It’s a given that most warehouse-related jobs are physically demanding. Bending, lifting and walking pretty much come with the territory. However, as warehouses and manufacturing facilities continue to grow in size, the distances that workers walk during a typical shift likewise is increasing.
On average, it’s estimated that the typical warehouse worker walks about 10 miles per day. Not only is this a considerable distance, but it’s also “non-revenue” time in terms of worker productivity. At the average walking speed of 3 MPH, that’s over 3 hours every single day, accounting for over 40% of paid time.
Traveling from Point A to Point B means the worker isn’t performing value-added tasks. In addition, while workforce camaraderie contributes to a positive workplace environment, warehouse operators acknowledge that excessive socializing can also result from workers having to physically interact with one another each time they are required to move items from one location to another.
For many warehouse operators, reducing the amount of time workers spend walking is therefore one of the main reason they are attracted to automation, including the use of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).
And, while improving worker productivity and reining in labor costs remains an ongoing concern for operators, the analysis and reasoning that operators are conducting when evaluating automation is changing, hastened by the pandemic.
According to A3 (the Association for Advancing Automation), “At one time…robot pricing almost exclusively focused on hard operations and maintenance costs. Now, it’s become less straightforward, shifting to intangible costs and benefits.”
These intangibles include “how to attract and retain high-quality employees, how to keep employees safe on and off the workforce, how to ensure endpoint security, particularly as workplaces transition remote, how to be prepared for and anticipate crises and how to maintain strict robot compliance with Covid-19 social distancing regulations.”
A3 added that the shift to intangible costs and benefits, which includes ergonomic issues and regard for employee wellness and safety are “improving communication, reducing work-in-progress inventory by combining operations, and increasing employee safety and retention.”
While the current environment and focus on intangible costs and benefits has moved to center stage, the tangible warehouse costs—energy, materials, ongoing maintenance, for example—are obviously still important, and work in tandem with employee safety and retention to boost the overall success of the operation.
For that matter, industry experts emphasize that a well organized workflow, facility layout, order and inventory management, are among the basic fundamentals that require ongoing attention.
Right now, competition for workers is fiercer than ever and it’s unlikely to ease anytime soon. In fact, it could just as easily tighten further.
While there are various factors at play, the summation is simple, and better yet, puts employers and employees on the same page.
That is: warehouse operators need solutions that are affordable, easy to implement, deliver a quick ROI, increase productivity and velocity, while positioning them as an “employer of choice” among prospective job candidates.
At the same time, workers are more discerning today, and when it comes to the warehousing and manufacturing sectors, safety and welfare is key in their decision-making.
The rapid expansion of AMRs is helping employers and employees realize goals that are mutually beneficial, especially when it comes to easing the physical demands on workers, and this is truly a step in the right direction!
We invite you to learn about our newest generation of MARC, the 3 Series.