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AI in the Warehouse: A Tool, Not a Threat

in: Manufacturing Solutions, Warehouse Management|Warehouse Management System (WMS), Company News

There is nothing new about AI in the warehouse. In 1956, the first industrial robot could move materials up to 12 feet. Robots of the next generation were confined to industrial manufacturing. Today, we have progressed from giant robotic arms to small robots that move material across warehouses.

The latest innovations in artificial intelligence will drive the future of industry in ways we may not have imagined. At the same time, concerns are growing about the prospect of job automation having an adverse effect on the labor force. According to the Government Accountability Office, in the future, anywhere from 9% to 47% of jobs could be automated. A study from Zippia found that there are a bit more than 1,354,000 warehouse employees in the United States. Should they be concerned that AI in the warehouse will leave them without a job? Absolutely not.

AI is not here to steal jobs. Automating warehouses can instead increase productivity. By automating repetitive tasks, your workforce can dedicate more time to higher-value tasks. Increased productivity can help to reduce the cost of goods, resulting in more of those goods being purchased. In turn, this leads to more jobs to fulfill the demand.

The Role of AI in the Warehouse 

Warehouses are ideal for automation since repetitive tasks are common. Automation and robotics should be viewed collaboratively rather than as competition for jobs. With collaborative AI, operational staff connect with existing equipment and data systems to achieve flexible automation.

Warehouses are already being transformed by automation:

1. Resource Management and Flexibility: As fulfillment demand fluctuates, it’s often necessary to adjust your warehouse’s capacity to accommodate it. It is easier to retrofit robots into new warehouse layouts than change the layout of your warehouse or use alternate shifts. Additionally, some robotics providers offer additional rentals so you can expand your capacity as needed. You can easily transfer robots from one facility to another, allowing you to meet scalable needs on time and on budget.

2. Improved Warehouse Productivity: Despite more than 1.3 million Americans working in warehouses, the number of qualified warehouse workers is declining, creating staffing challenges. Integrating collaborative AI can increase productivity by two to three times without adding unnecessary stress to your workforce.

3. Real-Time Data-Driven Decisions: By leveraging machine learning, collaborative AI can easily learn how to make real-time, data-driven decisions. Research has found that automation can help human colleagues accomplish multiple tasks during a single walking trip, enabling them to do more in a shorter period of time while protecting their bodies from the wear and tear they would experience from walking long distances on a hard concrete floor.

4. Reliability: AI reduces simple but common errors that occur when humans are reduced to doing menial tasks. Data is more accurate and reliable when those errors are eliminated.

Humans and AI Can Coexist

Change can seem scary, and we can see that in the recent controversy over ChatGPT. Some people who write for a living worry that this technology will take over their work, while others see it as another tool to do their job more efficiently.

Although we may fear the prospect of AI in the warehouse and supply chain, these electronic advances should not be considered competition. As in the case of ChatGPT, think of warehouse automation and robotics as breakthroughs that will save people time so that they may focus on more productive tasks. 

It is impossible for machines to have human characteristics such as imagination, creativity, curiosity, emotional intelligence, and social intelligence. If we use AI to automate menial tasks, our minds can be freed up to do work uniquely specific to humans. Those kinds of projects will continue to rise as mankind strives to create products and services that empower us to achieve more.

There is a real fear that human jobs will be lost due to the transition to warehouse automation and robotics. However, a human touch is still required to understand emotional contexts and solve creative problems. This transformation period will be easier if employees are upskilled for the tasks that robots cannot handle by reframing how robotics work with humans.

Warehouse Automation and Mindover Software

Adding AI to your warehouse workflow will create a veritable landslide of data from your warehouse. Tracking and using that data requires having the right ERP and other business software solutions purpose-built for your warehouse and manufacturing business. 

Mindover Software provides ERP solutions based on your business needs to help streamline systems and processes, resulting in maximized business analytics, technology, and lean workflow. In short, we help you do more. For more information, contact us today.

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About Us

Started in Austin, Texas in 2000, Mindover Software has been providing award-winning software and consulting solutions spanning the business lifecycle to small and medium sized business. Now, with consultants in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Boise, and San Diego, Mindover Software provides strong local support with the resources of a national company.

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