Find it, pick it, pack it, ship it.
That is the routine for warehouse work, and robots are coming to the rescue in an industry that just can’t hire enough humans.
Companies are investing millions in warehouse robots to pick up the slack in enormous storage and shipping facilities.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, a single robot saves up to 18 miles of employee walking, increasing picking productivity by two or three times.
In 2018, according to Stord.com, there were 400,000 robots installed per year globally. By 2022, that number will grow to 584,000 units.
In fact, robotics has come to the rescue of North American warehouses, which are struggling to find labor. In the U.S., warehousing companies added about 168,000 jobs between April 2020 and April of 2021, a 13.6 percent increase. But sector payrolls contracted by 4,300 jobs from March to April, according to a preliminary report from the Department of Labor. Logistics employers simply can’t find enough staff to keep pace with demand. Logistics staffing firm ProLogistix says the average starting pay for warehouse workers was $16.58 an hour in April 2021. That is up nearly 9 percent from April 2020.
According to the Wall Street Journal, warehousing demand has been driven forward dramatically by the pandemic, which created a surge in online demand while shrinking the supply of available workers. It’s not that robots are taking human jobs so much as there aren’t humans to fill them.
Logistics providers are looking into remotely operated forklifts in warehouses that can be controlled from anywhere in the world using real-time video and audio. This could allow automation companies to find workers in areas of the employment market not usually tapped by warehousing, such as disabled workers.