Labour shortages: mobile robots could fix the supply chain

  •   3 min reads
Labour shortages: mobile robots could fix the supply chain

Autonomous mobile robots are being deployed to improve the productivity of the supply chain.

There is a labour shortage — some of the problems might be temporary down to the pandemic and resulting bottlenecks, but there are deeper forces at play; the baby boomers are retiring, the proportion of the retired population to the working-age demographic has never been higher, and it will rise, globally. Forget the debate about automation destroying jobs; we need automation because there are fewer workers and it's going to carry on decreasing as the global population ages.

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The supply chain is a good example — indeed, it is often where the bottlenecks are.

Now a company called Integrated Supply Network - ISN, has some news.

The company has deployed 49 autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) across Atlanta, Fresno, and Indianapolis; the result: a 266 per cent increase in productivity. More specifically, this meant "picking quality, accuracy, and speed was improved - from 30 to 110 picks per hour."

The autonomous mobile robots or AMRs were deployed by Körber and strategic partner Locus Robotics, which says it is the global leader in warehouse robotics.

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Theron Neese, Chief Supply Chain Officer at ISN, said: "With the AMRs, we have been able to improve operations significantly. Adoption of the AMRs has reduced the physical stress of our workers, improving quality of work, and has increased job satisfaction. Additionally, we are reinvesting cost savings achieved with the AMR integration into higher wages for our warehouse associates, further boosting retention."

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ISN's customer service includes picking and shipping on the same day, so high efficiency is key. As a result, the company's small package shipments increased from 50 per cent pre-pandemic to 80 per cent.

It says: "With a high reliance on warehouse labour, the current climate has brought about staffing challenges with high turnover rates amongst the competitive job market."

It is automation like this that the global economy needs urgently. Right now, rising raw material costs, combined with bottlenecks in the supply chain and labour shortages, are fuelling the claim that inflation is returning —1970s style.

But then again, the 1970s didn't have technology like this.

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