Lead Forensics

Why not to use robot order pickers

Many warehouse owners are looking at the feasibility of using robots to replace order pickers. The main reason for considering robots is the promise that they are more efficient at order picking and save wage costs. However, there is a case against the use of robots, and here are some of the reasons:

Cannot deal with the unexpected

Robots need a program – a set of instructions on what to do. They are not designed to be flexible, so when they receive a program, they don’t deviate from it, meaning that robots cannot respond to the unexpected as humans can.

This could change if artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more sophisticated, enabling robots to make decisions when presented with new situations.


You may not have to pay robots a wage and give them time off, but robots are expensive. An industrial robot and the systems needed to control them can cost around £100,000. For the same price, you can employ human pickers for a few years.

There are also running costs, as robots need electricity and regular maintenance. The software that controls them may also need regular, costly updates.

Robots also require human supervisors, who would also need to be paid a wage.


Though there have been great advances in AI, humans are still more intelligent. Machines cannot improve themselves like humans, and they lack empathy, making humans are better decision makers.

Dependence on chips

Like computers, robots are reliant on silicon chips to operate. However, such chips can fail, rendering them useless and causing costly delays.

Inflexible workforce

Many warehouses have seasonal fluctuations in orders and can be especially busy around Christmas. It is not cost-effective to have robots that are only used for a few busy weeks – it is more efficient to employ more temporary staff during busy periods.

Impact on workers’ health

Warehouse pickers have a physical, demanding job that involves lots of walking. If they are removed from picking duties to sit down and supervise robots, the lack of exercise could affect their health.

Take away jobs

Robots take away jobs. There may come a time when robots pick orders in most warehouses, and human pickers become redundant. Conversation is needed regarding the scenario where robots and machines take over the bulk of jobs, as it is unknown how society would cope with the massive unemployment rates that such a scenario would cause.

Advantages of warehouse management systems (WMS)

Rather than investing in robots, many warehouse owners have employed WMS. These systems plan picking routes to save picking journey times and guide humans to item locations. WMS make order picking more accurate and reduce costly errors in order processing.

The importance of high-quality equipment

Productive warehouses rely on automated systems combined with humans. Pickers and packers need quality equipment they can rely on. Steely Products makes a wide range of warehouse equipment, packing tables, picking trolleys, shelving and more that are designed to work well and last.

To find out more about how equipment from Steely Products improves your warehouse, call us or use the contact form below.

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