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Sustaining a solid workforce during staff shortages

Article by Megan Gee


Throughout 2020 and 2021, the UK experienced its worst labour shortage since 1997.  This insufficiency has occurred despite the 819,000 workers who lost jobs in the UK between February and November 2020.

In 2022, we are now getting to grips with a “new normal”. The era of post-Brexit and the ongoing (but tentatively better controlled), COVID pandemic. Nevertheless, staff shortages continue to cause supply chain disruptions and mass stock shortages nationwide.

Unfortunately, experts predict it’s only going to get worse.

Les Mayhew, Head of Global Research at the ILC, stated: “A triple whammy of an ageing population, the pandemic and Brexit will mean the UK could see a labour shortage of 2.6 million workers in less than a decade.”[1]

A logistical nightmare

Even if a business’s staff levels are adequate, the strain on their suppliers and third parties is still impacting their supply chain.

Warehouse-utilising businesses and companies within the logistics management industry have been among the worst affected by the ongoing labour shortage.

As a result, it has been increasingly difficult, and sometimes impossible, for businesses to fulfil orders and meet their delivery deadlines. These challenges are especially pertinent in the 3PL, manufacturing, and logistics industries.

The personnel pitfalls of peaks

These sectors experience rapid surges in demand during their peak seasons. To support this influx in demand, businesses are already well accustomed to relying heavily hiring temporary workers.

However, in addition to shortages in the permanent labour market, even the temporary labour market has been decreasing.

With warehousing labour in such high demand and the temporary market decreasing year-on-year, businesses are under serious strain to secure an adequate workforce. Without it, companies risk failing to fulfil orders in full and on time, decreasing customer satisfaction and profits.

Sustaining your workforce through automation

To ensure orders are fulfilled on time, customers are satisfied and growth can be managed, business must act to combat the labour shortages now and in the future. At the core of this is understanding how to utilise your current staffing resource to its full potential.

The key to achieving this is warehouse automation.

Warehouse automation can revolutionise operations, helping businesses to eliminate needless and labour-intensive manual processes. Whether it be goods-to-person, materials movement or production lines – robot-powered solutions bring unprecedented speed and accuracy, and can be flexibly scaled in line with demand.

“We’re not looking at reducing staff, we’re looking at reducing costs. Previously, we had to bring in extra labour, temporary labour, which is very expensive, especially during seasonal times, so that will definitely reduce. Now, we’re enabled to deploy our existing staff, who we intend to keep, into other areas to enable us to grow even more.”[2]

Guy Perry, Managing Director at A. Perry’s Ltd.

It has been found that ‘automated warehousing robotics could save 85% of otherwise wasted warehousing space and reduce 60% of labour costs – all the while increasing throughput and accuracy.’[3]

In addition to enabling businesses to achieve more with their existing workforce, removing the pressure to recruit during competitive seasonal spikes, automation provides workers with a more efficient environment, thus improving staff retention. So, despite labour shortages and fluctuating markets, businesses with automated warehouses can confidently manage throughput and increase it when required.

Staff at all levels across a business can focus more on their productivity and performance without the burden of being understaffed or overworked.

Discover Wise Robotics

Visit Europe’s first flexible automation demonstration centre at Wise Robotics and see for yourself the game-changing impact robots could have on your business.

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[2] Wise Robotics increases pick rates by 233% at A. Perry’s Ltd.


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