Hiring challenges are rampant in every industry, and manufacturing is no exception. As of 2023, recruiters are dealing with hiring amid economic uncertainty, health concerns, limited talent pools, higher salary demands driven by inflation, and fierce hiring competition between companies. Recruitment efforts take up valuable resources, especially if your company requires extensive training and has a high turnover rate.
Particularly when it comes to palletizers, employees are more likely to churn now than ever. Technology is keeping up with the times, however, and can be utilized to mitigate some of this hiring uncertainty in the manufacturing field. Collaborative robots might just be the best choice for palletizing jobs in the new manufacturing workforce.
Understandably, many manufacturing professionals — HR, management, and hourly employees alike — are wary of integrating robotic automation. Jobs that once required manual labor can now be replaced with collaborative robots. This may instill a bit of fear and resistance in the manufacturing industry at first.
However, manufacturing should be easily adaptable to this change, as machines have facilitated the industry alongside humans for longer than most industries. The developments in automation in manufacturing are helpful to avoid common pitfalls of the industry.
Manufacturing work is already known for being a relatively dangerous and physically demanding industry. High-stress environments like this can lead to employee burnout. This type of work exhaustion is one of the main contributors to The Great Resignation.
Little mistakes that employees may miss when tired may lead to big issues down the line. Furthermore, overworked employees will undoubtedly become unsatisfied with work conditions. They may even develop health issues from physical and mental overexertion. The labor shortage is already an issue, and overworking employees won’t help reduce the turnover rate.
When your job impacts your health, mentally and physically, you’re more prone to burnout. Especially if your employees are working long hours, they can become drained. This is not only bad for efficiency and productivity, but it also causes significant safety concerns. Operating heavy machinery while tired leads to accidents on the job.
Injuries and mistakes can end up costing your company a lot more than it is attempting to save by hiring manual palletizers. Fatigue is reportedly responsible for 13% of on-the-job injuries. However, some employees don’t recognize the signs of burnout. This can be outright dangerous when operating heavy machinery such as manual palletizers or even just carrying heavy pallets in a dangerous warehouse environment.
With other manufacturing companies adopting robotics to increase productivity and lower costs, it would likely become hard to keep up without following suit. Although employees may be wary of implementing robots to “do their jobs,” the benefits outweigh the costs. Automation and the manufacturing management software that comes with it are technologies that reduce business costs. Employees will be happier working for a thriving manufacturing company than one that is struggling to keep up and keep them paid and safe in the workplace.
Contrary to what many may believe, introducing robotics into manufacturing is not only highly beneficial, but it also creates job opportunities. Tech professionals are needed to ensure optimum performance. Some manual laborers are replaced, but that means management can delegate more important tasks to happier, less-burnt-out employees. Of course, staffing palletizing positions alongside collaborative robots doesn’t come without its challenges.
The implementation of robotic palletizing can open up a new position within a company. Depending on the level of automation, palletizer operators will need varying levels of technical expertise. When hiring for these positions, hiring managers may find that experts in the field are scarce. Since the adoption of robotics in palletizing is relatively new, not as many candidates will have the experience and skills required. This can be combated by offering extensive job training.
Training is particularly important to ensure that a company’s cybersecurity remains solid even as robots are integrated into the manufacturing floor. For instance, employees should be trained on how to identify the different types of network security threats, including phishing attacks and computer viruses. A successful malware attack could result in harmful software being downloaded to the company network or even the robot itself. This could result in severe performance declines or, at worst, a non-functioning robot.
Eventually, the improved efficiency of palletizing robots will ideally allow manufacturing businesses to spend a portion of their budget on uptraining existing employees and training new hires. Adoption of any new technology in the workplace can be difficult, but plenty of resources and support from management and HR can make the transition as smooth as possible.
When employees feel supported, they can feel confident in their work and empowered to adopt new technology more quickly. Ensuring that current manual palletizers in the workforce have the opportunity to learn how to operate the automated palletizers and transition into this advanced position is essential.
It is also important to make additions and alterations to existing jobsite emergency preparedness plans to account for the addition of palletizing robots. Staff members should be trained on what they need to do to immediately contain a site hazard and how to report an incident and document it appropriately, especially if the problem is one of the robots. All workers should also be familiar with how to safely handle materials and equipment and what the best day-to-day safety procedures are when working alongside palletizing robots. Updating emergency preparedness plans can also work to mitigate fears among your staff about the integration of new technology.
Depending on the type of palletizing solution chosen, the company may even offer eLearning for palletizing automation that you can offer to your employees. Provide incentives for completing this education, such as bonuses, and reiterate the benefits of this adoption as often as possible.
At the end of the day, the primary purpose of using robots in manufacturing settings is to keep the company running efficiently. Being aware of how this new technology can benefit employees and the bottom line alike can go a long way to make the integration of palletizing robots much smoother.