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Joining the tech revolution

09 May 2023

Tomorrow’s supply chain is set for a surge in digital transformation, says Clare Bottle.

EXPERTS HAVE predicted a surge in digital transformation over the next decade, which will bring fundamental changes to the warehouse operations of the future. Even the UK Government expects warehousing to be at the epicentre of a rapid period of growth in robotics across the whole economy.

And now, with increasing capability and configurability, the robots are coming: a cost-effective form of labour requiring few breaks and no holidays, demanding neither light nor heat. As costs come down and Robotics as a Service (RaaS) gains in popularity, this option takes the strain of monotonous, repetitive work, freeing human workers to focus on more complex tasks and scaling up capacity almost instantly during erratic peak seasons.

But the fear that robots will take over people’s jobs has proved to be unfounded. Feedback from one of the UK’s largest 3PLs suggests that working alongside robots enables employees to operate more effectively, increasing productivity whilst building morale and job satisfaction within the workforce. Moreover, the adoption of robots and other technology has generated a wide range of new IT jobs – from software programmers to maintenance engineers.

These developments and more are contributing to increased productivity and improved efficiency, optimising workflows with faster putaway, picking, packing and stock control. By replacing potentially hazardous tasks with automation, warehouses are operating more safely too. 

Yet, despite the many benefits, to date too few warehouses in the UK have adopted technology. According to warehouse automation experts Interact Analysis, 74% of UK warehouses are still unautomated. This is in part due to low industry margins and in some cases planned investment in automation has been put on hold because of the currently high interest rates. Other barriers include fear of change, implementation challenges and even a shortage of microchips suppressing the availability of some robot hardware.

Many warehousing companies have been slow to take the leap, but the prediction is for investment in technology to take off in 2024. Clearly, doing nothing is no longer an option. Automation has been well described as ‘the new frontier’ for our industry, improving operational performance, adding value, increasing profit margins and, ultimately, driving down costs. 

In the new digital world of eCommerce, warehouses – indeed all businesses across the supply chain – must embrace technology, not only to thrive, but to survive.

Clare Bottle, CEO, UKWA

For more information, visit www.ukwa.org.uk

The Tomorrow’s Warehouse Event on June 8 at Coventry’s CBS Arena will major on automation and robotics.

John Wilson, Technology & Innovation Director, Europe, for tech-led logistics firm GXO Logistics, will delve into the rise of accessible automation and its potential to transform the supply chain. 

We also have Dionne Redpath, Group Chief Operating Officer, Europa Worldwide Group, talking about how its large-scale fixed automation installation at its Corby warehouse led to a step change in its operations. 

Gavin Harrison, UK Sales Director, from headline sponsor Element Logic will also present on looking deeper when deploying automation to solve underlying problems in the modern warehouse.

Automation and robotics exhibitors at the show include:

  • Element Logic 
  • TGW Limited 
  • Dematic
  • HAI Robotics Europe B.V.
  • Guidance Automation Ltd
  • Daifuku Co Ltd
  • Zebra Technologies Europe Ltd 
  • L.A.C. Conveyor Systems Ltd
  • Logistex
  • Interroll
  • Eurogroep BV/ Lowpad
  • Prime Vision B.V
  • Körber Supply Chain DK A/S
  • Witron Engineering BV
  • ABB Robotics Ltd
  • Bowe Systec Ltd

Registration is free and open now - https://tomorrowswarehouse.live/