Deskilling the Retail Supply Chain through Automation

Technology continues to shape the organizational environment, and retail is no different.

The landscape of the retail industry is rapidly changing due to the demands of omnichannel and e-commerce. Critical factors such as rising operating costs, inventory loss and inefficient manual processes have created a need for automation. Because of this, companies are looking to improve profitability and efficiency through deskilling of labor and the addition of automated material handling solutions. Many organizations are discovering the benefits of improved accuracy, better inventory management and labor savings offered by this upgrade.

The manufacturers of advanced automated equipment understand the benefits of deskilling at the technician level. By eliminating certain components, technicians are deskilled to maintain and service the machine. By spending less time troubleshooting through self-diagnostics and predictive maintenance, downtime is reduced.

Here are a few considerations regarding automation in the retail supply chain:

Automation provides a competitive edge

Retailers can leverage automation to reduce operational costs, to increase operational efficiencies and ultimately, to meet customer support goals. By enhancing the quality and accuracy of orders, customers will reap the benefits of data-driven logic and productivity.

Automation reduces bottom-line costs

Many warehouse managers can agree that the most difficult cost to control is labor. While it may seem obvious, automating your paper-based and manual processes can assist with reducing labor costs. By eliminating time-consuming manual data entry in picking, packing, receiving and replenishment, you’re helping your employees to be more efficient at what they do or utilizing them in other needed areas.

Automation provides greater efficiency within the supply chain

Currently, customers want to be able to buy from anywhere with an endless aisle of products to choose from. With automation, this can be expertly handled with your current workforce. Automation can include a broad spectrum of disciplines, from software, controls, processes and new forms of material handling equipment such as conveyors and sorters. With this equipment in place, it’s only a matter of time before you start seeing lower staffing costs and improved efficiency in your reports.

As automation propels retailers’ strategies for future growth and success, companies that resist change could be left behind. To stay profitable, retailers must consider streamlining their processes and deskilling their workforce through automation.

Ultimately, automation doesn’t inherently replace the worker—it enhances the customer experience by complementing the human interaction with efficient processes. With the 4.8 million retail employees in the aisles as of 2014 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only time will tell how these technologies will impact the workforce.

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