Technology evolves at a breakneck pace. Just about every industry you can think of is changing due to advances in technology. As automation technologies become more affordable and more commonplace, and the internet-of-things becomes a reality, the way that most businesses operate is continuing to change. There is enormous pressure on companies across industries to change the way they do business in response to the emergence of new technologies.
Warehouses are no exception to the above trends. Everything from stock tracking to the standard forklift is changing in response to the introduction of automation technologies.
The pros and cons of autonomous vehicles in the warehouse
The introduction of automation technologies into warehouses is dramatically altering the way that the businesses operating them approach their management. The gradual shift towards autonomous vehicles in the warehouse reflects the general shift towards autonomous vehicles we are witnessing with personal vehicles.
The primary benefit of automated forklift trucks is that they are cheaper to run. If forklifts are one day capable of driving and operating themselves, there’s no need to pay a human worker to operate them.
Reducing warehouse handling costs is not the only benefit of autonomous forklifts. If the technology advances sufficiently, autonomous forklifts could prove to be safer than manually operated vehicles and far less prone to accidents.
However, there are also drawbacks to automated forklift trucks and other vehicles in warehouses, especially in their current state. The reality is that even the most advanced autonomous warehouse vehicles aren’t as reliable as human-operated vehicles. Humans can operate forklifts more safely and more efficiently than automated systems can.
For now, most warehouse operators are sticking with human operators for mechanical handling equipment in the warehouse. While automation might ultimately reduce costs by eliminating the need for some of the people currently required to run a warehouse, the technology isn’t quite at that point yet.
What changes can we make to future proof our careers in warehouse handling?
The future of warehouse automation involved more than just self-driving vehicles. Automation will also have a critical role to play in the future of warehouse management system designs. By automating as much of their operation as possible, warehouse operators can reduce or eliminate human error for the equation, enabling them to maintain more accurate stock records and manage their warehouses more efficiently.
However, whereas an autonomous vehicle could eliminate the need for a human worker in the warehouse, an automated warehouse management system won’t be able to replace human workers entirely. It will be a very long time before goods can be delivered, unloaded, scanned, and stored without the need for a human. This is a prime example of how technology can augment the work of humans without necessarily usurping them.
Any warehouse workers looking to future proof their careers need to be focussing on improving their computer literacy and technology skills. Automation is going to play a significant role in the future of warehousing, and it will inevitably cost some people their jobs. But losing warehousing jobs to automation doesn’t have to be an inevitability.
Should we be worried about being replaced by robots?
Assuming that technology continues to evolve and doesn’t hit a significant bottleneck, it seems inevitable that there will be a day in the future when robots can handle most of the tasks involved in running a warehouse without any input from humans. However, that day is a long way off yet.
For the foreseeable future, warehouses will be run and operated by people, not robots. As automation technology becomes more commonplace, it will be augmenting the work that people do rather than replacing them; human operators will work alongside new technologies to carry out their duties.
Businesses like ours are doing our bit to secure the futures of warehouse workers by future-proofing our products to ensure they are always meeting the needs of the industry s it currently exists. Some businesses are putting up a futile resistance to new technologies because they fear that they will usurp human workers and lead to job losses.
But introducing new technologies, including automation, into warehouses doesn’t immediately threaten jobs. In fact, resisting these new technologies makes warehouses less competitive. This represents a greater threat to jobs than introducing new technologies.
The warehousing industry is a prime target for many new technologies. Over the last few decades, automation has crept into warehouses across the world in the form of autonomous vehicles and automated warehouse management systems. But the future of warehousing will still rely on human workers. It will be a long time before robots can take over all the roles in the average warehouse. Workers that want to future-proof their careers and warehouse managers who want to protect their livelihoods and those of their workers should be embracing the opportunities that these new technologies represent.