Robots Could Make Work Harder for Employees

January 17, 2020

The rise of e-commerce has led to the development of technology designed to boost productivity and enhance worker safety. However, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois, there are also some drawbacks to the emerging technology. Although artificial intelligence (AI) may not leave warehouse workers jobless, it could make their jobs harder.

Warehouse Work Automation

Online retailers have changed the marketplace, allowing consumers from all over the world to purchase goods online and have them delivered to their door. Over the last few years, this burgeoning field has caused a steady increase in U.S. warehouse workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment in the warehousing industry will continue to grow 21 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Smart technology has been proven to reduce and mitigate workplace incidents by alleviating arduous activities that often lead to injury, such as heavy lifting, twisting, and bending. However, while there are many safety benefits to warehouse work automation, researchers highlight the potential unintended consequences.

Implications of AI Technology

According to the study, fears regarding technologies taking over workers’ jobs are largely unfounded; robots will not likely replace human employees any time soon. However, despite the intentions of developers and operators, automated technology may make workers’ lives harder and decrease productivity in the long run. Researchers in the study express concerns regarding:

  • Burnout: Robotic arms that pick-up packages and reduce the need for workers to walk back and forth in the warehouse increase efficiency and productivity. However, new technology can put pressure on workers to perform tasks faster, ultimately leading to increased accidents and employee dissatisfaction. According to the study, labor-saving technologies can cause increased employee turnover due to burnout.
  • Autonomy: Technology can reduce the amount of face-to-face interaction among workers and lead to increased supervision. For example, sensors that measure the time it takes a worker to perform a specific task may incentivize employers to micromanage employee activity, further degrading their autonomy in the workplace. Computer-generated algorithms may also contribute to undue stress by forcing workers to follow unrealistic standards of performance.
  • Privacy: Autonomous warehouse machines have also given rise to concerns over data privacy and usage. Most workers are uncomfortable with being monitored all day and not knowing how the collected data is being used. The study’s researchers note that the information could be used to inform AI development and train robotic replacements. Employers and policymakers will have to address these concerns as AI technology continues to modify workers’ jobs.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represent Injured Warehouse Workers

If you were injured in a warehouse accident, you may need an attorney to help you file your claim and fight for the maximum benefits you deserve. To discuss your case, contact an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. For a free consultation, complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.

Located in PhiladelphiaBensalemLansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.

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