Finding labor to manage 24/7 demand is a growing challenge for today’s businesses, and many warehouses are turning to transportation-related automation. But with the improving dexterity and precision seen in several emerging technologies, there’s more for distribution center designers to consider.
Robotic technologies. The advent of advanced vision technology and articulate attachment to move and position product at a lower investment cost is allowing robots to do more of the daily grind. Robotic transport technology is also replacing product movement in operations that historically created significant unproductive deadheading and facility “sightseeing” trips.
Contrary to popular belief, robotic and automated devices are not brought in to replace humans, they are being put in place to compensate for the lack of available workers.
Dynamic systems. Gone are the days of fulfilling yesterday’s orders today. Systems for demand planning are updating constantly as orders are placed and inventory becomes available. Systems are driving reallocation of resources to high-volume, high-priority functions automatically. This drives productivity and keeps valuable associates fully engaged.
Mobile technologies. Having a mobile device with sophisticated apps for managing data entry, sharing issues, problem reporting and direct communication in real time improves productivity for all associates. Apps for managing productivity, timekeeping, activity monitoring and security issues keep everyone focused and safer in the warehouse.
Staffing apps also help warehouses fill vacant shifts by connecting employers with potential semi-permanent or day laborers.
As the workforce continues to change, skilled laborers will become more selective of when, where and how they choose to work. To attract them, companies will need to build better workplaces driven by technology that can support rapid demand changes.
Brian Hudock and David Latona are vice presidents at Tompkins International.
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