Freeman Cebu Business

Turning manual workers into operators

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos - The Freeman

Chaos. This is the most appropriate word to describe the world today. The USA, the richest and most powerful country in the world, by their own doing, is disappointingly in chaos.  Regarded as the leader of the free world, it is now relatively in shambles. Too bad for a country that most of us, Filipinos, look up to.

In us, while the country may not be in chaos, the House of Representatives is. If we try to look into the roots of it, the dishonoring of a commitment is the main culprit. And probably, driven by greed.

While these troubling developments are consequences of the undoing or wrongdoing of people who are perceived to be honorable, the same situation is also true in business establishments. Particularly, on inventories, where managers or custodians do not have a commitment for orderliness in their warehouses or are ill-motivated and deliberately leave the situation (chaotic) that way so that they can easily manipulate results to their own advantages.  Again, greed-driven.

It is not difficult to know or determine a mismanaged warehouse. Deliberate or not, the business owners will always have warehouse problems such as inaccurate inventory (this happens when records are maintained manually andupdating isn’t done real-time), redundant processes (this means double or excessive handling), suboptimal picking (if picking is not done efficiently, more time and money shall be wasted and deliveries will be delayed), poor facility layout (resulting to poor space utilization), seasonality in demands (it means, sometimes the warehouse is full and at times more spaces are empty), high labor cost, inventory damages and poor handling of returned items. Just like most problems, these will all result to financial losses.

If you have these problems, you are not alone. There are thousands of businesses in the country that are having these problems. That is why a lot of solution providers are burning midnight candles on both ends just to develop something that can be of good use in the supply chain. One of these companies is Exotec Solutions.

Established in 2014, this French company was co-founded by two former GE employees who were both engineers for robotics. Since then, the company has been “working on semi-automated warehouses for e-commerce clients.” This“goods-to-person” picking system is based on tiny but customizable and agile robots called Skypods. Amazingly, they “roam the floor and go up and down racks to pick up standardized bins of products.”

The system is also scalable. Therefore, as the need arises, the storage capacity can be increased both horizontally and vertically. Impressively, along with such increase in capacity, both the number of robots and racks maybe added without disrupting operation. Obviously, therefore, there are no added cost at all that shall be attributed to any downtime.

They also provide a software which controls the robots. This “fleet of robots uses the best of computer modeling and mathematics for fast order preparation with minimum resources.” Through this software the robots are well coordinatedin the entire warehouse.

With the massive funding that Exotec Solution is generating from tech investors, it shall be producing 4,000 robots per year by 2021. With such volume, there is no doubt that systems like this will be more prevalent in the near future. The good thing though is that, for businesses, they will be able to eliminate the myriad warehouse problems they’ve been dealing with since their companies’ inception. 

For the customers or end-users, this would mean that deliveries will already be on time.  Moreover, because efficiency is the very core of this system, it will make the price, probably, cheaper than usual.

To most of us, wage earners, there could be some perceived downside, that is, employment. This is so as human pickers, among others, will be rendered useless. 

Lest we forget, four years ago, recognizing that robots will finally make their strides, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) advised developing countries “to redesign education policies and embrace the digital revolution.”  Supposedly, “this approach should be combined with supportive macroeconomic, industrial and social policies.”

Simply put, with these approaches in place, at the very least, we can turn manual workers into operators.


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