Currently, there is a shortage of adequately qualified job seekers. Often, those who do apply are lacking the skills required for the job. Unemployment rates fell to 3.8% in the United States in February, and in Canada, unemployment rates are currently at 5.8%, only slightly higher than the 43-year low seen in December. Given these numbers, it is little surprise that employers are struggling to fill vacancies. These tight conditions are also due in part to increased e-commerce and higher consumer demand.
The Rise of E-Commerce
Over the past two decades, e-commerce sales have steadily risen, a trend that shows little sign of abating. The speed and convenience of purchasing goods online is an easy and quick solution for consumers. However, increasing demand places higher expectations on the companies producing these products and fulfilling orders. Industries like manufacturing and warehousing are particularly hard-hit by labor shortages, at the very time when they need to keep abreast of a rapidly changing marketplace.
... it is predicted that 10,000 baby boomers will retire each day for the next decade...
Shortage of Industry-Specific Skills
In addition to the labor shortage, employers are struggling to cope with a lack of people with industry-specific skills. The situation is exacerbated by baby boomers reaching retirement age. To put this into perspective, it is predicted that 10,000 baby boomers will retire each day for the next decade, many of whom are leaving specialized positions. Also, younger job seekers have less interest in traditional industries like warehousing and manufacturing, and there is an emphasis on achieving a degree and a ‘white-collar’ position. Ironically, the stigma surrounding these skilled trades is often misplaced, as there are plenty of well-paid jobs with promotion opportunities available.
Easing Labor Shortages with Automation
Employers are adapting to the changing labor market, usually by offering higher wages and increased benefits. Although these strategies can help, they are only part of the solution. There are benefits in having a workforce that will coexist alongside automation, without the need to immediately convert an entire warehouse to robotic systems.
Often, relatively low-tech innovations such as productivity aids or basic conveyors can improve efficiency. Using robots to build pallets makes it easier for staff to work effectively, ensuring the pallets are stacked precisely every time, and 24/7 if needed. Stacking the pallets precisely every time ensures there are fewer breakages or damage to goods.
Eliminating Repetitive Tasks
Automation can eliminate repetitive tasks that are unfulfilling for humans, but which must be completed correctly. Removing these tasks frees up employees to concentrate on other responsibilities that will help to build the business, increasing its competitiveness within the industry.
Improving Safety in the Workplace
Automation can improve safety in the workplace, getting rid of some of the riskier processes and reducing the chance of injuries. This can lead to better job satisfaction, fewer hours lost and reduced staff turnover.
Automation cannot entirely replace the human workforce, and people are still needed to perform vital tasks. Often, introducing more automated systems like robot palletization gives workers the chance to increase their skillsets. Over time, automation will change the face of industry, and those companies who choose to adapt more quickly will be better placed to remain competitive.