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Here Come the Robots!

Wait, what??!  It was predicted a year ago that Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) would soon be entering the DC workforce transforming warehouse operations.  They would become truly intelligent and self-directed.  Well my friend, believe it or not – that time has come. AMRs are a goods-to-person technology that put away, select and/or move full pallets, to smaller AMRs used to support workers in piece picking.

Impact on Jobs: The Good, The Bad and…

Remember the shortage of warehouse associates and the high turnover rate?  What impact will AMRs have on the DC workforce as they become more prevalent?

Let’s look at one example: A North Carolina FedEx facility, started with one robot used to transport full pallets.

The Good

It is said that everyone will have a job. It just might be in a different place.  At the FedEx facility, for example, workers who once spent their day moving pallets are being moved to other jobs.  In fact total employment at the FedEx facility has grown.  Workers are reassigned to duties calling for mobile dexterity, problem-solving or other value-added positions. And that in a period where in many if not most areas there is a growing shortage of distribution center labor.  Still for DCs the biggest problem is not having enough people.

The Bad

A few months after the first AMR was added, the FedEX distribution center brought on five more robots. Initially a few workers were displaced; and over time they projected to replace about 25 jobs in all.

The Unknown

With so many variables and unknowns, its hard to say exactly how these AMRs will impact the distribution and warehousing workforce.  But it does raise some interesting questions:

What are your thoughts?  Contact me and let’s talk about it.