Robots and automation in logistics
08/05/2018
Robots and automation in logistics

From sci-fi to everyday science, robots have become an everyday part of the workplace and will only continue to progress in their growth and involvement in warehouse work. Whether they will eventually take over the employee role and become self-sufficient or they will always need manned support, the bots have made it clear they’re here to stay. What does this mean for the logistics industry?

The sale of industrial bots increased by 18% over the course of 2016 and has only continued to increase over time, meaning more and more firms are considering the use of robots in their workplace which in the long-run, cut costs for major firms such as Amazon.
 
One of the industries to first prove the successful opportunities these robots can offer was within assembly lines, especially for cars. in many factories cars used to be built bit-by-bit by workers until 1969 when an engineer named Victor Scheinman invented the Stanford Arm, a 6-Axis robot that could be used to add parts to a vehicle. Eventually its success lead to a revolutionary change, that forged assembly lines into what they are today, continuing to take advantage of the technology available.
 
In logistics, things are becoming very much the same. Some firms have taken to parcel processing almost entirely by machinery. This means that more and more in each industry machinery is becoming the core of the workplace with employees working around machinery rather than machinery working to benefit the workers. 
  
The question is, does this put workers at risk of losing their jobs? 
 
While the machinery is taking over many roles that would’ve originally belonged to an employee, there are also openings for new job opportunities thanks to the technology. While there could be less labourers due to the other benefits firms need to consider, new employees would be needed for roles such as technicians, without them the machines couldn’t function.
 
In addition to this, self-driving vehicles are on the rise currently being tested and are set to hit UK roads by 2021. Once this is the case, what could be the implications for the logistics industry? Drivers have expressed multiple concerns with self-driving technology. Along with the trust issues with having a machine drive your vehicle, it could damage their job role. Once again however, this technology will not go unmonitored. Technicians and support will be required for any errors that may pop up once self-driving vehicles make their mark on the map.
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In warehousing, there has been a large investment in the technology from one company: Amazon. Recently they developed new warehouses that are tailored for robots that can move a shelf of goods from one end of the warehouse to another. Which saves time for the firm’s employees to focus on their other duties. Considering the success and timesaving following the introduction of these bots, further investment is surely around the corner.
 
Overall, there is an easily recognisable pattern that this new technology improves the speed at which goods are moved and can benefit firms and employees in ways that never seemed possible not too long ago. Despite how big of an impact the technology is making, companies should be sure to have enough staff on-hand in case the technology ever fails them. Lacking employees and letting technology overtake employment rates would simply lead to criticism instead of something that should be celebrated for improving the work environment. 
 
As for what is possible in the future: in 2016 Amazon completed their first successful UK air-delivery using drone technology, could this become another revolutionary addition like the Stanford Arm? Only time will tell.
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