That is what one industrial automation firm is concluding from a small global survey focused on warehouse decision makers and operators.

In a January–February 2022 survey of over 1,500 decision-makers and associates that managed and maintained warehouse or distribution center operations across North America, Latin America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region, the data has indicated that strained supply chains and labor pools require warehouse operations to be more flexible, automated and resilient than ever.

Warehouse operators in the survey were making “significant investments” to improve fulfilment of the needs of both customers and workers and ease the filling of job vacancies—turning their focus towards technologies that support workforce augmentation and workflow automation.

More than nine in 10 respondents in all regions, including APAC, had indicated they planned to increase the use of wearables, mobile printers and rugged tablets over the next few years, along with mobile dimensioning software to automate parcel and carton measurements.

Other key findings

Respondents came from the manufacturing, retail, transportation, logistics and wholesale distribution sectors. The APAC markets surveyed were Australia, China, India, Japan and Singapore. Findings include:

  • Nearly nine in 10 respondents globally indicated they must implement new technology to be competitive in the on-demand economy, with about three-quarters of APAC respondents (decision makers) indicating that the pandemic had prompted them to evolve and modernize more quickly
  • Over 40% of respondents spanning across the manufacturing, transportation, wholesale distribution, logistics and retail sectors indicated that they had been expected to deliver orders faster than ever, with rising transportation costs taking their toll
  • 53% of APAC respondents (warehouse operators) indicated difficulties finding workers; 59% indicated challenges in training.
  • Over eight in 10 respondents (decision makers) globally indicated they planned to rely more on automation in the future
  • 95% of APAC decision makers in the survey indicated their willingness to invest in software to automate analytics and decision making, in a bid to raise worker effectiveness and efficiency and reduce labor costs
  • Nearly eight in 10 respondents (warehouse associates) in APAC (79%) and globally (78%) indicated that walking fewer miles per day would make their jobs more enjoyable, even if they had to pick or handle more items. Many indicated that autonomous mechanical robots could make warehouse jobs less stressful
  • 36% of APAC respondents (vs 41% worldwide) agreed to prompts that implementing warehouse technologies such as robotics and devices can help attract and retain workers
  • 56% of APAC respondents (decision makers) indicated that the most important labor initiative was to reduce unnecessary tasks so associates can focus on more customer-centric work and utilize their workforce more efficiently
  • More than six in 10 respondents (decision makers) indicated they planned to invest in technologies that increase inventory and asset visibility within their warehouses and overall visibility throughout supply chains over the next five years
  • Nine in 10 respondents expected their use of sensor-based technologies such as radio frequency identification, computer vision, fixed industrial scanning and machine vision systems to become more prevalent over the next five years

Said Christanto Suryadarma, Vice President, Southeast Asia (SEA) Sales, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific, which commissioned the survey: “Automation is allowing businesses to create different types of work environments and allowing people to take on roles that are more interesting, fulfilling and career-elevating.”