Beyond Robots: Tackling Labour Shortages with Smart WMS

 In Blog

Labour Shortages; throughout Europe, and especially in the UK, it’s a silent threat that’s been slowly growing ever more urgent over the last few years.

In the UK, especially, demand for semi-skilled workers has been building for some time, but of late, it’s become rather less silent and rather more of an insistent threat. And while there are plenty of people who are touting automation as the solution to every labour problem, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the robots aren’t going to solve all of our problems.

Labour shortages aren’t just a hiccup. 

This issue isn’t just a glitch in the matrix. It’s a full-blown people crisis that’s affecting both productivity, and by extrapolation, economic growth. The problem in the UK is particularly acute and it’s resulted in a significant gap in semi-skilled labour that’s leaving businesses scrambling to find suitable workers.

And it’s not just about filling positions… this is a problem that’s shaping how we keep the wheels of UK industry turning. The Supply Chain is one of the most affected sectors – which means it’s a problem that’s very much beginning to bite.

In recent years, automation has really come into its own. 

I mean, who DOESN’T love watching robots running up and down racking, picking, and putting away? But automation isn’t the universal solution that we all imagined it might be.

It has its place, certainly, but there’s a nuance in the work provided by real life human beings that robots simply can’t replicate. It might be the finesse required in handling delicate goods, or it might be the adaptability and flexibility that’s required in peak seasons.

Certainly, the robots can do a lot. But they can’t do everything.

And the further down this road we travel, the more it’s starting to look as if they won’t be able do enough, or at least – not in time to save us from a labour crunch.

And, let’s face it, automation isn’t a cheap option. And given that (in our experience, at least) many warehouses are seasonally driven, if your robotics system is going to be able to cope with the peaks, then that expensive MHE kit you bought is probably going to be gathering dust for at least some of the year.

Now, we (Socius24) have been in this industry for a while. Some of us are so long in the tooth that we even vaguely remember watching the Original Robot in black and white, as kids – “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this). And it’s fair to say that we’ve seen plenty of advancements in the warehouse industry over the years. But the changes that we’re possibly the most excited about are the ones that can boost productivity and efficiency by elevating the roles of semi-skilled workers.

Labour Shortages – where a WMS comes in.

If you get the right one, configured correctly, it’ll enhance the skills of your team. It’ll help them manage and operate the sophisticated systems that are going to drive your business forward into the future. And that sweet spot of synergy, the one that you have to find in order to create the forward motion your business needs to survive, is where your technology and your talent meet.

Now… don’t get me wrong. I am a massive fan of automation. It’s got its place, and when it’s integrated with the right WMS, it can create a hybrid that will leverage the strength of both systems. There’s a lot of very impressive and exciting tech out there, and you can achieve remarkable efficiencies when you marry up the right software with the right robot hardware.

But for businesses that are staring down the barrel of labour shortages right now, this minute, today – the writing is on the wall. And that writing says ‘You need to look at where an advanced WMS can streamline your operations. Stat’.

But make sure you pick that WMS carefully – my advice would be to look for scalability and flexibility. Find something that has a proven track record. And remember that implementation is only the start. Training and developing your workforce to harness the full potential of your WMS is where the real transformation begins, and where your real ROI will be achieved.

So, yes, labour shortages in Europe are an issue. 

And it’s one that’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. But as with all problems, there’s an opportunity inside of it – and in this case, that opportunity is one for innovation and strategic thinking.

Which means that if you’re looking for a path forward, and you want to choose a path that enhances productivity, optimises your operations, and empowers (rather than replaces) your workforce, then perhaps it’s time for you to look at an advanced WMS like Blue Yonder’s Dispatcher WMS?

But just one last thing before I go – if you come and talk to us about implementing Dispatcher WMS, then we can also show you our homegrown User Services Portal. That’s our mobile application software, which was designed to support and enhance Dispatcher WMS.

It’s a solution that was created specifically to support a semi-skilled workforce. It was built with an intuitive interface that reduces training and onboarding time from days to hours. It’s ideal for operations that either need to rapidly scale up their workforce through agency staff or move their own staff around within the operation. And it makes interacting with a WMS easier and faster – meaning that you don’t have to be an expert to be effective.

And the other (very important) thing about USP is that you can flex the licences up and down as needed to support the staff levels you have. Which means that when you’re at peak you can pay for what you need, and then when you’ve not got so much going on, you can reduce the number of licenses again.

Can you do that with your Robotics system? Didn’t think so.

Anyway, if you’re currently stuck in the labour shortage trenches, and if it’s affecting your productivity (and by extrapolation your profitability), then we have a message for you:

The future is bright, and it’s powered by an advanced WMS.

If you’re ready to embrace the change, invest in your people and watch your operations grow (rather than shrink alongside the labour pool), then let’s talk.

Reach out to us on and let’s turn challenges into opportunities, together.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, sign up to our LinkedIn weekly Newsletter (delivered via email)
 – The World of WMS –
for more of the same great information!

Contact Us

Please provide your name, email address and your message and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt