By Ray Clegg, Director, Logistical Operations, OC Reilly, Inc.

(Jan. 28, 2019)–Increased automation. Digital transformation. Robots rising to cut costs and improve returns. The wave of the future, here today, right?

Yes, it is. But let’s stop a moment. With all of those factors now in play, the assumption comes that people – regular workers on the front lines – are going to be the ones who suffer from all this glorious technology.

Yet that is a false assumption. 

A tech company* in OC Reilly’s hometown of Pittsburgh recently secured millions in funding to advance its autonomous robotic device, which can “see” specific products on warehouse shelves, picking them accurately to assemble a package to customer specifications.

So that means a robot will replace a human being whose job had been picking items from warehouse shelves, right? Not necessarily.

According to this company’s leaders, the exponential rise in online shopping – especially in retail – has the potential to overwhelm current staffing models among suppliers and producers of goods. Added pressure and stress, caused by the need to fulfill many more orders in a much shorter timeframe, leads to employee burnout and turnover. This means recruiting new workers, training them, and incurring all of the related costs.

Technology in this instance supports the human workforce; it does not supplant it. Workers, in fact, may enjoy lower stress and can be deployed to handle more challenging and fulfilling tasks, leaving the mundane job of picking disparate items from rows to the machines.

For supply chain managers and consultants, these types of advances also represent good news. It means more cost-efficient rates from suppliers, with assurances of accuracy in order fulfillment.

The rise of the robots, then, can be a very good thing for all involved, and not something to be feared or disparaged.

© 2019 OC Reilly, Inc.