1. Mr. Dombach, the topic of our conversation is warehouses. What challenges are your customers currently facing when it comes to expanding warehouses or building new ones?
Some of the warehouses are still operated traditionally and paper-based. According to the current Warehouse Vision Study 2022, this share amounts to 21 percent. A large part of the work processes takes place there analogously. Growth and scaling are difficult to achieve, because digitization is the prerequisite for all further optimization steps.
Furthermore, outdated software and management systems are used, which are difficult for employees to operate. For younger employees and digital natives, this contributes to the lack of attractiveness of jobs in warehouse logistics.
2. How do these vulnerabilities affect warehouse operations?
Massively. Only when all workflows are captured with digital technology and all data recorded, can visibility in the supply chain be guaranteed. Without digital instruments, neither the provision of information about the stock nor the storage location of specific goods is possible.
I see this as a big problem because it affects the quality of customer service. Without digitalization, the short delivery times to which customers are accustomed today cannot be achieved. And long delivery times can directly prevent a purchase. Employee retention remains a problem.
One solution for this is new mobile devices. They have a larger scope of services, are easier for employees to use and ultimately contribute to employee satisfaction. This counteracts the high fluctuation rates in the warehouse. Robots also play an important role.
3. In your experience, how are robots perceived by warehouse workers?
Warehouse workers are afraid of losing their jobs when it comes to robots. However, in the Warehouse Vision Study 2022, the majority of employees (81 percent) support the use of robots if they help to improve the daily work routine and workflows, if they take on physically heavy work and relieve them of travel distances. This way, employees can take on more complex tasks that require different competencies. In this respect, robots support employee satisfaction and employee retention.
4. Does this mean that the fear of losing a job to a robot is unfounded?
Certainly. Skilled workers are always needed in the warehouse. Even if everything is highly automated and robots can and are allowed to do more than what is possible today, there is still a need for personnel to maintain the robots, to take over control and planning, as well as communication and tasks in team leading. This is why there will always be people working in the warehouse.
5. Digitalization and the use of robots in the event of a shortage of employees – this sounds costly and risky. Is it?
I don't think so. For years, most logistics companies have been working on the verge of overload. Decision makers are asking themselves how they can improve their processes so that they work faster, more efficiently, more accurately and on a good cost basis. The growth in e-commerce has exacerbated this situation.
If e-commerce continues to grow as it has in recent years, and this will most likely be the case, then digitization and automation are very smart answers.