Robotics make it easier for operators to manage productivity in a time of severe labor shortages, says Karen Leavitt, chief marketing officer at Locus Robotics.
Many companies had worked on an automation strategy before COVID-19 struck, says Leavitt. When the lockdown came, they viewed it as the impetus to begin implementation. “When 2020 hit, they came off the sideline and said this is our sign. It's time for us to jump in. We've done all of the analysis that we're going to do, and we really need to start adopting technology in order to alleviate the burden posed by the shortage of labor.”
Productivity gains have been the norm for those investing in robotics, she says. Customers measure the output from their workforces, and a doubling of productivity is common. Moreover, return on investment can be rapid.
“I always tell our customers, ‘You know what? Robots are cool, but cool doesn't pay the bills.’ You have to see a hardened economic value proposition in order to adopt a solution. And you also have to make sure you're giving yourself the flexibility to be able to scale up and down as the business changes.”
It's imperative that a provider is aware of all of a customer’s needs in its warehouse, Leavitt says. Aside from outbound picking and fulfillment, growth in returns has mushroomed.
The pandemic dramatically increased items sent back. Shoppers ordered several sizes of a garment online rather than try things on at a retail store. Then they returned two-thirds of their order.
“So it isn't enough for a vendor or provider to offer just one form factor of solution or one speed of product to manage just one type of goods,” Leavitt says. “You really have to anticipate all of the needs of the customer in the warehouse.”
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