meant the exports passing through ports were things needed for working from home, like headsets, desks, office furniture and the likes.

Automation could help streamline the process of e-commerce. Many investment firms are looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) as a solution, by introducing tech to warehouses that catalogues and remembers where items are, they can easily seek out the item and take it to where it is needed.

 

Consumers willing to pay

The cost of retaining labour is rising, this and rising material costs have left warehouse operatives in a situation. In order to make up the deficit in the workforce, many are turning to automation to help remedy the lack of labour. Turning to methods like picker-packing robots, better connected supply chain software and even artificial intelligence to create solutions.

Customers are willing to pay for better e-commerce too. Many consumers have often complained about long waiting times of deliveries and the usual issues of ordering online. Indicating that consumers aren’t satisfied with what they’re paying for. Automation would remedy these issues greatly, the lack of human error will save billions, many analysts have cited the billions per year that are lost due to human error and the like. Services like Nuro exist, which is a fully automated grocer and delivery system. It may be more expensive currently due to how recently this field has been explored, however customers have already expressed their interest and desire in services that use automation wisely, with the cost of the parts that make automation becoming more affordable, people are looking to automated services with more support and interest then they have been.

 

Health and safety

Co-bots, is a concept one company is working on. Instead of completely replacing human workforce, this company creates assistant robots, who handle the more repetitive tasks, being a warehouse operative can be dangerous, when employees have to spend hours on their feet, performing the same actions, this wears on their body and joints, which lead to costly health assessments for businesses. Instead of having a workforce suffer from repetitive strain injuries, co-bots can handle the more strenuous activities, allowing warehouse operatives to focus on more efficient and important activities.

There’s also the way automated warehouses are handled currently. One fully automated warehouse recently burst into flames, the warehouse floor was full of bots who continued to pack and export packages across the facility. Due to the software running on the robots, they lacked any kind of fire marshalling software, which made it awkward for the fire-fighters to resolve the issue while working around robots.

With automation in warehouse operations being such a new field, many researchers are looking into what exactly health and safety in regards to robots will look like. We’ve never really had to think about robot worker rights before.

 

Examples

Panasonic, Shopify and Toyota all have something in common, they all use Automation in their warehouse operations. Citing that automation has increased cost efficiency and quality, through the creation of scalable solutions afforded by automation, these companies were cutting down the likeliness and cost of wrong deliveries going out.

Some examples of automation in warehousing is stuff like goods-to-person (GTP) technology, Driverless Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are examples of fully automated processes, goods-to-person is services like Nuro, the bot that delivers groceries.

Efficiency with warehouse footprints were recorded to be reduced up to 85%, meaning less time spent retrieving and more time spent handling.

KNAPP uses Omnichannel fulfilment, which means the entire warehouse is capable of responding to complex orders before handing them over to packing.

Odeco and Amazon already using Robots for picking and packing, alongside their human workforce. DHL uses robotic cleaners to take the workload off cleaning staff in warehouses.

 

 

 

This will not be the end to team members in a warehouse, far from it. It will just change what the role of humans are. They will still be required for dispatch, goods in and technical roles to maintain the robots. The roles will evolve and re-skill. It is a very exciting time for warehouses as they change and adapt for the next 20 years. HtE Recruitment is a Logistics recruitment agency covering the UK, if you are looking to recruit within your Warehouse, our team can support.

 

 

HtE Recruitment News & Insights

This news and insights page has been written by Josh our Marketing Coordinator. HtE Recruitment take no responsibility for this post, this is just some thoughts about the future of Warehouses. As a National recruiter working with Logistics clients across the UK. If you are looking for a Logistics candidate, our team can support

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