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Pros & Cons of Robots in the Warehouse

11.15.2017 | By Chris Pickett | 3 min. read

In a warehouse, numerous processes must be running at a steady pace to ensure efficient order fulfillment. As technology advances, business managers are using apps, digital management systems, and tech tools wherever possible to increase efficiency and cut costs.

Robotic solutions have been a pipe dream for decades – and now, that dream is coming closer to becoming a reality for warehouse managers and logistics companies. Already employed in automotive factories, robots are helping to ramp up output and decrease errors throughout production processes. It’s no surprise that warehouse industries are anxious to take advantage of such technologies as well.

Robots Becoming a Desired Workforce in Warehouses

Robotics companies are jumping at the chance to provide automated solutions to warehouse challenges. Amazon was the first online retailer to invest in robots with the ability to pick products and deposit them in packing stations, and they won’t be the last. As more companies plan to follow suit with this strategy, it’s important to recognize what advantages robots bring to the warehouse floor.

  • Streamline Processes by Doing Repetitive Tasks
    Tedious, repetitive tasks take up employee’s time that could be better spent on projects that require critical thinking. Robots, on the other hand, are designed to handle routine tasks while maintaining accuracy for long periods of time. With automated workers in place, warehouses can increase productivity without negatively impacting quality.
  • Easier Scheduling: No Breaks Necessary
    Traditional workers require breaks and lunch periods to rest and rebuild their energy levels. Yet, no breaks are necessary for robots. They can continue working, uninterrupted, throughout a long shift.
  • Fewer Injuries on the Job
    Robots don’t require people to be with them 24/7. Programmed with sensors, they can perform their work while easily avoiding other robots and objects. This benefit lowers the chances of serious accidents that could impact a human worker’s health and safety.

Issues That Robots Bring to Warehouse Operations

Now that we’ve outlined the benefits, it’s important to consider the drawbacks that come from replacing human workers with machines.

  • Job Elimination for Workers
    Robots won’t stimulate job growth in a warehouse. In fact, they’ll do quite the opposite. Workers may find their jobs eliminated, especially as technology improves and robots are eventually able to take on more and more tasks.
  • No Adaptability or Ingenuity
    While workers can analyze situations and use their ingenuity and critical thinking to come up with solutions to warehouse problems, robots are not adaptable to change in a work environment. A robot can only follow the programming that has been hard-coded into its system.
  • Substantial Monetary Investment
    Initial and ongoing costs can simply be too much for smaller warehouses to take on. While bringing in robots allows companies to lower labor costs by eliminating the need to pay for health insurance and employee benefits – they still have to pay for maintenance and programming. Since skilled robotics programmers are scarce, a company can find themselves paying a hefty sum to maintain their robot workforce.

Making Room for Robotics in the Warehouse Industry

The world of robotics has set its eyes on supply chains and warehouse functions. The day that robots will be fulfilling orders and stocking shelves is rapidly approaching, and for some warehouses, it’s already here.

Yet there are still many obstacles to overcome before robots are accepted as an integral part of warehouse operations. Only time will tell when all key warehouse functions will be left to automated workers and how companies will adapt to welcome new technologies.

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