"A human-centric perspective exploring the readiness towards smart warehousing: The case of a large retail distribution warehouse"
by Mahroof, Kamran (2019)
The explosive rise in technologies has revolutionised the way in which business operate, consumers buy, and the pace at which these activities take place. These advancements continue to have profound impact on business processes across the entire organisation. As such, Logistics and Supply Chain Management (LSCM) are also leveraging benefits from digitisation, allowing organisations to increase efficiency and productivity, whilst also providing greater transparency and accuracy in the movement of goods. While the warehouse is a key component within LSCM, warehousing research remains an understudied area within overall supply chain research, accounting for only a fraction of the overall research within this field. However, of the extant warehouse research, attention has largely been placed on warehouse design, performance and technology use, yet overlooking the determinants of Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption within warehouses. Accordingly, through proposing an extension of the Technology–Organisation–Environment (TOE) framework, this research explores the barriers and opportunities of AI within the warehouse of a major retailer. The findings for this qualitative study reveal AI challenges resulting from a shortage of both skill and mind-set of operational management, while also uncovering the opportunities presented through existing IT infrastructure and pre-existing AI exposure of management.
Another key theme gleaned from the analysis was the psychological impact of technology adoption, particularly AI as it can be at the expense of people. A manager provides some further insight into the psychological elements management encounter: ‘They amass experience which gives them the edge, ability of a TM to look at a warehouse full of pallets to say, I need 15 people and 3 h to shift that… that is purely experience. We put a system in and a report can tell you that. That’s a massive hit for someone. That first barrier is biggest’. If AI and automation does not directly replace roles, it can certainly have a psychological impact, whereby operational operatives’ skills and know-how may no longer be as relevant as previously. This is further witnessed here, as P.H posits: ‘we have a conveyor in the middle… But we don’t use it. Because people are scared of it, they don’t want to use it, they rather use man power’. P.H attributes the lack of engagement with the conveyor belt to reluctance and fear, while this is not AI, rather automation; it provides an understanding into warehouse mentality on a localised level. (p.185)
KeywordsArtificial Intelligence, Logistics, Warehousing, Technology Readiness, Worker Replacement
ThemesFuture of Work, Employment, AI and Computerisation, Automation
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