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Why does under-automation cause seasonal hiring spikes?

Article by Michael Trimmer

While under-automation is an ongoing problem, thanks to the way the market shifts, specific seasons see the symptoms of under-automation being felt more acutely. In these moments, the consequences are more damaging, and the costs to warehouses much greater.

The clearest example of this is the seasonal hiring spikes that come up again and again, thanks to the ongoing problem of under-automation.

What are seasonal hiring spikes?

Seasonal hiring spikes are the times when demand surges dramatically to the point that existing staffing and infrastructure levels can’t keep pace with the expectations of customers and clients; therefore, additional recruitment is required to support this.

The particular position of peaks depends on the industry, but the most noticeable period is found in the B2C ecommerce world between November and February. The pre-Christmas and January sales period.

The results of these spikes are hugely increased expenses for warehouse-utilising businesses. Not only from the obvious salary expense but also the recruitment process itself, which includes advertising costs and any recruitment outsourcing costs. As well as training, equipment, health and safety, and the other factors involved in any expansion to any workforce, there is also the general quality of work to consider. Short term warehouse workers are often less experienced and therefore less efficient and less accurate, incurring additional training costs.

What causes seasonal hiring spikes?

The two biggest causes of seasonal hiring spikes in warehouses are the advancement of demand technology compared to the stagnation of warehouse processes, and the inflexible nature of warehouse operations in the current model.

The increased ease of online purchasing, coupled with the vast selection of offers, discounts, and sales that come about during specific periods of the year, means that the volume of customers drawn in at specific times will be spectacularly high. Thanks to modern ecommerce platforms making the procedural and technical barrier to purchase so low, and the expansion of available delivery options so vast, the convenience attraction of online shopping is extremely powerful.

In contrast, while the demand side of “supply and demand” has gotten more attractive and more convenient, drawing in higher and higher numbers of customers, the supply part of the process has not moved on. Warehouses have not seen their models of operation change substantially while the ecommerce revolution has been gaining ground. The standard use of pickers spending 50-70% of their time moving between storage positions throughout the warehouse has remained in operation for decades. While there have been advances in the technology of picking, in the form of voice headsets and handheld terminals, the process itself has remained largely unchanged.

This means that the only way to make operations faster during the crisis that is peak season is to simply hire more staff. This is because the warehouse itself is often immovably inflexible. Storage racks are built in place and organisational systems cannot be altered without disruptive rearrangements that would take too much time away from the actual fulfilment of incoming orders. With no other option to accelerate picking and processing, peak season requires hiring spikes. Nothing else can accelerate the warehouse operations enough to keep the business viable.

How does flexible robotics prevent seasonal hiring spikes?

With the apt dosage of automation comes the cure to all these issues. By installing and implementing a flexible automation solution, your business can avoid the expensive and time-consuming problems of hiring spikes.

Accelerable operations

With a manually operated warehouse, the only way to make your operations work faster during peak season is to hire more workers. Flexible automation provides an alternative that has a comparable logic but without the same kind of expense.

In the event of extreme or serious surges in demand, a flexible automation solution can include additional robots. Should you need even more efficiency than is currently offered, but only for a short window, more robots can be integrated into your solution, and removed again as needed. All for a fragment of the costs normally associated with sourcing, training, and managing short term expansions to your workforce.

Output focus

With a flexible robotics solution installed, the level of accuracy and performance consistency that you will be getting from your existing staff becomes much greater. By removing the exertions and associated distractions connected with all the walking between storage areas that consumes 50-70% of a picker’s time, pickers can be more precise, thus, more valuable.

The robots are the largest part of this focus-improving equation, but they are far from the only explanation. Other technologies such as the picking spotlight help lead your warehouse towards the one-touch fulfilment process. This removes so many distraction-related errors, allowing your business to move forward with confidence.

With all this extra focus and accuracy, sudden expansions to your workforce during the peak seasons will become unnecessary. You will be able to accomplish much more efficiency with the same staffing levels you currently employ. Your business can reach its fullest potential with new technology, rather than just more of the same.

Discover flexible robotics – discover Wise Robotics

To see for yourself how flexible robotics combats the issues of order overload, contact Wise Robotics today. Speak with our experts to learn more about industry 4.0 and the future of flexible robotics.

You can even visit us in person. Wise Robotics is proud to own and operate Europe’s first flexible robotics demonstration centre. See the robots in action, learn how they work, and why they offer so much in the way of improved efficiency.

Once you witness the capabilities of flexible robotics for yourself, you’ll understand the opportunities available when your under-automation is cured.

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