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What’s the future for warehouses and the people who work in them?

In this step we discover how warehouses might look in the future and who might be working there – if we need them at all of course!

Robotics

Read the article called ‘The coming of age of the robot in the warehouse’ (link to the downloadable PDF at the bottom of the page) in association with the following film. This shows how robots can be utilised to move products around the warehouse without relying on an operator such as a fork lift truck driver.

This type of technology was first introduced by a company called Kiva who were subsequently bought by Amazon. The idea is to bring the goods in the warehouse to the person rather than have the person walk around the warehouse to locate and pick the items.

YouTube: DB Schenker implementing next generation e-commerce YouTube: DB Schenker implementing next generation e-commerce

  • What are the likely consequences of this kind of technology?
  • Could we have robots instead of people picking, packing and despatching our orders?

Watch how Honda’s Asimo is able to open a flask and pour a drink. How long will it be before he can open boxes, pick individual items and pack them for despatch. He can also play football which can be useful if our warehouses become empty!

Asimo

This video shows how companies such as Honda are working on the next generation of robots which are capable of many tasks. The boring, monotonous tasks that take place in a warehouse, could, in future be done by a robot.

YouTube: Asimo robot runs, hops and uses sign language YouTube: Asimo robot runs, hops and uses sign language

Further research and development is continuing at pace as can be seen from the video montage below. Note the robot working in the warehouse. Although somewhat slow at present this will improve significantly over the coming years.

5 Amazing Robots 2016 - The Shape of Things to Come YouTube: 5 Amazing Robots 2016 - The Shape of Things to Come

Talking point

  • What are the potential moral implications here?
  • Are there any other potential implications?

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This article is from the free online course:

Supply Chains in Practice: How Things Get to You

The University of Warwick