While investment in automation is seen as vital for companies to remain competitive, supply chain leaders of American companies 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 centers and warehouses.
"E-commerce and e-retail fulfillment growth are pushing traditional warehouses and distribution centers 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 8 in 10 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 infrastructures within warehouses and fulfillment centers become more automated, Feuell said maintenance technicians will play a crucial role in helping limit downtime.
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 labor for repetitive tasks, improving productivity and accuracy. Automation investment will continue to increase in the future, with 65% 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%) and third-party logistics industries (60%) 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."