Empowering the Workforce for a Post-COVID-19 Era

January 17, 2024

By Jens Bohnwagner, CEO, XSQUARE Technologies

COVID-19 has changed the way businesses traditionally operate, bringing to the forefront new challenges and opportunities to be seized.

Nowhere is this transformation more pronounced than in the warehousing industry. The pandemic has paved the way for a dramatic increase in the demand for cutting-edge solutions that will maximise efficiency while safeguarding workers’ safety and well-being.

This shift in demand has also presented a unique opportunity for businesses to re-evaluate their operations model and seize the advantage of reimagining the adaptation of advanced technology to meet their customers’ needs.

The evolution of warehouse operations

The technologies available today that support warehouse automation have transformed how operators deliver their services. By now, it has become known that the use of technologies such as robots, Autonomous Forklifts and Warehouse Control Systems have helped warehouse operators optimise productivity, reduce labour costs, minimise human error, and increase safety in warehouses.

Task automation eliminates the need for labour-intensive manual tasks, which also reduces the operators’ recruitment needs in an industry that is faced with pervasive manpower shortage challenges. Automation also makes it possible to run a third shift and manage more tasks in each shift compared to manual processes.

From unloading and sorting to quality assurance and fulfilment, automating a wide range of functions can create a more efficient workflow and decrease the risk of lags in production.

By replacing back-breaking manual labour with machines, more complex tasks are now delegated to employees – presenting new opportunities for employees to gain specialised skills and knowledge to become expert technicians who can control and optimise the technologies.

The impact of warehouse automation on employees

The changes brought about at the workplace by digital transformation have resulted in the swift implementation of government policies focused on reskilling and up-skilling human operators.

At the start of the pandemic, the Singapore government had already foreseen the need to prepare the workforce for a change and to promote employment resilience. Singapore Budget 2023, for example, is focused on developing a robust reskilling and upskilling system to empower workers in Singapore for growth opportunities.

It is also precisely the changes in the industry and through government support that warehousing companies must embrace the use of technologies in order to thrive, or at least stay relevant, in the competitive business landscape after COVID-19.

In addition to learning and applying new skill sets at the workplace, the overall well-being of workers at the warehouse is also improving at an exponential rate.

While numerous studies have been published on the operational effectiveness of technologies for warehousing companies, solutions like warehouse sensors can also benefit employees’ safety.

They help workers avert the dangers of accidents, and in some cases, it also paves the way for shorter working hours, preventing them from fatigue. Automation offers many advantages, and it includes creating a safer work environment without compensating for productivity efficiency.

Nurturing an agile workforce

While we are aware of the benefits of warehouse automation technologies, we must also recognise that it is unrealistic to expect these positive outcomes to occur immediately following implementation.

To ensure that employees are prepared to handle the integration of advanced technologies in their day-to-day operations, companies must prioritise the development of essential digital skills.

This includes developing proficiency in analysing data, developing insights, and understanding the underlying technology. With these enhanced skills, employees can then be better equipped to anticipate and respond to future competitive challenges.

By taking the necessary time and effort to educate employees on the new technologies, employers can use automation to their advantage and set their workforce up for long-term success.

Dispelling job replacement concerns

The adoption of automation technology has also fanned fears of job losses and obsolescence. Workers worry that they will no longer be needed at the workplace as most of the traditional roles are now performed by technologies.

From a macro perspective, such concerns are unfounded when looking at the industry’s overall labour force scarcity. The reality is that workers are far from being replaced as the emergence of automated processes creates more job opportunities for skilled and unskilled personnel in the industry.

While unskilled workers will benefit from reskilling to take up positions that involve specialised technical knowledge and data analysis, skilled workers can fill research and development roles at technology and automation companies to push the boundaries of innovation.

A forecast by the World Economic Forum predicted that by 2025, technology would create at least 12 million more jobs than it destroys, continually reinforcing the notion that automation will ultimately bring about significant benefits for society.

Technology provides a unique opportunity for businesses in the warehousing industry to not only optimise their operations but also empower and develop their workforce. By integrating new technologies, businesses can unlock the potential for sustainable growth and remain competitive in the future.

As published in Logistics Asia. Read here:

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