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Warehouse Automation: Why Warehouse Workers Need Not Fear Automation or Robotics

The notion of the “Robot Apocalypse” has become an archetype in modern economics and retail. Across the country, retail employees fear how robots will impact job security and their futures, but the use of warehouse automation and robotics means great things for the future of warehouse workers in retail, as explained by Greg Ip of The Wall Street Journal. Let’s take a closer look at why warehouse workers do not need to fear automation or robotics.

More Traditional Retail Jobs Are Gone, But History Brings Light to the Issue For Warehouse Workers

The primary reason behind the fear of robots comes from the loss of employment. Thousands of retail brick-and-mortar stores are closing across the country, and the demand for products online, otherwise known as e-commerce, is responsible for this trend. E-commerce allows companies to put newer products in front of consumers, and consumers want the convenience afforded by online shopping.These facts never an archetype throughout the history of how disruptions in known industries have a greater positive impact on society. This concept goes back to 1589, and it was reiterated during the early 1970s and 80s as automated teller machines (ATMs) became popular. Economists believed ATMs would result in a dramatic reduction in the number of banking positions. While the overall number of employees per bank decreased by one-third over the next 30 years, the operating costs of banks decreased. As a result, more banks opened, creating more jobs.

Retail Workers Move to Order Fulfillment Centers

Over the last decade, brick-and-mortar retailers lost 140,000 full-time jobs. Warehousing grew by 401,000 during the same time. On the surface, it appears hundreds of thousands of jobs have vanished, and other industries are growing. The jobs simply moved from traditional retail to e-commerce. In other words, retail employees have become warehouse workers.

Warehouse Automation is a Boon to Workers & Efficiency

Contrary to popular opinion, the use of robotics and warehouse automation does not necessarily mean robots have taken over. Automation can run within the system, improving slotting practices too, and robots work to make employees’ jobs easier and more efficient.For example, automated forklifts and carts eliminate the need to walk between picking bands, and workers are using this technology in tandem with their existing job duties. This example is not limited to picking. It continues and exists throughout, packaging, labeling, shipping and final distribution of products through a company’s logistics network. Automated systems, such as ConfigLead and TestLead, also allow companies to update the configuration of warehouse management systems (WMS) and reduce costs associated with testing and implementing a new WMS. Therefore, companies have more money to invest in employees. In fact, many of today’s online retailers offer in-demand employee benefits, like tuition assistance, health and wellness programs, better schedules and even better pay. For example, warehouse workers may receive a 31-percent increase in wages compared to their previous positions in traditional retail.

Is Your Job Subject to the E-Commerce Revolution, and Will You Team Up With Robotics Too?

Robotics and automation are the new teammates to retail workers, and traditional workers are moving to warehouse workers at rates faster than ever before. Think about how robots and automation could help you work quicker and more efficiently. Still unconvinced? Watch this quick video on how Amazon’s latest use of robotics and automation in warehousing helps the e-commerce giant and her employees thrive.

Please note: a subscription to the Wall Street Journal is required to read the full article on warehouse automation and warehouse workers, which can be viewed by clicking here.