From Reuters Events
By Alex Hadwick
Crushing levels of inventory need to be shifted for many, even as workforces are pared back by the effects of COVID-19. Will automation provide some relief and is it here to stay?
It’s a world of extremes for supply chain managers. Shops shut down, but online operations in overdrive. Huge pressures on distribution centres, but illnesses ravaging workforces and distancing requirements reducing productivity horizons. Consumers desperate to get orders delivered to their homes but supply frequently constrained.
There is then the need for innovation.
One route, and an increasingly prominent one, is automation. Companies are now putting automation on a high priority footing as they look to drastically increase productivity per worker and per available unit of space in order to better cope with the COVID-19 crisis, risings costs and to compete long term.
We sat down with experts from a variety of high-tech robotics companies to understand the dynamics at play and how the pandemic is playing into the long-term trajectory of supply chain automation.
The COVID crunch for warehouses and factories
The pandemic has introduced a troubling dynamic for distribution centres and factories. One the one hand demand is returning for many products and soaring when it comes to e-commerce. One the other is the need to keep workforces safe and distanced and handle absentees hit by coronavirus, meaning understaffed facilities in many cases.
The boom in online shopping is also generating big demand for industrial space at a time where it is at a premium and is therefore placing upward pressure on costs through this expansion in warehousing floor space, as well as the expense of handling more products behind the scenes, both outwards to the buying consumer and in terms of return logistics.