More and more warehouse operators are opting for implementation of robotics technology, says Kait Peterson, senior director of product marketing at Locus Robotics.
As inventory that had been stuck overseas by the pandemic makes its way to U.S. warehouses, operators have a capacity crunch. Their facilities are full, and labor shortages mean bottlenecks that existed abroad are now in their warehouses because they can’t move inventory out the door. “We're seeing a constraint within the warehouses and the need to increase throughput through the four walls,” Peterson says.
In fact, the pandemic accelerated what’s been happening for years: For whatever reason, fewer people want warehouse work. That’s where robots step in. Obviously, the concerns humans have — dangerous or boring work, for instance — are not issues for robots.
And the notion that robotics takes somebody’s job is a misconception, Peterson says. “Automation actually augments and makes jobs safer and more effective.” As a consequence, whereas a company might have utilized a handful of robots in a small picking space as a pilot years ago, full-scale deployment takes place today from day one, often with hundreds of robots.
“I think you'd be surprised how many facilities actually operate with robotics today and how many are looking at operating with robotics,” she says. “It’s interesting because a lot of companies are starting to look at robotics as a competitive advantage. Not only can you augment the work life of your workers, you can have better retention in your warehouse. You can hire more people, who have more enjoyment out of their jobs.”
Nevertheless, many companies remain largely manual, so there is much room for growth in robotics, she says. “There are millions of square feet of warehouse that are still manual or just basic systems with carts and hand-picking and those types of things. So, lots of opportunity.”
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