The supply clutter isn’t going away this year. Time to consider automation

Learn how new technology tools are making their way into large factories and retailers.

As the triple whammy of 40 years of record inflation, hiring hurdles and supply chain bottlenecks continue to hold back trade in America, smart businesses are getting resourceful.

From rethinking execution and material handling systems to planning for the spring 2023 trading season, here’s how to negotiate current supply issues.

Apply agile automation.
Just as you might train employees to get a bump in other departments during the high season, agile automation can help your machines or services accumulate greater utility. In today’s fast-paced environment, now may be the perfect time to invest in more agile systems that can be quickly reconfigured in response to customer demands, says Mike Larsson, 57, head of Dematic’s Atlanta-based logistics solution. Think of a software-based distribution center system that can go from simply logging orders to performing real-time data analysis on orders to help suppliers increase or decrease shipments in response to market fluctuations and labor issues.

Running robots.
Until last quarter, the growth of e-commerce was one of the few positives for companies over the past two years. But it has also increased the demand for labor that can make automation necessary. Warehouse owners are becoming more and more savvy to the need. Analysts at ABI Research predict that the number of warehouses using robotics will increase from 4,000 to 50,000 by 2025 worldwide, with nearly half or 23,000 robot-equipped warehouses in the United States alone.

“With robotics,” Larsson says, “you can further automate your system to continually pick orders, allowing you to increase throughput during peak seasons.” These robots are designed to help workers perform a variety of tasks in the warehouse , Larsson adds. Some robots follow human pickers across the warehouse floor and act as mobile containers to store orders. They can also transport materials, suppliers and inventory within the warehouse.

However, be aware of the cost of automation. While a robot can be great if you don’t have people willing to do the job, if you are replacing an employee with this machinery, you may want to train that person. Reassigning employees who have been displaced by automation can ensure that each person contributes his or her best. For example, you might reassign extroverted employees to sales or technical support and create a department dedicated to programming and using robots.