Will future warehouses still include humans?

Despite predictions of the human-less warehouse, this scenario is looking like it may be unlikely.

Dieter Berz-Vöge, CEO of GreyOrange, recently discussed the future of warehouses. He summed up the challenges by saying:

“Over the last couple of years, we see ecommerce dominate the trends within warehousing – be it same-day or next-day delivery, last-mile customization, 3D printing in warehouses, or even free-of-cost returns. All this is putting pressure on warehouses, and the major driver now is to enable a flexible warehouse.”

Many warehouse owners want to increase efficiency and save money through automation. Warehouses that are under pressure to fulfil customer demands are currently more efficient using human labour as this is usually the most flexible solution. Workers with tools like aisle picking trolleys can quickly locate items and take them to packing stations. Businesses can respond to peak demands by employing a higher number of temporary staff.

Dieter Berz-Vöge believes that most warehouses using robots are not cost-effective because they do not adapt well to fluctuating demands. He says the future is not to replace all humans with automated machines but to create warehouses in which humans collaborate with robots and software systems.

For small to medium operations, the cost of robots can be prohibitive and, with the current state of technology, it may not be more efficient to use machines to replace human workers. Money could be better spent on automated systems that guide human workers to make it quicker for them to locate individual items. It is not yet time to stop using manual handling machinery.

Posted by Katrina
4th March 2019
Retail & Warehousing

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