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  • Will Robots Replace Warehouse Workers? Probably Not

    OKLAHOMA CITY - January 13, 2020

     

    Over the past decade, there has been one constant in the relationship between business and technology - change. 

    And one of the biggest changes that experts have predicted over that same time is the unstoppable spread of Robots Warehouse artificial intelligence (AI) into distribution warehouses. Most common among that AI prediction was the idea that robots will take over the tasks of many workers in these warehouses. 

    But is there truth to that prediction? Can you walk into a warehouse today in your city and see it filled with robots (instead of people) moving across the floors? 

    Yes and No

    There are some businesses that have made the shift to robots or more machine-automated tasks for their warehouses, but it is not commonplace. 

    The most notable business to integrate AI and robotics into its warehouse system is Amazon. But in that instance, the company has stated that a fully automated warehouse is at least 10 years away. Even then, these machines will have a difficult time replacing the dexterity and logical abilities of humans. 

    For example, currently, Amazon is mostly using robots for sorting boxes and bringing them to the appropriate location for loading onto trucks for delivery. Human workers are still responsible for putting your order together and packing it in the appropriate box or envelope. 

    The Reality

    MIT partnered with IBM and their AI technology called Watson to research how new technology and automation changed jobs between 2010 and 2017. They analyzed 170 million online job postings to see how the tasks and responsibilities of jobs changed during that eight-year period.

    Watson found that jobs are indeed changing, but they are not disappearing. For each occupation that was analyzed, workers were asked to perform 3.7 fewer tasks in 2017 than they were in 2010. The research also found that the tasks more likely to be done by AI are reducing the costs for businesses, but those savings are being shifted to the remaining tasks. 

    The research paper said this about those skills that will be needed: "Tasks that require grounding in intellectual skill and insight as well as to some degree, physical flexibility, common sense, judgment, intuition, creativity, and spoken language have tended to increase in value."

    What Should Workers Do?

    Undoubtedly, there are some hard skills that can be and will be replaced by automation in the form of robots. But are warehouse workers in immediate danger of losing their jobs? Not likely. 

    But the shift to automation by businesses to be more efficient for their customers is happening and that means workers need to strengthen the skills that can't be replicated by a robot. 

    Soft skills like listening, communication, teamwork, initiative, and responsibility paired with hard skills that can be learned like computer programming, machine operation, and repair will give most workers long-term job security. 

    Express Employment Professionals places 560,000 job seekers annually in a variety of positions. Contact one of our 800 locally-owned Express offices today to learn more about opportunities available with the more than 86,000 client companies we work with each year.

    Express also offers a free educational video series on selecting a career path and succeeding in that role. To access this resource visit YouTube and search Job Genius or visit  ExpressPros.com/JobGenius.