Years Later: Research Shows Employee Opinion on Automation

Years Later: Research Shows Employee Opinion on Automation

Researchers were able to determine how warehouse employees really feel about their automated coworkers.

There are over 1.5 million employees working in warehouses across the country and some have coworkers of a robotic nature. Recently, a team of researchers set out to seek the opinions of those who have worked closely with automation technology to gain a better understanding of how it has begun to settle into everyday work.

According to a Harvard Business Review article, Joe Lui, Raghav Narsalay, Rushda Afzal, Ida Nair Sharma and Dave Light wrote about interviews conducted with over 65 employees who worked in a warehouse facility. The video interviews were a peek behind the curtain into the $15 billion AI technology market, which is currently set to double within the next four years.

The researchers asked questions based on the duties of the employee. For warehouse workers the following questions were asked:

  1. How do automation technologies help you do your current job?
  2. How do you feel about working side by side with a robot? What do you like and dislike about it?
  3. What safety challenges are you facing in the warehouse?

For those employees who were front-line supervisors, the researchers asked the following:

  1. How has automation impacted operations and your role in the warehouse?
  2. What are some of the new challenges that have emerged since deploying automation?

Researchers found, though data analysis that extracted key themes from responses, that the response was about 40 percent negative and 60 percent positive when it came to automation in the workplace.

Those who felt negatively were afraid to lose the jobs, worried about having inadequate access to training resources, and dealing with downtime or errors caused by technology malfunctions. Of those that responded positively, worker were optimistic that the automation was actually helping them to complete their duties in a more safe manner, was increasing productivity and improving the quality of their work.

Over 40 percent of those interviewed mentioned that the number one reason of optimism around automation was its potential to improve warehouse safety. In many cases, the workers express relief that many of their tasks that were repetitive could be tackled by technology, easing their strains and pains caused by movements done over and over again in a short amount of time.

In addition, workers mentioned that automation tools used to sanitize workspaces have created a much needed sense of security and safety in the on-going Covid-19 pandemic with one worker excited by the fact that she could have cleaning robots driving around a facility cleaning the floors and wiping everything down with just the push of a button.

For more details on the interviews conducted by these researchers and advice on how to move forward with automation technology and processes, read the original article at Harvard Business Review.

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