As we know, the logistics industry becomes more fast-paced every year. The higher customer expectations get, the harder we work. Despite the chaos peak periods can cause, when we come home after a challenging shift at a manual warehouse, we take comfort in knowing we helped to achieve something. Feeling needed makes for a rewarding job. If a machine does the hard work for you, the labour loses its lustre – right?
We understand the appeal of automation, but we also recognise the drawbacks of using robotics in your warehouse. Here are five reasons warehouses should keep running the same way they have been for decades.
A costly choice
The obvious one here is cost. Warehouse automation has a high initial cost, and with payback periods of around five years, its advantages lay mostly in long term business plans. In the short term, it could be a huge cost to the business with very little quick return on investment.
In some cases, switching to an automated warehouse could mean completely changing the layout and processes of the operation to accommodate new machinery and systems. This is likely to cause long periods of downtime or delays to the daily business, which is the last thing you need when you are investing a large sum to implement the new system.
Flexibility of man and forklift
Some operations are simply not suitable for automation. Take a timber merchant for example. In a manual warehouse, if there was a fault and the product began to fall, a human operator on a forklift or sideloader would have the ability to make a quick decision to vacate the area and revisit it to restack the material where it belongs. In an automated facility, robotics wouldn’t detect the fault and expensive machinery could be damaged as a result.
With new machinery and systems comes the need for new skills and expertise to implement and maintain it. The use of robotics in your warehouse may even remove the need for some of the less skilled roles, so you may end up losing employees and struggling to recruit the skilled workers required to run your automated operation. Christmas parties are no fun without the people.
Breakdowns spell disaster
In automated warehouses, system breakdowns can be very costly in terms of repair costs and the downtime they cause. On the other hand, if a forklift breaks down in a manual warehouse, other equipment in your fleet can be used while your truck is being repaired. And usually, fixing a forklift is a lot cheaper and quicker than fixing a robot.
Staying put – the ideal option?
Warehouses have operated the same way for decades – using man’s decision-making ability mixed with the strength and robustness of forklift machinery to get the job done. With a huge range of manual machinery on the market to suit the needs of all types of organisations, there is simply no need to put trust in automation to do a human’s job correctly. That is, until customer expectations reach a point that human workers are no longer able to fulfill.