As of 2019, the global warehouse automation market — that is, programmable machines that pick, sort, and return goods to their shelves, as well as sensor- and AI-based tools that simplify tasks for warehouse workers — was worth about $15 billion. That number is expected to double within the next four years, with supply chain leaders in an internal Accenture survey citing warehouse automation as one of their top three priorities for digital investment. Clearly, the industry has huge growth potential. But what does this mean for the millions of workers who currently work in warehouses around the world?
In the U.S. alone, some 1.5 million workers are employed in the warehouse and storage sector. The UK’s transportation and storage sector employs 1.8 million, and millions more work in warehouses all around the world. While some prior work has explored the impact of automation on these workers, there is still limited understanding of how automated technologies are changing these employees’ daily lives. To get a better sense for workers’ perspectives, we built on Accenture’s recent research into warehouse automation with a series of in-depth video interviews with 34 warehouse workers and 33 front-line supervisors across the U.S., UK, France, Spain, and China (interviews were conducted in workers’ native languages, and then translated into English for analysis).