Solution Series: How Automation Solves Labor Shortages

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Even amidst layoffs and a softening economy, experts and economists warn that the skilled labor crunch is here to stay—particularly in industries facing massive numbers of retirees such as manufacturing, construction and healthcare. 

From an aging population to declining immigration, this smaller labor pool is set to become the norm. It has downstream effects on labor costs—and the lengths to which companies may have to go to attract (and keep) good employees. The good news is, automation can provide immediate—and long-term—relief. 

How automation can help

Far from “replacing humans” as some had predicted, automation is helping to manage tasks that employees either don’t want (think dull, dirty or dangerous jobs) or roles for which employers can’t access adequate labor. What’s more, this offers a valuable upskilling opportunity—allowing employees to train and learn new skills related to automation setup, programming and implementation.

Plus, automation technologies are exponentially more accessible than they were a decade ago—lowering the barriers to entry (cost, complexity, etc.) for smaller businesses or those new to automation.

Solution 1: Focus on the dull, dirty and dangerous (DDD)

With the end of labor shortages nowhere in sight, keeping employees will be just as hard as attracting them. Gone are the days when employees were willing to endure monotonous, laborious or otherwise undesirable tasks on a regular basis. Automation is primed to take these over—freeing up valued employees and creating a more fulfilling work experience and better opportunities for career development.

A few examples: Cleaning robots are an easy and low-barrier way to address the “dirty” jobs or vision technology and robots can help automate “dull” quality assurance and production. And perhaps most importantly, the dangerous: automated forklifts will go a long way in preventing the estimated 7,000+ forklift injuries and 70 deaths that occur each year each from traditional forklifts. 

A reduction in DDD tasks for employees breaks down to cost reductions in several areas. Eliminating dull and dirty tasks helps with employee satisfaction and retention (higher productivity, less money spent on recruiting and onboarding). Meanwhile, reducing dangerous jobs will not only protect the health and wellbeing of employees, but also reduce long-term costs related to worker’s comp, insurance rates and missed work. 

Solution 2: Balance out high labor costs (while keeping valuable employees)

Labor shortages mean higher labor costs, and higher labor costs are contributing significantly to the rising cost of, well, everything. But companies don’t have to do without valuable human resources to stay afloat. They can use automation to find cost reductions in other areas of the business—to pass the savings along to customers or maintain a healthy bottom line. 

New vision technologies, for example, can help manufacturers in all industries detect and interpret much more complex visual input—flagging a small irregularity in a car part or a bad batch of food ingredients, for instance, before they have time to wreak havoc at a larger scale. Over time, this can significantly reduce operating costs associated with recalls, quality issues and more. 

Another area ripe for cost-savings is real estate. The price of industrial real estate is high and warehousing costs, in particular, remain elevated even as the economy softens. Fortunately, companies with warehousing needs can use automation to save on space: Robots allow for this, making it possible to pack inventory tighter and higher, since they’re stronger and more nimble than humans.

Solution 3: Keep up with collaborative robots and cool tech

It’s not hard to see that customers appreciate companies that employ technology for quality, convenience and overall experience. But did you know your employees want that, too? Technologically advanced companies have an easier time attracting and keeping talent, particularly younger employees.

There’s a cobot for every industry and application: In healthcare, robots can help ease the load on healthcare workers by completing tasks like transporting used/contaminated supplies; cleaning and disinfecting rooms; and even physically moving patients. Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs) in manufacturing and logistics can move heavy objects from one area to another, reducing strain on (and danger to) employees. In the service industry, robots are often fun and functional—robot servers or even hotel concierges. 

See these solutions—and more—at Automate 2024

If you’re in the market for a new way to combat labor shortages, Automate is the best place to explore the latest and greatest automation breakthroughs for businesses big and small. From the education pavilion on the show floor to Workforce Development Day (Thursday) and insightful Automate Conference sessions, it’s all in one place. Register for free and join us May 6–9, 2024, in Chicago, Illinois.

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