CIOs Are Using Robots To Fill In When Workers Can’t Be Found

When workers can't be found, it's time for the robots to step in
When workers can’t be found, it’s time for the robots to step in Image Credit: Zach

CIOs are, among other things, responsible for making sure that the business keeps running smoothly. Although we generally only get involved in hiring when the company is hiring people to work in the IT department, it turns out that we can also play a role in hiring in other parts of the company. Many companies are struggling to find enough workers to keep their business moving. What this means for CIOs is that we are going to have to step in and use the importance of information technology to see if we can use technology to solve the company’s hiring problems. We all know what this means: robots.

The Robots Are Coming!

CIO understand that growing numbers of self-driving machines are shuttling clothing and sports equipment down warehouse aisles, pulling bins of groceries, cosmetics and industrial parts from high stacks and handing off goods to human workers to help deliver orders faster. Some people in the CIO position are testing forklifts that can be operated from remote locations, allowing employers in tight labor markets to draw from a geographically broader pool of workers. This push toward automation comes as businesses say they can’t hire warehouse workers fast enough to meet surging online demand for everything from furniture to frozen food in pandemic-disrupted supply chains. The crunch is accelerating the adoption by CIOs of robots and other technology in a sector that still largely relies on workers pulling carts.

CIOs have to explain to workers that this is not about taking over their job, it’s about taking care of those jobs the company can’t fill. An example of this is a company that is rolling out a fleet of self-driving robots to bridge a labor gap by helping workers fill online orders at the company’s largest e-commerce site. The company is also testing autonomous tractors that tow carts loaded with pallets. To save on labor and space at a distribution center for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment, the company is installing an automated storage and retrieval system that uses robots to fetch goods packed closely together in dense rows of stacks. Other people with the CIO job are testing remote-operated forklifts that drivers can operate remotely using real-time video and audio streams. The technology allows operators to switch between vehicles in different locations depending on demand. The hope is that this opens up those jobs to workers in various regions. It could also let companies access untapped sections of the labor market, such as people who are physically disabled.

Logistics-automation CIOs say demand for their technology has grown during the pandemic as companies look for ways to cope with big swings in volume when workers are scarce and social distancing requirements limit building occupancy. Robots are beginning to fill that void. Research forecasts that demand for robotic systems that deliver goods to human workers will quadruple over the next three years. Companies that make robots have been benefiting from that significantly since the second half of last year. The driver is not to reduce costs, but simply to serve the customer’s needs. Companies simply cannot hire enough people.

The Future Looks Bright For Robots

CIOs understand that the growth of e-commerce demand during the coronavirus pandemic added strains to what was already a tight labor market for logistics and distribution work. Many logistics companies say they can’t add enough staff to keep pace with strong demand as the U.S. economy emerges from the pandemic. The staffing shortfall is driving up wages as companies compete with heavyweights including which plans to hire another 75,000 warehouse workers this year. Every company across almost every industry is looking for new ways to minimize human contact, cut costs and address the labor crunch in repetitive and dangerous jobs.

CIOs say that mobile robots and other logistics technology can also boost output and efficiency, helping businesses handle sudden spikes in demand without investing millions of dollars in fixed infrastructure. The goal for CIOs is to find new ways to minimize human contact, cut costs and address the labor crunch in repetitive and dangerous jobs. Examples of the benefits of using robots comes from a company that said its use of robots in warehousing operations increased efficiency by as much as six times in some cases. This company plans to roughly double the number of robots in its warehouses this year.

CIOs can also set up pop-up e-commerce fulfillment operations over the holiday sales season that use mobile robots to assist workers. Post-peak companies can use robots to support people. When robots are used, productivity can triple. Companies that generate business from online sales can use robots to support higher order volumes. Robots allow them to reduce congestion in the warehouse and take the pressure off labor recruitment.

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing. As the pandemic starts to recede, companies are scrambling to find the workers that they need to fulfill customer orders. Their challenge is that they are not able to find enough workers to fill all of the open positions that they have. This is opening an opportunity for the CIO to step in and use technology to find a solution for the company.

CIOs are turning to robots to fill warehouse jobs that the company has been unable to fill. Remote operated vehicles are allowing a single human operator to control multiple vehicles from a remote location. The demand for robots in business is expected to quadruple over the next few years. Ecommerce companies are feeling the shortage of workers especially hard. Using robots allows CIOs to boost their company’s output and efficiency. Robots can also be used to handle holiday rush periods.

CIOs are facing an immediate problem at their companies: the company cannot find enough workers to hire. CIOs can solve this problem by implementing robotic solutions that do the work of the missing workers. However, as we move into the future, these robotic workers may become even more valuable as the company grows and needs to boost its productivity. CIOs may have just secured themselves a spot in the company’s HR department…!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How can CIOs reassure workers that they won’t lose their jobs to robots?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, it is expected that you’ll manage an IT department that can successfully complete software projects in order to show the company the importance of information technology. However, this is not always the case. In fact, sometimes the software projects that our department are working on fail – and may even fail spectacularly. As the CIO it is expected that you will be the one who keeps an eye on things. When a project starts to get in trouble, it is expected that you’ll be the one who steps in and fixes things. However, you can’t do this if you don’t know what to look for. As the CIO, you need to make sure that you fully understand why software projects fail.