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September 07, 2023

The Robot-Powered Warehouse: Upskill Associates for Improved Retention

Author Icon Mary Hart, Senior Content Marketing Manager

Warehouse employment is projected to grow 5% over the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With over 1 million job openings expected annually, warehouse managers need strategies to attract and retain talent in this competitive hiring environment.

The rise of warehouse robots and automation may seem threatening to facilities and associates that aren’t used to technology, but they’re not a threat. They help to empower and enrich your human workforce. Robots don’t replace jobs — instead, they pave the way for increased employee morale plus associate upskilling and career growth. 

Optimize Operational Efficiency 

Automated mobile robots (AMRs) and their associated software utilize advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and computer vision through LiDAR to optimize your warehouse operations. By taking over tedious, manually-intensive tasks like picking, inventory, replenishment, and fulfillment, AMRs streamline workflows and boost productivity for your associates and your entire facility.

This liberates your associates from repetitive grunt work so they can focus on more satisfying responsibilities that engage their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. With robots handling the routine activities, associates have time to upskill into roles like warehouse team leader to:

  • Supervise and direct associates that work with the robots

  • Analyze performance data and reports from dashboards

  • Maintain and troubleshoot equipment

  • Provide feedback to optimize automation

  • Plan warehouse layouts and processes

  • Oversee inventory control and management

By offloading mundane tasks to robots, associates gain the opportunity to learn valuable new skills that make them indispensable. This leads to higher job satisfaction, wages, and career advancement potential.

The More We Work Together… 

That old kids’ television show (one with a purple dinosaur) song states, “The more we work together, the happier we’ll be.” This is true for both humans working together and humans working alongside robots. Humans that work alongside robots are happier for the “cool” factor of working with robots; have less physical job stress; and become more technically adept.

With robots assisting associates in executing high-volume, high-speed warehouse activities, the humans get firsthand experience working and collaborating with automation. While they do so, associates can learn how to direct robots, determine the best path for collaboration, and work together to achieve greater productivity than either could accomplish alone.

This human/robot collaboration allows associates to upskill in new technologies they wouldn’t have otherwise learned so they can integrate that knowledge into managing future automated systems and processes. A robot-powered warehouse promotes a collaborative human-robot workforce where the strengths of each complement the other.

Boost Safety

Warehouses pose numerous occupational hazards like heavy machinery accidents and muscle, joint, or push-pull injuries from repetitive motions. Robots significantly improve warehouse safety by taking over hazardous jobs like forklift driving (robots don’t drive the forklifts – but they can carry the pallets that formerly would have been toted on a forklift), lifting heavy objects, and walking up to 15 miles a day pulling loaded carts.

This reduction of risk exposure reduces workplace accidents and injuries. Associates experience less fatigue with robots automating physically-intensive tasks. Safety is critical for maintaining productivity and controlling costs associated with workers’ compensation claims and lawsuits. Robots create a safer environment that boosts associate morale and retention.

Gain New Insights 

As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology advances, robots can collect and analyze huge amounts of data to constantly optimize warehouse operations. This gives managers access to actionable insights they can use to increase efficiency.

Associates who work closely with robots gain exposure to reviewing performance metrics and leveraging data analytics to improve processes. This knowledge grooms them to take on management roles themselves and make data-driven decisions for the warehouse.

Moving On Up

As automation takes over more routine and dangerous warehouse tasks, skilled human insight becomes even more critical for overseeing complex operations. Associates who embrace upskilling to complement robots position themselves for more advanced, better-paying jobs managing sophisticated automated systems.

With the right training initiatives, associates can learn to program, maintain, and enhance robotics and automation. Their expertise in emerging technologies makes them invaluable for future-proofing your warehouse as innovations inevitably continue disrupting the industry.

Upskilling for Success

To fully capitalize on the benefits of warehouse automation, managers need to take a proactive approach to managing and training their associates with an eye towards career paths and advancement. Provide associates with ample opportunities to upskill themselves:

  • Host information sessions to demystify new technologies

  • Arrange hands-on training where associates can work directly with robots

  • Offer tuition assistance for advanced technical certifications

  • Develop mentorships where experienced associates coach new hires

  • Incentivize self-directed learning with bonuses or wage increases

When managers encourage associates to embrace automation, rather than resist it, they cultivate an agile workforce ready to thrive in the future. The robot-powered warehouse leverages technology to unlock human potential.

The future warehouse will run on cooperation between humans and robots. Managers who encourage their team to learn new technologies will build an agile, successful operation. With the right strategy, robots don’t replace jobs – they pave the way for associate upskilling and career growth.

Want to learn how Locus Robotics can help you upskill your associates while optimizing productivity? Talk to us!