Can Robots, AI and AR alleviate labour shortages?

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Studies show that there will be an estimated shortage of 85 million workers around the globe by 2030.

Primarily caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the effects on the labour market have been enormous. A global challenge this significant requires an extensive and innovative response…

So, could Robots, Artificial Intelligence, and Augmented Reality be the answer to the labour shortages? Keep reading to find out…

Robotic Solutions

Robots have been storming the market in recent years, boosting productivity and becoming more autonomous as the engineering and technology behind them advances.

One global retail giant developing and already using robots to help efficiency in their warehouses is Amazon; who is utilising over 200,000 robots worldwide to assist in the delivery of over 350 million different products.

Amazon has also recently unveiled their first completely autonomous mobile robot, Proteus, and its robotic mechanical arm, Cardinal. Proteus, which has been in development for a decade, is designed to fit below package carts and drive them around their factories. Cardinal, on the other hand, employs AI and computer vision to pick up items, scan labels, and place them on a cart alongside current employees. When fully implemented, they will work alongside Amazon employees to conduct monotonous and repetitive jobs.

But how do robots, such as Proteus and Cardinal, help alleviate the current labour shortage? Well, according to industry experts’ robots are boosting productivity by 200-300%, reducing injuries to workers and improving job satisfaction due to being less fatigued. All of which are making labour-intensive jobs more attractive. Additionally, the next generation of workers who are prioritising workplace conditions, approve of automation in the workplace (with 70% of participants believing that it could help the logistics and transportation field).

Innovations like barcode scanners, micro fulfilment centres and warehouse management systems have already helped warehouse workers become drastically more efficient. Freeing workers to focus on those important tasks that require critical thought and a human touch.

Robots are already assisting with the present labour shortages; reducing physical stress on employees, taking on tasks autonomously, and making roles more appealing to the next generation of talent. However, with the current labour crisis leaving warehouse operators understaffed, technologies that can do more than just help its workers, and can complete complex warehouse activities on their own will need to be developed.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most significant and transformative technologies in recent history. Around the world, this tech is playing a significant role in making supply chains more reliable and efficient, from automatically forecasting demand to improving route planning.

AI, such as Process Automation, is already helping retail giant Amazon to make predictions about its customers demand, meaning they can fill orders faster than most other retailers. WMSs (warehouse management systems) are also helping organisations to identify inefficiencies in their operations through data analysis. As a result, these sometimes-small modifications to a warehouses operations are making a significant increase in efficiency, alongside reducing stress for employees.

With AI helping to improve data, process alignment, automation, and much more, we believe it has the power to reshape logistics and aid the stresses of the present labour crisis. Tasks like filing paperwork manually cost a business on average 6,500 hours per year; therefore, assigning these data-heavy duties to AI helps to save employees’ time.

Looking forward, AI’s potential to power self-driving vehicles and trucks provides the opportunity to enable fully autonomous shipping. With the International Road Transport Union’s (IRU) annual driver shortage survey showed unfilled commercial driver positions continue to increase at alarming rates, AI could be key to keeping supply chains running efficiently in the future.

Augmented Reality

According to BIS Research, the existing $4 billion Augmented Reality (AR) market will reach a global value of $198 billion by 2025. Currently, companies are experimenting with a range of AR devices as they discover potential new applications ranging from the complex assembly, machining simulation, and robotics to remote assistance and accelerated training.

An organisation already adopting AR to create a guided step-by-step training solution is BAE Systems in the UK. Using Microsoft’s smart glasses, HoloLens, BAE Systems is teaching workers how to assemble green energy bus batteries. The HoloLens is a self-contained holographic headset that has already proven to reduce training time in manufacturing by 75%.

AR is also proving to boost efficiency; at Boeing, factory trainees assembling a mock airplane wing were 30% faster and 90% more accurate using AR- animated instructions on tablets than trainees using instructions in PDF documents.

So how does this help the current labour shortage? With faster training programmes filling skills gaps and enabling new recruits to be quickly inducted. More accurate and rapid production times, through AR-animated instructions, AR definitely has the potential to reduce the stresses of the current labour shortage by boosting efficiency.

Overall, Robotics, AI, and AR are already alleviating some of the constraints being presented by the current labour market. They are making physically intense jobs more attractive by taking away manual and repetitive tasks and are increasing accuracy and speed of production.

Although revolutionary technologies like self-driving trucks have the potential to transform the future of distribution, unfortunately a mass roll out of these trucks are unlikely to arrive in time to address the current challenges that businesses face. It is also crucial that companies support their employees in adapting and developing their skills to meet the changing nature of jobs as more functions are automated.

We are excited about the future of Robotics, AI, and AR and, how both, combined and individually, they are transforming logistics to benefit workers, organisations and the present labour shortage.

At Linnk Engineering, we specialise in empowering organisations and engineering experts through our outsourcing solutions. Specialising in global automatic and robotic solutions within logistics. Connect with us to find out how we can support your organisation or find you your perfect engineering role.