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The reality of manual labour and under-automation

For many businesses, the warehouse serves as the critical hub for inventory management, order fulfilment, and distribution. Driven by the promise of increased efficiency, accuracy, and cost savings, the warehouse has seen a significant shift over the years, with the introduction of automation specifically.

Though technological changes have happened, the reality is that many warehouses still rely heavily on manual labour, and the level of automation varies widely across different industries and regions of the world.

In this blog, we will explore the challenges that manual labour and under-automation bring, as well as compelling arguments for leap automation.

Why businesses prefer to cling to manual labour and avoid embracing automation in their warehouses

As mentioned previously, many warehouses still rely heavily on manual labour. Let’s explore the various factors that make companies reluctant to automate their warehouses:

The primary drivers of automation in the warehouse

Automation in the warehouse can take many forms, from simple conveyor belts and forklifts to complex robotic systems that can pick and pack items with incredible speed and precision. What do these technologies bring to the table?


Warehouse robotics, coupled with AI-powered platforms, significantly enhance efficiency in warehouse operations as they can perform repetitive tasks faster (such as order scanning, picking, packing, and sorting) and more consistently than human workers.

As a result, warehouses can process a higher volume of orders in less time, leading to a substantial increase in overall efficiency.


Manual processes, may introduce a higher probability of errors, resulting in costly order discrepancies and potential customer dissatisfaction. Acknowledging that errors can occur at any point, especially when tasks are repetitive and carried out over extended periods is important.

Automated systems help reduce errors, resulting in fewer returns and customer complaints for example order picking, packing or even inventory management. Overall, it contributes to a more robust and reliable operational framework.

Cost savings

Contrary to common misconceptions, implementing warehouse robotics is a cost-effective solution in the long run (especially in labour-intensive industries like e-commerce and retail). Despite the initial investment, the long-term savings from increased efficiency and minimised errors make warehouse robotics a financially prudent choice.


Automated systems can reduce the risk of workplace injuries and accidents by taking over repetitive and sometimes physically demanding tasks. These technologies are programmed to follow strict safety protocols, which helps create a safer working environment for warehouse employees.

The risks of not automating your warehouse

In a few words: businesses can expect to fall behind competition.

Keeping with manual tasks means coping with slower order processing times, longer lead times, and a reduced ability to meet customer expectations for fast delivery. Competitors that have invested in warehouse automation can offer quicker delivery times, better product availability, and lower prices. Falling behind in automation means losing this competitive edge, making it harder to attract and retain customers.

On top of it, delays, errors, and stockouts caused by manual processes can all lead to dissatisfied customers which can damage a business's reputation and lead to lost sales and customers.

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The benefits of automation have become too significant to ignore, and reliance on manual tasks exclusively has become outdated. Companies that still carry out business-critical tasks manually are missing out on potential increased efficiency, accuracy, and cost savings in their warehouse operations.

As technologies evolve and become more accessible, businesses should put concerns about automation aside and embrace its potential benefits.

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This company has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 849938