Across the global business ecosystem, sourcing and retaining top talent labor is of utmost importance. This is no less true of the supply chain industry, which must manage high customer demand while simultaneously experiencing unprecedented labor issues. What’s more, the physical rigors and repetitive nature of supply chain work are creating massive challenges when it comes to employee retention. The difficulties are pushing companies to come up with creative strategies that help encourage employees to find on-the-job fulfillment.
One such tactic is the implementation of robotics and gamification in a warehouse setting. Many warehouse employees walk long distances and maneuver heavy items all day long; these innovative technologies have the potential to streamline manual tasks; increase employee productivity; maintain on-the-job satisfaction; facilitate a safer, highly skilled working environment; and reduce overall error. Simultaneously, companies can regulate the supply chain flow and unlock operational savings.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) Seamlessly Usher in Organizational Change
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are most used to help organizations create operational efficiency and enable scalability to adapt to changing demands. They can move the goods more efficiently about the warehouse and often more quickly than human workers and aid overall workflow productivity. The robots provide helpful information along the workflow cycle, they travel to employees, meet employees at work locations, or move material without associate intervention. Throughout these processes, the bots are tracking data and interactions and can even guide associates throughout the work processes. To further enhance the worker experience, the bots often also provide visualizations on the on-board display.
After the item is scanned, the robot confirms if the order is correct or not, then moves on to the next task. This means it can take as little as a few hours to train new associates and enable a rapid time to full productivity, which is a game changer for businesses needing to see immediate results.
By leveraging AMRs, an organization can easily add or remove robots to maintain optimal capacity, and limit adjustments to base labor staffing requirements. With a robotics-as-a-service option, there is no need for large initial expenditure, as distribution centers can deploy the initial system and then scale on demand to support periods of peak volume. Further, there’s no loss in productivity during the transition to AMRs, because as AMRs do not require guidance mechanisms or specific infrastructure, they can often be installed into an existing operation with minimal changes or operational disruption.
Gamification Increases Employee Engagement By 10% Annually
Gamify defines gamification as using game-design elements and game principles in contexts such as the workplace, education, and health. Classic elements such as points, badges, and leaderboards are included in this technology. Although it’s not a new concept, many agree that the idea of gamification started to make traction in the mid-2000s and is now considered an important component of successful employee engagement programs. For employers, the use of game mechanics helps to digitally engage and motivate employees to achieve their goals, encourage positive behavior, and make their daily work responsibilities more rewarding and fun – but fun is just half of the equation. It also eases the burden for many employees with labor-intensive roles, as it provides the ability to see how well they are performing in real time, incentivizes their workflows, and helps them make necessary pivots in situations of underperformance.
In addition to being an employee engagement tool, gamification becomes a management tool, allowing managers to also look at performance data in real time and identify anomalies much faster than ever before. Production and environmental errors are more easily resolved as a result, so everything can return to status quo as quickly as possible.
The commonly held reliance on mobile devices is lending to increased use of gamification in warehouses to enrich worker experiences and amplify engagement. Boredom, absenteeism, and other issues associated with poor labor retention are mitigated, and safety and productivity increases. Gamification is already proven across many industry sectors and has been shown to increase worker engagement by as much as 10% annually.
It is important to look across the spectrum of technology and processes and management strategies to solve the complex and unique needs of a business. Solutions need to match the scale of your operation and offer benefits from both a safety and an efficiency perspective, encompassing the requirements of both your business and your workforce.
In summary – the popularity of gamification and robotics are on the rise in the supply chain industry, with businesses looking to make mundane and labor-intensive tasks less arduous and employees happier. These technologies are truly a great step forward and it’s time for companies to get wise and to get in the game now or get left behind.
John Santagate leads Körber Supply Chain Software as the Vice President of Robotics. He drives the strategy for autonomous mobile robotics, warehouse robotics, and the robotics partner network. As a key component of Körber’s end-to-end solutions, John ensures his technologies drive customer success and integrate seamlessly with the broader Körber portfolio. Solving complex challenges and opening new opportunities through technology and innovation, John spent his career in supply chain making his customers the most efficient and profitable businesses in their industries. Prior to his role at Körber, John acted as consultant to industry-leading organizations to transform their supply chains with Tata Consultancy Services in the Supply Chain Center of Excellence. He was also a leading robotics and supply chain industry analyst at IDC for five years, where he focused on market trends, forecasts, and thought leadership for supply chain robotics and business process evolution. In addition to his VP role, John is an adjunct instructor at The University of Massachusetts Lowell where he teaches a course on supply chain and logistics.