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ASCM Insights

Meet the New Seasonal Worker


Robots are amazing things. They conquer chess legends and Jeopardy champs. They conduct world-renowned symphony orchestras. One day, they may even help humans establish habitats on other planets.

Most job-seekers also know that robots are now helping recruiters and hiring managers review resumes, using algorithms to identify the most promising candidates. But is it time for robots to start polishing up their own resumes? If they do, the industrious ones might just make a few extra bucks this season.

“The holiday hiring frenzy is under way and robots are joining the rush to seasonal jobs,” writes Jennifer Smith for The Wall Street Journal. She explains that “surge robots” are being used to bolster the armies of seasonal warehouse workers and help retail and logistics companies handle the tight labor market.

Online order volumes are multiplying as holiday shoppers fill their digital carts. To cope, some businesses are employing extra fleets of collaborative robots, or “cobots,” which use cameras, lasers and sensors to navigate warehouse aisles and lead humans to the right shelves. Many of these cobots are available for lease, making them the ultimate seasonal hire.

The talent shortage and consumer demand for ever-faster delivery are escalating the need for warehouse automation. According to market advisory firm ABI Research, by 2025, 27.6% of warehouses globally will deploy commercial robots, compared to 3% in 2018.

“The companies are looking for help in the labor-intensive business of storing, sorting and packing goods for shipment, especially around the holidays, when retailers and logistics providers add tens of thousands of extra workers,” Smith explains.

While cobots are helping to make things easier on some warehouse employees, there is concern over how they track worker productivity and the potential of related overexertion and injuries. Also, automated employee benchmarking may lead to added stress “when everyone’s worried robots will take their jobs.”

Many businesses argue that automation will free up workers to do higher-value, better-paid tasks. According to McKinsey & Company: “As the nature of work changes with automation, millions of people may need to switch occupations and acquire new skills. Automation will displace many jobs over the next 10-to-15 years, but many others will be created and even more will change. Jobs of the future will use different skills and may have higher educational requirements.”

Prepare your team

As rapid advances in automation continue permeating supply chains, it’s essential to have the right people on your team to program, repair and work with these tools. In fact, McKinsey predicts that, by 2030, there will be a 90% surge in demand for workers with advanced information technology (IT) and programming skills.

Equip your employees with the knowledge and expertise they need to advance your supply chain organization. The APICS Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD) program will help them gain in-depth knowledge of a broad range of warehousing topics. The certification explores technologies that provide distribution control and more effective decision-making; management strategy for efficient warehousing processes; and smart warehouse layouts that support operations and technology. CLTD education also features automation and IT applications that can support effective warehousing operations and reduce labor costs while improving quality.

Beginning a CLTD journey today will position you for success in the supply chains of tomorrow.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through

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