5 ways to help your workforce embrace warehouse AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being deployed in warehouses around the world. Whether they are preventing bottlenecks, reducing damage to goods or helping operators to fulfil customer requirements on time, AI systems are creating safer, more efficient warehouses.

However, these advances can also cause concern among colleagues. A 2019 study from cyber security firm Kaspersky found that 60% of UK adults fear losing their job to AI.

So, how can leaders help colleagues to understand the benefits of AI, and embrace its introduction in the warehouse environment? Here are five ways to boost buy in.

1. Take colleagues on the journey with you

Explaining the purpose and benefits of new AI systems clearly to colleagues ahead of their introduction can improve understanding and uptake. Simply introducing a new system and asking colleagues to start using it means they are less likely to understand the benefits it can offer to themselves, the business or even the environment.

Clearly explaining a new technology’s purpose will make it easier for colleagues to adapt and use the system. For example, many businesses now offer free shipping, which in turn means many customers will place multiple orders in a short space of time without worrying about the number of packages that will be sent. Some organisations have utilised AI to hold back shipping for 18 hours to ensure follow up purchase can be packaged together. This can mean reduced shipping costs and waste. Sharing insights like this will help colleagues understand why AI is being introduced and allay fears.

2. Listen to concerns and show empathy

For many workers, a distrust of AI stems from the concern that they or their colleagues might eventually be replaced by the technology. It is important for leaders to listen to concerns and show empathy in these instances.

Ensure that colleagues know they can come to their leaders with any worries. This can be done by creating an informal open-door culture, or by implementing more formal processes such as regular town hall meetings or setting up specific digital channels.

If they do share any concerns or questions, remind your colleagues what the technology is actually being used for and reassure them, explaining why their role remains important to your organisation.

3. Consider how to measure and reward adoption

One of the best ways to improve uptake of new technologies is by rewarding colleagues for adopting it. To do so you need to put in place ways to measure usage, then set targets.

Often the system itself will show how it is being used, but you may also be able to measure adoption in other ways. For example, some organisations have now introduced AI systems to help employees manage their pick flow, ensuring lighter items or pallets are not crushed by heavier ones. If you see a reduction in damages after introducing systems like this, you can be relatively confident it has had the intended effect.

Sometimes, it may be appropriate to reward individuals for their efforts in using AI. At other times, it will be better to create rewards for teams or the organisation as a whole. Either way, setting clear targets for colleagues will help them understand what is expected of them.

4. Create clear lines of communication for colleagues to raise any issues

Of course, any roll out of new technology can create unexpected challenges. Ensure you have clear channels where colleagues can share any incidences where AI is not working as expected. This feedback is invaluable in improving the technology and taking action over concerns will show colleagues that you are listening.

They may find glitches or bugs that need addressing in the system. But it’s also possible that the most efficient picking route identified by an AI system is not the safest, or can even result in more errors as colleagues go onto autopilot. This is where human intelligence and creative thinking can be used in harmony with technology to find the best process.

5. Create transparent review processes to see if your updates are working as intended

Finally, you should be open about what results you are seeing following the introduction of new AI technology. If you have been clear about your goals from the start when introducing AI, you must also be transparent about the effects it is having. In most instances, the technology will work as expected. In these cases, showing colleagues the value of the technology makes it harder to argue against its adoption.

Occasionally, you may find that it is appropriate to rethink its use, or even rollback a system entirely. When this happens, explaining to colleagues how you came to the decision will show integrity.

When it comes to using the technology every day, colleagues are at the coal face. Being open and honest will show them that they are still the most important part of your business.

We agree people are a company’s greatest asset. Contact us to discuss your people plans and how we can support, or to discuss warehouse technology and AI.

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