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John Lewis remains ‘people-centric’ despite AI and warehouse automation, chair stresses

John Lewis Partnership

John Lewis will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ensure its stock flows across the business in “the most efficient way”, and help customers by proving recommendations about products based on their preferences, while remaining a “people-centric” business.

This is the message from Dame Sharon White, John Lewis Partnership chair. White stressed that AI will “never replace the uniqueness of human connection and senses”. She explained that the John Lewis Partnership, which opened the UK’s first automated warehouse in 2009, was “a business founded on human relationships and emotional connections”.

“Human connection is why the Partnership is built on trust and a closeness to our customers who feel they have a stake in the business,” she also told The Mail on Sunday.

“Of course, new technologies must be embraced for businesses to modernise and meet customers’ needs.

“We will always choose the power of human connections, creativity and senses. For a people-centric business like ours, the robots won’t be taking over, so don’t write off the humans just yet.”

In March, the retail giant awarded a contract to warehouse automation supplier Logistex to design and implement a solution to optimise their ecommerce distribution centre at Fenny Lock, Milton Keynes.

Locus Robotics’ Autonomous Mobile Solutions (AMRs) were also introduced to help with picking of orders across multiple zones. Future phases will include the deployment of an AMR Tote-to-Person (TTP) picking solution.

Hear more from Locus Robotics during the virtual DeliveryX LIVE event held on 20 and 21 June 2023

John Lewis’ chair has also used a speech to members of the Employee Ownership Association to promised the retailer will return to profit by 2026. White also revealed staff bonuses would only return “when affordable”.

Recently, White’s performance as chair was also questioned when representatives on the employee-owned partnership council voted in favour of her.

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