Staci Americas Blog

Warehouse Robots Address Labor Challenges in Order Fulfillment

The challenge of finding and keeping warehouse workers in today's labor market has brought the necessity of warehouse robots into sharp focus. Check out this short video on the shift from a manual to an automated pick and pack environment at Staci Americas.



Labor is your largest warehouse cost

After shipping costs, labor is your biggest fulfillment-related expense. These days, reliable warehouse workers are hard to find and retain, and it’s costing more to keep them on the payroll.

  • Labor rates for warehouse workers have risen sharply in the last year. Online retailers whose warehouse workforce must grow in direct proportion to sales growth are seeing profits erode.
  • The turnover rate for warehouse workers nationally is 43%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most companies that succeed in hiring workers to pick and pack orders are merely feeding them into a fast-moving revolving door – unless they’ve devised good strategies for warehouse worker retention.
  • According to a recent survey of supply chain executives by Berkshire Grey Inc., 64% of supply chain executives say there are generational differences among younger workers that, in the years ahead, will lead people to pursue other fields outside warehouse work.

How do you address some of these short- and long-term labor challenges?

One way is to introduce robotics to the warehouse. The Berkshire Grey survey found that, while only 13% of supply chain executives are using warehouse robots, 51% are planning to adopt the technology in the near future.

The benefits of warehouse robots include:

  • Increased order throughput. Warehouse robots eliminate much of the walking workers must do to retrieve products in the warehouse aisles and then deliver those products to pack/ship stations. "In a manual environment, an associate might walk up to 10 miles during an 8-hour shift,” says Chad Warzecha, Staci Americas' Executive VP of Strategy and Operations. “Warehouse robots eliminate that non-value-added travel and allow associates to remain in one area and pick the orders that are brought to them.”
  • Increased attractiveness of warehouse work to young talent. Warehouse robots reduce the physical demands of the job and enable upskilling, as associates learn to interact with sophisticated technology in an automated operation.
  • Hedge against Inflation. It’s harder to establish and adhere to an operating budget as wages rise in an inflationary environment. The use of warehouse robots eliminates this uncertainty, so budgets are more accurate and predictable.

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Robots also support a “do it right the first time” approach, which obviously eliminates the added labor required to correct mistakes. The screen on the bot clearly tells the associate what and how many items to pick and where the items can be found. It can even include an actual photo of the product on the screen to make it super-simple for the picker.

If there is an error, the bot will not move to the next pick location until the correct pick is confirmed.

Associates are not threatened by the robots; they actually appreciate the degree of efficiency and accuracy bots bring to eCommerce pick and pack services.

Their roles don't go away with robots; they simply change as robots handle the rote tasks that can be easily programmed.

Robots are not the answer for every fulfillment operation, according to Warzecha.

“The investment in robotics would be overkill in low-volume, slower-turn picking environments,” he says. “You want a 3PL partner that can take a modular approach to automating fulfillment – adding technology, in degrees, as sales and operational complexity increase.”

Warehouse robots as part of a broader automation strategy

Would you like to explore how warehouse robots and other automation options can improve your order throughput while keeping costs in check? Contact Staci Americas to arrange a confidential discussion with one of our fulfillment operations specialists.


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