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GUEST COMMENT How warehouse automation and robotics can solve the issue of labour shortages

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Warehouses and fulfilment centres are struggling to attract and retain staff, but technology and automation can help to fill the gap, increase worker morale and make businesses more efficient and successful, says Gavin Harrison, UK Sales Manager at global warehouse automation and intralogistics specialist, Element Logic.

Over the last few years, we have seen seismic changes in multiple industry sectors. Perhaps one of the most evolving (and growing) amongst these is ecommerce. As a result of the pandemic, the sector has experienced a growth increase of 36% since 2020, requiring it to adapt to an ever-increasing demand.

This high demand and growth has come with many challenges, so warehouses and fulfilment centres have tried to increase their labour force to accommodate the changes. However, vacancies remain in the thousands due to the ongoing labour shortages worldwide. As a result, companies are providing incentives to attract workers, including in some cases a salary increase of up to 30%, as well as generous sign-on bonuses.

In the UK, the pandemic and Brexit in particular have exacerbated these shortages. Despite this, the pandemic-induced spike in demand for ecommerce is likely to only increase. What’s more, despite the incentives offered, many firms are failing to attract the workers they need to operate at the required capacity. In short, the industry needs a more sustainable solution to address the challenges of a dwindling workforce.

Automation and robotics are quickly becoming the preferred solution for many businesses looking to meet soaring demand. This means customers can get their products on time and many warehouses are even able to expand their operations to drive further growth.

Here are three key reasons why automation and robotics allow for a safer, more efficient and overall happier warehouse environment.


A common misconception is that automated processes are extremely complex, requiring large amounts of maintenance and taking years to be installed. This is simply not the case. Automated processes can be implemented quickly without disrupting current operations or requiring an engineering presence on site. Ultimately, this means fulfilment can continue as normal.

In addition, it takes little time to train staff on how to operate these solutions, and further training can give workers a more in-depth understanding of the technology behind them. For example, businesses using a warehouse automation system like AutoStore have trained ‘superusers’ that have advanced insight into the technology and have considerable knowledge of its capabilities.

This means the system can be adjusted to maintain high efficiency without waiting for engineers or slowing down fulfilment. However, workers also have the comfort of knowing there is a professional who is familiar with the warehouse and technology just a phone call away if any major issues arise.


Many have the fear that warehouse automation automatically spells the end of the majority of jobs. It is true that less people will need to be hired, so there will be a decrease in the open roles, but staff are still going to be necessary! It is most often the case that robots will replace the workers’ more mundane tasks, such as item retrieval. With an automated solution, staff do not need to walk miles up and down walkways to collect items, allowing them to focus on a few roles that haven’t been automated. For instance, staff can devote more time to the packaging process, a less physically demanding role.

During peak times, warehouse staff are often required to work harder and for longer hours. When this happens, many businesses rely on agency workers to make up the shortfall in capacity. Automation solves this problem; capacity can be easily increased by simply adding more robots. In addition, because the software is adaptable to your current warehouse setup, it can be reconfigured at will to respond to any rise in demand the warehouse may experience.


It has already been mentioned that warehouse staff retention is a major pain point for businesses. Turnover rates are high due to the physical nature of the work, often unsavoury conditions and the long hours required. The implementation of automation and robotics allows workers to concentrate on less menial tasks, indicating that the company values their services and wants them to take on more enjoyable roles. This ultimately increases morale. As a result, staff are more likely to feel respected and gain more satisfaction at work, therefore improving both retention and productivity.

To sum up, warehouses face many challenges today. However, to view these challenges as ‘problems’ is counterproductive and will not cause them to disappear. Automation solutions exist and are available for warehouses of all sizes, as well as businesses at all development stages. By utilising this technology, businesses can make their jobs more attractive and enjoyable, moving away from models that put staff in physically demanding and stressful situations.


Gavin Harrison, UK manager at global warehouse automation and intralogistics specialist, Element Logic

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