How Technology Can Support Warehouse Associates and Alleviate Challenges Brought on by Labor Shortages
From the manufacturing of goods to shipping to last-mile fulfillment and delivery, the entire supply chain has seen its challenges over the last few years. It's difficult for everyone directly involved to relieve the stresses being put on the cogs that keep the machine running. With the increase in consumer demand for at-home deliveries during the pandemic, it's been challenging for warehouse employees to keep pace with the spike in orders.
For those in the fulfillment industry, it’s essential to provide warehouse operators with the support they need to meet increased warehouse demands while following pandemic safety measures. One answer to this can be found in wall-to-wall fulfillment solutions powered by collaborative robotics, which help attract and retain talent by automating laborious work, allowing employees to focus on other tasks, reach critical business goals, and reduce the physical strain often associated with manual picking and packing jobs. And overall, handling more order throughput with less labor/fewer associates.
Employees working alongside collaborative robots in fulfillment centers see a decrease in burnout. The additional help provided by robotics allows a more efficient workspace that makes the challenges of the job easier and safer, fully replacing dangerous manual push/pull carts, cutting down on walking, and improving overall job performance and satisfaction. A human-first robotic solution can completely reshape a warehouse, reducing the stress and challenges that have come from pandemic-related obstacles — e.g., labor shortages, employee burnout, additional demand — and allowing a brighter future in warehouse fulfillment.
For major shoe brand Crocs, the introduction of collaborative robotics made an immense impact. In a single quarter, the higher picking rate and increase in processing with the help of robotics helped the company’s volume grow by 182 percent. Additionally, Crocs exceeded its designed picking rates by 25 percent. Warehouse employees who were used to having to push and pull manual carts are now walking less and picking at higher rates. Training, too, decreased from a week to a day, saving 32 hours of employee training time for the business.
With labor shortages a persistent reality for warehouse operators, it's essential for businesses to find ways to improve productivity, efficiency and morale to make employee hiring and retention a reality. The addition of automation, in tandem with other workplace incentives and benefits, can help empower employees in their work, while allowing businesses to meet goals and build a more sustainable staffing model for fulfillment activities.
Gillan Hawkes is the vice president of product and analytics at 6 River Systems (6RS), a collaborative warehouse solutions provider that helps its customers (retailers, 3PLs and manufacturers) overcome significant challenges in order fulfillment.
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Gillan Hawkes is the vice president of product and analytics at 6 River Systems, a wall-to-wall fulfillment solution provider. Gillan leads product development and management as well as digital strategy and operations to improve B2C and B2B customer acquisition and experience. She has 12+ years of experience working at large retailers including Staples, The Home Depot and Marks & Spencer.