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It is plain to see that global supply chains are going through some tough times and the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even worse. The main reasons for the difficulties are as follows:

  • shortages of raw materials
  • labour shortages
  • increased demand.

In this post, we will focus in particular on the labour shortages in supply chains and logistics, the reasons behind them, the problems that they cause and how they can be resolved.


What does it mean to work in logistics and supply chains today?

One of the reasons behind the labour shortage in supply chains and logistics is the mistaken belief that all of the work is of a tiring, physical nature and thus unappealing. This notion is far removed from the actual state of affairs in logistics 4.0: more and more logistics and supply chain companies are adopting cutting-edge software and technological systems to boost the efficiency of their operations, improve the working conditions of their staff and protect their health and safety. For example, they use more ergonomic systems that help to reduce the risk of accidents.

It is also one of the fields in which the impact of activities all along the production chain is being reassessed in a process that revolves around sustainability of all kinds, including on the environmental front. It is hard to find qualified staff to work in logistics today because of the difference between the workforce’s perception of the industry and the actual situation in terms of the working conditions and skills required.

Ways for supply chains to make up for the decrease in the labour supply

In 2021, filling vacancies for key positions in supply chains proved to be particularly difficult: 36% of the employers interviewed for the Summer 2021 Labour Market Outlook report stated that they had trouble finding staff, compared to 26% in the previous year.

Companies and supply managers can deal with labour shortages in a variety of ways:

Improving communication

Given that people clearly have mistaken views about the working conditions in supply chains, companies should change the way they communicate with the labour market in order to find qualified staff in strategic sectors such as transport and logistics. This is even more essential because the majority of the potential candidates are Millennials and members of Generation Z who have mistaken beliefs and a lack of trust in the industry.

Investing in automation and technology

Supply chain decisions can be data-driven, goods can be processed and handled using automation and mobile robots, and wearable devices can make work easier for staff. All of this helps to make the industry more attractive and means that jobs today have more in common with clerical and management roles than manufacturing jobs. Candidates are required to have an increasingly broad range of both physical and technical skills. If the supply chain is automated and run with technological support, the field will be more attractive.

Increasing storage spaces

COVID-19 has highlighted the limitations of just-in-time logistics. It is a production model that can be put under great strain by fluctuations in the market, and labour shortages further restrict its capacity to respond to surges in demand. Increasing just-in-case stocks gives greater resilience and makes it possible to respond to peaks in demand promptly even if there are labour shortages, but only if the warehouse and logistics systems have certain characteristics.

Logistics 4.0 as a solution to the supply chain crisis

While logistics and increasing stock can be a new frontier in improving the resilience of modern supply chains, they do lead to two potential issues:

  • overburdening staff
  • a lack of floor space.

Once again, the solution can be provided by technology.

Autonomous mobile robots

Autonomous mobile robots and wearable devices

Artificial Intelligence companies have developed high-performance autonomous mobile robots to help logistics staff to handle, load and unload goods.

Supply chain and logistics companies are well aware of this and use of these solutions is soaring: Brain Corp reported 226% growth in the floor area covered by its AMRs between April and October 2021.

This underlines how receptive the industry is to technological innovation and the indispensable role played by this innovation in meeting the requirements of logistics today. An autonomous mobile robot has the capability to work non-stop at a pace that would not be humanly possible, thus making it easier to deal with peaks in demand.

Meanwhile, members of staff are relieved of their more physically demanding duties and can focus on the supervision and planning side of things. In addition, wearable devices can help them to notice any difficulties in the warehouse quickly and take the necessary action.

Modula storage system

Autonomous storage systems

Increasing stock to boost resilience inevitably means that more storage space is needed. As well as finding warehouses with more floor area, another way to increase capacity is to optimize the space used.

In the latter case, the obvious answer lies in vertical storage systems, which stretch upwards and make the most of the space available in all directions. Automatic storage systems such as the Modula Lift are based on the goods-to-person approach. A central lift system moves trays from the storage sections to the picking bays, where the materials are delivered to the staff in ergonomic positions.

Another advantage of autonomous storage systems lies in that they can be fully integrated with technological warehouse management systems, increasing the speed and overall efficiency of warehouse operations without leading to excessive stress or physical workloads for staff. Modern picking solutions make work easier for pickers and automatic storage systems the number one choice among companies looking for cutting-edge ways to improve performance and working conditions.

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