No Robot Takeover in the Warehouse!

No Robot Takeover in the Warehouse!

Warehouse workers are quite confident that robots will not replace them … at least, not yet.

Part of their jobs involves precision work that robots do not have the dexterity or range of motion to perform. To warehouse workers, the greatest potential for robots is to assist them with physically demanding or unpleasant tasks.

Supervisory work also seems immune to a robot takeover.  Moreover, the high cost of robots rules out their use in small- to medium-volume operations.

At least for now.

This post is based on the NPR article, ‘Don’t Think a Robot Could Do This’: Warehouse workers aren’t worried for their jobs, by A. Selyukh, January 25, 2018.  

Discussion Questions

1) What is the primary reason warehouse workers feel that their jobs are secure? Should they feel that way?

Guidance: Discuss the present vs. future of robots in warehouses. The robots with which workers are familiar are still unable to do many of the picking and packing tasks they perform. Therefore, their jobs appear to be secure for the time being. However, the development of skilled robots, the need for greater efficiency, and the falling costs may threaten many of those jobs in the Continue reading

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Truckers, C’mon Back

Truckers, C’mon Back

The current demand for truck drivers is high. Or is it turnover that’s the problem? Or freight to carry?

A combination of driver shortage, high turnover, stressful life, and stagnant pay have contributed to a widespread rush to lure new drivers with financial incentives. If the shortage persists, the imbalance between supply and demand in this labor market will cause disruptions in the supply chain.

This post is based on the USA Today article,  Trucking Firms Offer Up to $8,000 for Drivers to Ease Shortage, by T. Evanoff, December 26, 2017.

Discussion Questions
1. What are the reasons for an apparently short supply of drivers?

Guidance: The main reasons seem to be low pay, demographics, difficult living conditions, and lack of privacy. The pay has been relatively flat since the 1980s, and like in many other industries, it has not fully recovered from the negative effect of the great recession. The large trucking companies’ hiring of inexperienced drivers seems to have heightened that effect. Many drivers are baby boomers and are retiring, further exacerbating the shortage. Truck drivers work many hours and are away from home most of the time. The addition of cameras in the cabins Continue reading

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The Incredible Shrinking Store

The Incredible Shrinking Store

Threatened by online shopping, large retail stores are attempting to change their image and downsize their facilities. Sears, Macy’s, Target, Walmart, etc. are opting for smaller, focused stores with fewer product lines, fewer brands, and contained layouts.

Lower real estate costs are an obvious benefit, but the challenges of meeting customers’ existing expectations and needs for variety are daunting. Sears is experimenting with a combination of reduced product offerings on its premises and access to an expanded inventory via computer kiosks throughout the store.

This post is based on the Boston Globe article,  Can the Rapidly Shrinking Store Save Legacy Retailers?, by A. Bhattarai, December 26, 2017.

Discussion Questions
1. What are the external factors that have led large retailers to downsize their brick-and-mortar stores?

Guidance: Factors include fierce online competition forcing cost reductions, changing markets (demographics, location, and preferences), and new technologies to display products within the store.

2. Many large retailers need to attract customers with a large variety of products and low costs. Are there trade-offs?

Guidance: On one hand, smaller facilities enable legacy retailers to cut costs and be more competitive; on the other, they limit the number of brands and product lines Continue reading

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