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January 12, 2024

Help Wanted: How Robots Ease 3PL Labor Pains

Author Icon Mary Hart, Senior Content Marketing Manager

The warehousing life isn’t easy. Between ruthless quotas, grueling hours, and a shrinking talent pool, third-party logistics (3PL) managers struggle on all fronts to staff up. Seasonal spikes (or even social selling spikes like the recent Stanley craze) and client demands that can change on a dime definitely don’t help either. So how can already overworked 3PL managers lure in new employees and possibly retain them during challenging labor times? The answer isn’t by adding more chaos — it’s robots! 

Catch a 3PL Worker’s Eye with Tech

Attracting new full-time or even temporary talent as a 3PL means showcasing your competitive edge. Increasingly, that edge comes from the ability to work with technology like cool robots that optimize your warehouse workflows. Young job-seekers especially prioritize innovative companies that are unafraid to embrace automation and artificial intelligence (AI)

By deploying autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to work alongside 3PL associates, managers signal a commitment to scaling warehouse operations in smart ways, and not just adding more grunt work. The cool factor of cutting-edge tech also helps as a lure during competitive hiring crunches. 

Sean Pineau, Director of 3PL Sales at Locus Robotics notes, “Distribution centers rise up in the same geographical areas, which leads to limited labor pools and companies offering a quarter more per hour than their nearest competitor to lure the labor to their warehouse. When your 3PL has AMRs, you have the competitive advantage of the technology and being able to work with the bots.”

Think about it: With lots of warehouses typically situated in the same area, people could choose to work at any warehouse and typically they’ll go to the warehouse that can pay them the most. But if those warehouses are still using manual processes and require their workers to walk miles each day pushing or pulling heavy carts, while YOUR warehouse is automated and robots do the grunt work, you have a competitive advantage right there. 

Train Temp Workers Quickly

During peak season spikes, when 3PLs don’t want to bring on more full-time employees as they won’t need them past the peak, they turn to temp workers. However, that’s not always the golden ticket to productivity because it can come with the bottleneck of onboarding and training the newbies.  

How can you get your temporary associates trained quickly? When you automate your 3PL with AMRs that have intuitive interfaces and display screens, you can get people picking in just minutes instead of days or weeks. 3PLs that leverage these easy-to-learn robots gain a huge advantage with veteran and temporary associates working alongside the robots to manage surges instead of draining resources. 

Retain Top Talent  

Physical demands constitute a huge chunk of warehouse job dissatisfaction and day-to-day stress. Unrealistic quotas and the inability to adjust SLAs when social selling leads to spikes causes additional fatigue and frustration. Robots help to relieve associates from the relentless burden of pushing heavy carts for miles. 

With robots transporting materials throughout your warehouse, humans are able to handle more interesting tasks that use their brain and can be upskilled. Removing dull routines and safety hazards goes a long way towards higher retention and associate satisfaction surveys confirm working alongside robots make people feel valued and happier at their jobs.  

Scale Up without Stress

What happens when Black Friday-level volumes seemingly never end, or one of your customers sends out their product to influencers to promote without mentioning it to you, causing a social selling spike? Call in the bots. Warehouse automation enables 3PLs to scale up rapidly without exposing workers to push-pull injuries from the accelerated pace. By splitting up the workloads with robots doing the transport and carrying orders, robots and associates can achieve more without the headaches or fatigue.

A major advantage of flexible robotics systems is they can get up and running in your current brownfield warehouse layout in just weeks to handle peak season and every day volume increases. 

Pineau says, “With AMRs, there’s no need to halt operations for months or longer and redesign workflows for fixed conveyors and other mechanical solutions. I like to think of the robots as a dynamic conveyor that is flexible and scalable to fit your needs. The robots are essentially a plug and play solution that can seamlessly drop into your existing operation bringing improved efficiencies and productivity.”

For example, AMRs can handle point-to-point (P2P) transport tasks, carrying picked items or inventory to restock or replenish around your facility. This allows your workforce to focus on more value-added tasks. The AMRs navigate safely around associates and inventory using sophisticated sensors and software. It’s a quick, non-disruptive way to upgrade brownfield operations.

Labor Allocation

When your 3PL brings on warehouse automation with robots, you not only get the increased productivity, but also receive valuable intelligence for optimizing labor allocation as well. Analytics identify trends and capacity thresholds so warehouse leaders can redistribute associates to the areas that are receiving the most orders.

3PLs already operate as well-oiled machines, when they’re optimized properly and are automated. Bringing in robotic reinforcements allows your associates to focus their strengths on complex tasks better suited for human ingenuity, empathy, and adaptability. 

While associates are using their brains, robots relish the heavy lifting tasks, reducing strains and boredom. Managers seeking to capture efficiency gains without burning out their associates teams will realize the future of warehouse work is already here and it’s human/robot collaboration!

Want to explore how Locus Robotics’ industry-leading robotic solution can equip your workforce and retain top talent? Let’s connect!