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April Roundup for Manufacturing & Distribution

Curated articles for industrial operations

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This month, we dive into supply chain and the ongoing impact of labor shortages in the sector from Supply Chain Executive. If you’re interested in evaluating your warehouse, WERC has a program we cover, as well as a dive into American industrial output in early 2023.

Automated production facility with conveyors and robots

Supply Chain Executive: What to expect for warehouse automation in 2023

According to Supply Chain Executive, automation will continue its rapid growth in 2023, fueled mainly by labor shortages. The shortfalls for industrial operations that we have seen for the past few years won’t get better — and probably worsen moving forward. Warehouses are competing with a variety of other employers for the same labor pool, and many of those competitors can offer cleaner, cooler environments.

57% of of supply chain executives say that labor shortages have hindered their operations. This while wages are rising and worker availability declining. More than half intend to pursue automation solutions to help fill the gap.

“The labor pool simply does not exist” said Chris Greyer, VP of Berkshire Grey.

Key takeaways

  • The article predicts that warehouses will pursue software integration solutions, such as execution software, WMS, and supply chain optimization systems. These systems help both manual and automated systems produce better results. Sufficient IT support makes automation possible. This includes potential use of AI technologies to drive processes forward.
  • As companies tend to do during times of scarcity, they will innovate. More types of automation, materials handling and processing innovations will enter the market to meet demands as workers become increasingly expensive and difficult to find. One issue will be speed – will enough companies consent to being early adopters?
  • Robotics will be a continuing focus. AMRs and AGVs don’t require significant floor space or permanent infrastructure. Self-driving forklifts and drones of many types will begin to enter mainstream warehouse technologies. Read AGVs, AMRs, and Conveyors: Automated Product Transport Applications for more information on the give-and-take of materials movement alternatives.

This reality will no doubt cause many companies to work on all aspects of the problem. Aside from automating, new training, hiring and HR processes can give companies a competitive advantage. Companies like GE have adjusted their hiring and recruitment approach, with more innovations to follow.

The WERC Facility Assessment and Certification Program

WERC logo

WERC – the Warehousing Education and Research Council – has offered an exclusive certification program for many years. The program aims to help warehouses run more effectively through a thorough evaluation of operations that focuses on eight key functional areas, which are then graded on a 5-point scale. Those facilities that meet or exceed industry standards are awarded a WERC certified badge.

The program provides what the council describes as an “unbiased” review of your practices. It also helps you benchmark against industry standards so you can evaluate how well you stack up against operations similar to yours. Most importantly, it can help you see issues you may not have identified yet, but that could impact your company down the line.

Read more: How to Benchmark Your Warehouse

Robotiq:  do the automation numbers add up?

robotic production line

In this post, Robotiq explores the cost of manufacturing automation in manufacturing and the ROI of these systems.

It provides examples of potential cost savings, like as reduced labor costs and increased productivity but balances these gains with challenges and costs that can delay or frustrate gains. These potential barriers can include:

  • Purchase cost for equipment
  • Integration costs, including software and related equipment
  • Employee training and retraining
  • Maintenance and repair of automated systems

The article concludes that while automation can be costly upfront, the long-term benefits can make it a worthwhile investment for many companies.

Thread: industrial production in early 2023

Moutray covers a ton of detail on U.S. industrial production in detail here.

Quick hits

  • According to the Economic Policy Institute–and to the surprise of no one who’s needed to hire during the last three years–low wage workers have seen “historic” wage growth since 2019. Most every worker tended to see wage gains during this era, but lower wage workers saw 9% increases, which was more than twice the growth of any other group of workers.
  • Dallas Magazine outlined what to expect for Industrial Capital Markets in 2023. Dallas has seen “immense” growth the last decade with rising demands and declining vacancy rates. This may be curbed by interest rates in 2023 and increasing prices, according to Seth Kosach of Stream Realty Partners. Growth in North Texas will continue as the industrial real estate market is resilient, and Dallas still an extremely attractive location for new development.
  • Hytrol’s Billy Pendergrass covers ways to get the most from your sorter investment in this article. Sorters help industrial operations operate faster and more accurately across the entire distribution operation, but an understanding of desired sort rages, load types, budget and type of sorter are critical for success.

Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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