Warehouse Robotics ROI: Making Financial & Operational Sense

Robotics have far greater flexibility now than in years past, lifting trucks and working without the fixed routes of magnets, tape and ground wires that were once necessary.

This holds the promise of significant progress in terms of productivity, and simplicity of use. For example, using a technology called Driven by Balyo,  Yale® robotic lift trucks can map out a facility, and locate themselves in real time, navigating without infrastructure constraints, and reacting to surprise obstructions.

As the landscape becomes more intense, materials handling operations can’t risk a bad investment, so making sure theoretical benefits become tangible is crucial.

The business climate also needs to see a relatively quick ROI for robotics. So far, it seems that an investment in a robotic lift truck can pay off in less than two years for two or three-shift operations, with the number of shifts an operation runs being a mitigating factor.

Warehouse workers have a 36% turnover rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Beyond that, filling a recently vacated position can cost anywhere from 25 to 150% of the salary of the employee.

It remains expensive to train inexperienced or unskilled employees, a fact that stays consistent regardless of the type of job they are learning. Automation has been used by companies like Amazon to cut down on getting new employees ready to go using technologies like touch screens and robots.

Automated transportation tools can make it easier to handle tasks once meant for employees. Take goods-to-operator fulfillment workflows for an example. Employees can focus on picking and packing orders as fast as possible from inventory delivered from a robotic system. That way they don’t need to know storage locations for every type of item.

Decreased Long-term costs and investment

When automating processes and figuring the corresponding payback, expenses such as hourly wages, overtime, and holiday pay are obvious benefits. However, other major savings connected to automation are:

  • Retraining and re-education
  • Insurance
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Lost time due to illness or injury
  • Long-term wage increases

Robotics can also optimize employee performance through “cobotics,” in which robots and humans work side by side to supplement each other’s strengths. This could open doors for people struggling with limited or reduced mobility as well.