CHARLOTTE, N.C. – While investment in automation is seen as vital for companies to remain competitive, supply chain leaders still envision a strong need for human capital in the workplace, according to a Honeywell study.
Most companies that responded to the 2020 Honeywell Intelligrated Automation Investment Study indicate that automation in supply chains can lead to opportunities for new jobs within the workplace. Two in three companies see opportunities for new and different jobs in customer service, distribution centres and warehouses.
“E-commerce and e-retail fulfillment growth are pushing traditional warehouses and distribution centres to their limits, and automation is critical to any operation that wants to remain competitive,” said Christine Feuell, chief marketing officer of Honeywell Intelligrated.
“These automation and robotics advancements are shifting the workforce away from physically demanding, strenuous and monotonous tasks to more skilled tasks.”
The study revealed that 80 percent of companies see the highest potential for new jobs in in-house maintenance roles. Forty-two percent of respondents mentioned frequency of maintenance as one of the biggest areas of concern in their company’s further investment in automation.
As infrastructure within warehouses and fulfillment centres becomes more automated, Feuell said maintenance technicians will play a crucial role in helping limit downtime. Companies can use data-driven insights from connected software and sensors through solutions to perform preventative maintenance to maximize uptime.
Direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales continue to transform the way manufacturers and retailers operate because they must now compete for buyers by speeding up processing and shipments in order to offer same-day, next-day or two-day delivery. Automation allows companies to remain competitive by limiting their reliance on manual labour for repetitive tasks, improving productivity and accuracy.
Automation investment on the rise
Automation investment will continue to increase in the future, with 65 percent of companies planning to increase their investments within the next two to three years, the study reveals.
More than half of companies surveyed are investing in automated material handling systems – including robotics, automated storage and retrieval systems, conveyors and sortation systems – to keep their operations competitive.
The consumer-packaged goods (63 percent) and third-party logistics industries (60 percent) are utilizing these technologies the most to help grow their businesses now, the study reveals.
“Even though machines are getting smarter, humans are still needed to program, build and repair them,” said Feuell. “Human intelligence is still essential to identify problems and mobilize computers and people in tandem to get the job done.”
The 2020 Honeywell Intelligrated Automation Investment Study was conducted April 21 to May 7, 2020, in collaboration with KRC Research, an independent third-party research firm not affiliated with Honeywell or its business groups. The 434 U.S.-based professionals polled work full-time in senior roles for companies that directly manage warehouses, DCs or fulfillment centres; have insight into the operations of those facilities; are familiar with automation; and make or influence purchase decisions for their company.