In the very long run, humans will be phased out of the workplace

More than four million commercial robots will be installed in more than 50,000 warehouses by 2025, according to a report.

ABI Research Senior Analyst Nick Finill said there's a need of automation in warehouses because of e-commerce demands, while lowering costs that effect profitability.

"Warehouses are really struggling with labor shortages and also rising costs," said Finill. "So, robots are being used to move items around a warehouse, fulfill orders."

He said robots can be used for inventory management by attaching computer vision cameras to robots or drones to see what's out of stock and needs to be replenished. Even now helping in customer service.

Finill said it's not just about one robot replaces one human, you need to look at the wide economic ripples.

"When you automate a task, it's saving money for the company, costs are reduced for consumers and also driving economic growth more widely," said Finill.

He added the causes for automation include a massive labor shortage, cost reduction or replacing less desirable jobs because of location or pay.

Robotics And Automation Editor Abdul Montaqim said the future looks bleak for some workers and bright for others. It’s not really a straightforward thing. 

“Personally, I don’t think more robots will result in a significant loss of overall employment in logistics in the short term because there will be other areas in which the sector will need humans – to look after the robots, for one thing, as well as monitor and manage the new technologies,” said Montaqim. “At the same time, there are growing demands on the logistics industry as a result of the growth of e-commerce – to process orders faster and deliver faster to the customer. So it’s kind of inevitable that the logistics sector will turn to robotics and automation. It’s the robots that increasingly do the walking now in warehouses.”

The jobs robots are replacing tend to be called the “3D jobs” – dull, dirty and dangerous.

Montaqim said for example, warehouses, and the supply chain and logistics sector in general, is finding it difficult to find human workers.

“Walking for miles around warehouse aisles every day, for example, is not a particularly desirable job,” said Montaqim. “But robotics and automation does affect every sector you want to speak about – from manufacturing to logistics and even computing. So there will be a lot of changes, and a lot of those changes are happening right now, mostly because of a relatively sudden acceleration in technological capabilities – artificial intelligence, cloud computing, design tools, the internet and so on.”

He said automation manufacturing has been around for decades for manual labor jobs. Recently, artificial intelligence is introduced into fields like finance and law. Originally the thought was AI would replace manual, low-skilled work, but actually, it's more suited to thinking and calculating white-collered jobs.

“What interests me most is that, while most of us think of automation in manufacturing and logistics, it’s actually the more “thinking jobs” that automation could have the most devastating effect on – law, finance, accountancy and so on… those are the industry that could really be affected the most by automation and, in particular, artificial intelligence,” said Montaqim.

He said computer-oriented automation effects every single sector of employment, business and industry. Old jobs will disappear, new jobs will emerge. And, in the very long run, humans are being phased out of the workplace.

He added that’s always been the way since the start of the industrial revolution a couple of hundred years ago. 


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