This week I have had the opportunity to spend some time browsing the ProMat DX show (www.dx.promatshow.com), the largest material handling exposition in North America. This trade show, being held virtually for 2021, has been somewhat muted from its normal in person format. However, one of the notable aspects of this exposition has been the increased focus on advanced automation. Discussions on robotics, autonomous guided vehicles, autonomous mobile robots, digitalization, cybersecurity, and other topics have been promulgated during the event.
Just a few weeks prior, the Association for Advancing Automation (www.a3automate.org) held their virtual show. They provided the audience with significant evidence that businesses have been turning to implementation of automation in record numbers, as a response to increased demand for advanced material handling systems during the pandemic. Several prominent organizations presented their reasoning on how and why advanced automation systems will enable their business to grow in the face of unforeseen demand, despite loss of labor force.
Hmmm… Labor scarcity? I thought that we are experiencing high unemployment in USA?
Well the numbers tell one story. Perhaps there is another story lurking beneath the numbers. I found this intriguing article, identifying a real challenge for businesses: perhaps almost half of those unemployed at this time have exited the work force, due to fear. People are afraid to go to work.
Why is this a consideration for our segment of the material handling industry? Looking ahead, there is measurable increase in demand for travel. Airlines are seeing the beginnings of passenger demand increases. While our industry has the time, we need to consider our future needs, based on wise use of capital.
Mentioned earlier, some of the organizations using material handling systems have also recognized that due to the rapid changes in technology, traditional capital procurement may no longer be the right tool for technology acquisition. They are adjusting their procurement methodologies to take advantage of leasing automation equipment, rather than investing capital in buying hard assets.
Planning today for tomorrow’s needs has always been a key consideration for our industry segment. As we begin to understand the shape of the next normal we enter, we would do well to consider a future that will be labor constrained. Analyzing how advanced automation can be implemented in baggage handling systems has long term benefits, as well as the potential to free up capital for stakeholders.
As we move forward in recovery, our industry needs to move forward with beginning to implement advanced automation. This calls for smart work and hard work. The benefits are high, and now is the time.