Recently, the focus has shifted from finding staff to retaining employees. So too in the fulfillment and warehousing industries, where the work is often repetitive and physically challenging. Better pay may help, but that doesn´t make the work itself any easier. Automation may well be the secret to keeping your workforce happy and committed.
Finding new staff for your warehouse or sorting operations can be a hassle. Shift work where people have to carry boxes for eight hours or perform the same task over and over again isn´t attractive to the generation entering the labor market. Workers who lost their jobs during the covid-19 pandemic, or left from their own will, have come to the conclusion that they want nicer jobs that are physically less demanding. The new staff you do find must be trained before they are up to speed.
While this may be a successful strategy in many industries, there is an element that is pivotal in making tasks in fulfillment and sorting centers easier, healthier, more fun, more interesting, and less dangerous: automation. Especially when it’s smart, flexible, and scalable, automation can make things better for your staff and you.
Let’s have a closer look at the possibilities around automatic storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), which are in high demand at the moment. These systems alone take on a huge chunk of the warehousing tasks, reducing the number of people necessary to fulfill (online) orders. Still, when goods come automatically out of storage, they must be combined, packed, labeled, and sorted to destinations like bins, containers, and transport vehicles.
Freedom of movement
Building up the picking- and sorting area with conveyors is possible. In centers that sort goods in dozens of directions, however, you run the risk of building a labyrinth that severely restricts workers in their movements. Undesirable in terms of well-being and personal safety. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) on the other hand keep walking areas and sightlines open. At the same time, they keep up the flow of goods from picking through packing to transport, as any conveyor would. Mobile robots encourage natural human movements but take away those that are wearing the body down, such as lifting and lots of walking.
And if the need arises to change the configuration of your warehouse, mobile robotic systems adapt far easier than conveyor belts that may well be bolted to the floor and almost certainly aren’t the right size to fit the new situation.
Prime Vision’s systems and solutions are all designed to make operations more efficient. But there are benefits that may not be immediately obvious. Robots reduce the need for people to walk miles in a warehouse and they can carry items weighing up to 32 kg. They save time and are beneficial for human backs and knees.
Clocking in early
And take our Flow Projector: it projects numbers and/or letters onto parcels, so workers see at a glance which items to sort where. This enables them to pick up more than one item at a time. It also eliminates the need to read labels or use a hand scanner, making sorting feel much more natural.
To quote one of the customers:
,,The muscle memory to just pick up parcels and put them away was so much smoother.’’ Another customer mentioned that some workers clock in a few minutes early to work at a chute fitted with a Flow Projector.
In computer vision, software can get all underlying information from barcodes and 2D codes, even if they are damaged, badly printed, or creased. These programs reduce the need for video coding, meaning fewer people are in front of a screen figuring out what should be on the label.
People often say they are afraid of robots taking their jobs. In practice, it turns out automation makes work easier, less mind-numbing, and safer. People will always be needed to do tasks only humans can do and use machines for ‘mindless’ jobs. This holds true even as machines become increasingly smart thanks to AI.