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Collaborative Robotics
automation blog

How labour shortages are affecting the logistics sector and why automation is the solution

Published on 2021-08-11 14:49:00 UTC in Collaborative Robotics

By Stuart Coulton, Regional Manager, OMRON UK North
This is an unprecedented time for the UK logistics sector. A once in a century pandemic combined with the end to a half-century in the European Union has led to considerable labour shortages. To complicate the situation even further, all this is happening at a time of unprecedented growth as more consumers turn to online shopping with the expectation of a speedy delivery right to their door.
With fewer workers now available, considerable challenges are facing the sector. So how can warehouses overcome labour shortages and still meet their deadlines?
Thankfully, technology is ready to step up and revolutionise how the sector operates. Through the digitalisation and automation of practices, warehouses can meet the demands of the modern world by improving employee productivity and reducing waste.
Let technology help us get more done with less.

The causes of reduced warehouse worker availability

Although logistics is one of the hardest-hit sectors, labour shortages are affecting a broad range of industries. Research shows the summer of 2021 has the highest vacancy growth in the UK since 1998, with the supply of workers dropping at its fastest rate in four years.The reopening of sectors post-lockdown has caused a spike in labour requirements; compounding this is the lack of overseas workers coming to the UK due to Covid travel restrictions and Brexit.

Three major consequences of reduced warehouse worker availability

  1. A shortage in workers means warehouses have to offer increased wages to entice more people to apply. This is not an isolated increase in cost for logistics employers; it also spreads to consumers and manufacturers/suppliers.
  2. Less staff at a warehouse puts significant strain on the existing employees. Being asked to work longer hours in an already taxing job often leads to reduced accuracy in tasks or more errors occurring.
  3. Without finding ways to provide the same services with less staff, warehouses cannot deliver the same results. This means longer delivery times for their clients and a reduction in the overall movement of goods.
To overcome reduced warehouse worker availability, warehouses must rethink how they operate.

The benefits of warehouse automation

Thankfully there is technology tailor-made to automate every stage of warehouse operations. Automation can be incorporated into inventory arrival, movement within the facility and delivery using significantly less human assistance. Whether it is 
  • Warehouse management software,
  • Scanning inventory with mobile devices,
  • Simple access to cloud-based storage,
  • Smart shelves and pallets utilising RFID tech,
  • IoT sensors,
  • Or incorporating robotics,
There are many ways automation can make warehouse work easier. They say, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." The current labour shortages can become the kickstart warehouses need to embrace automation and reap the benefits on offer.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

AMRs are one of the most exciting areas for growth in warehouse automation. AMRs assess their environment and move inventory through the facility without direct human supervision, replacing manually operated forklifts. As a result, they eliminate labour intensive and repetitive physical tasks, improving warehouse efficiency, and reducing employee workload.

AMRs are a great way of overcoming reduced worker availability and transform how inventory moves within warehouses.

With the reduction in warehouse worker availability, now is the perfect time to learn more about automation and how it can change your business processes. Check out the HD-1500, OMRON's strongest AMR and see the next logical step in logistics. Contact us for more information

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