Only Half Of Retail Managers Are Satisfied With Current Automation And Robotics Initiatives
New research reveals mixed responses to automation in the retail sector.
CHICAGO, February 8, 2024 – A recent study of retail executives has shown cautious optimism toward automation within the sector. A significant number of the respondents are initially prioritizing human-machine collaboration. The new ‘Leadership Insights for Retail Warehouse Management’ report from the wearable tech pioneer ProGlove includes insights from over 1,000 retail management professionals, indicating a nuanced approach to technological advancements in the sector.
Findings suggest that while integrating automation technology remains a challenge for 15.6% of leaders, a similarly significant struggle is integrating mobile commerce platforms (14.6%). The biggest challenge, however, is making sense of data and recognizing patterns when running analytics. This suggests that retailers struggle to extract the insights to uncover inefficiencies throughout.
A mere 6.3% of respondents are very satisfied with their current automation initiatives. 44.2% state they are somewhat satisfied. Almost 1 in 5 (19.3%) respondents indicated dissatisfaction, highlighting room for growth and optimization in the automation space.
Retailers are expecting tech-related productivity gains
Retail leaders project a conservative timeline for automation investments to pay off. Just 11.5% believe they will see returns within the next two years. A more significant segment of 36.5% expect the benefits to surpass the costs in two to five years. This suggests a careful long-term strategy in adopting automation rather than immediate returns. 26.6% are looking to a five to ten-year horizon, and 8.6% are preparing for a decade or more. The data reflects a strategic patience as retailers balance the scales of investment against anticipated gains.
Retailers had a variety of responses when it comes to making savings through productivity gains. The most popular investment area for additional productivity gains was through human augmentation, with more than a quarter (25.3%) selecting ‘human-machine collaboration’ as a key target area. Almost as many respondents highlighted the need for new software (e.g. ERP, WMS, BI, MDM). This was followed by automation and robotics at 17%.
When asked about the impact of these solutions, over a third (35.4%) of retailers forecasted productivity increases of 21-30%. Similarly, 30.6% believed they would see gains of 11-20%. With 55.3% of total respondents expecting gains beyond 20% from investing in technology solutions, there appears to be a consensus that tech investment is viewed as a worthy path.
Workforce changes in retail warehouses
ProGlove’s report also looked into fluctuating warehouse workforce numbers. The evolution of workforce numbers in the retail sector shows a blend of stability and change. Over the past five years, leaders indicated a pattern of workforce increases in certain brackets and a steady state in others.
Notably, retail leaders anticipate workforce expansion and contraction in relatively equal parts. In the coming year, the same proportion of leaders, at 15.3%, predict up to a 10% decrease or increase in their staffing levels. This balance hints at an expectation that technology may support profit growth without substantial changes in employee numbers. A significant 33.9% of respondents project that workforce levels will hold steady, suggesting confidence in leveraging existing human resources alongside new automation solutions to drive business success.
“Automation presents a complex landscape for retailers,” said Stefan Lampa, CEO of ProGlove. “While it holds potential for efficiency, our research underscores the critical role of human-machine collaboration. Retailers seek a synergy that leverages technology to empower, not replace, the human workforce.”
To read the complete ‘Leadership Insights for Retail Warehouse Management’ report, visit: www.proglove.com/surveys/retail-survey-2024/
Founded in 2014, ProGlove provides industrial wearable scanning solutions. With its hardware and software products, ProGlove increases productivity, safety and quality for more than 2,000 customers in warehousing, logistics, manufacturing and retail. ProGlove solutions enable users to capture and analyze data quickly and easily. ProGlove’s customers include well-known organizations such as BMW, DHL, Gap Inc. and Lufthansa Technik Logistik Services. ProGlove is headquartered in Munich, Germany, with additional offices in Chicago (USA), Coventry (UK) and Belgrade (RS). The company employs more than 350 people from over 30 countries. More information is available at: www.proglove.com .