Lead Forensics

Why robots may not be able to replace humans in warehouses

Many warehouse owners are exploring the possibility of employing robots as a solution to labour shortages. David Theobald, the founder of Veena Robotics, argues that there are many tasks that humans perform that robots cannot replicate.

The key to using automation is to know which operations are suitable for the deployment of robots and which are unsuitable. Humans have many complex abilities that so far no robot has been developed to be able to match. Purchasing, repairing and maintaining robots is also extremely expensive.

Robots have limited functionality when it comes to performing complicated tasks. According to Theobald, machines and automated systems should be used alongside humans instead of replacing them altogether. For example, a human worker using a trolley can be aided by systems that guide them towards order item locations.

Another way automation assists humans is through planning optimized picking routes for workers to follow. Pallets are lifted on and off racking systems by forklifts, but these can be driverless ones equipped with collision detection sensors, so they operate safely even in areas shared with workers.

Warehouse equipment producers will continue to supply manual handling and storage equipment for human workers while robotics, along with other machine-based autonomous technologies, assist them. David Theobold comments:

“Robotic systems work best when they help humans do their jobs better, more easily and more efficiently. The best approach is to put humans first.”

For now at least, it is thought that replacing all human workers is not advisable, since the cost still outweighs the return on investment significantly.

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