Labor shortages across the supply chain, particularly in the warehouse and transportation sectors, are one of supply chain managers’ top concerns.
While challenges in attracting and retaining qualified workers in these sectors is not entirely new, what is different now compared to 18 months ago is that e-commerce sales have risen sharply, and so too has consumer demand for all types of goods, fueled by a booming post-pandemic economy.
Many warehousing and distribution operations are challenged with moving a higher volume and variety of small-sized packages while simultaneously building buffer inventory to offset unreliable supply—in other words, adopting a just-in-case model instead of just-in-time.
As expected, the interest in automation, including autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), is picking up, too, especially for operators who recognize they need to make an investment in automation, but also require a quick return on that investment.
AMRs are a logical investment for both smaller and/or highly manual operations that are taking their first steps into automation, as well as operations that are looking to expand and supplement their automation strategy.
For starters, today’s AMRs are exceptionally easy to integrate into the existing warehouse environment.
MARC, our mobile autonomous robotic cart, can be up and running in less than ten minutes. Its ability to map a facility means it can navigate to pre-programmed destinations and avoid any obstacles, like people and forklifts, along the way.
By using the EZ-Go NavigationTM feature, MARC can learn a destination by pushing the cart to the desired point and simply pressing a location button for a few seconds. Then, users simply push a pre-programmed button and MARC is on its way.
Next generation AMRs like MARC are also very safe when interacting with users—which is another consideration high on the list for facility operators and their employees.
MARC uses a combination of 3D cameras, proximity sensors and a laser to provide a complete view of what is surrounding the cart.
The high-resolution 3D cameras give MARC the ability to see at extreme angles. LIDAR (light detection and ranging) scans the environment in real time to create a map for the cart to navigate in a dynamic and constantly changing facility, and 16 proximity sensors support the anti-collision system with a 360° view of the area near the cart.
Not only is it much safer for employees to work alongside AMRs than ever before, integrating AMRs in a facility also enhances safety by relieving employees from repetitive movements and monotonous tasks, which has the added benefit of improving overall job satisfaction and retention.
Facilities are faced with myriad pressures, including growing concerns about hiring and keeping employees. AMRs offer a compelling solution that is easy to implement, affordable, with a quick ROI.
It’s time to roll!
How bad is the labor crunch?
The latest survey from The Workforce Institute at UKG, “The Resilience of Manufacturing: Strengthening people operations and bridging the talent gap amid crisis,” finds that manufacturers’ top recruitment challenge today is finding candidates with the right skills (54% of respondents)—a 16% increase over last year’s survey, conducted in March 2020. Furthermore, one in 10 manufacturers said their production lines were understaffed at least half the time in March 2021, while nearly 2 in 3 manufacturers said they are “struggling” to fill critical labor gaps, and nearly a quarter are “really struggling.”