A sizable Walmart building in Brooksville, Florida, is set to become the first partially automated warehouse to handle products.
- By the end of this year, Brooksville’s Walmart warehouse is scheduled to open as a first-of-its-kind automated distribution center.
- Using a series of autonomous robot forklifts, boxes will be unloaded and placed on conveyer belts by robotic arms, scanned, sorted onto shelves, and repacked on pallets.
- Brooksville is only the first of hundreds of U.S. warehouses that could become partially or fully automated in the coming years, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- 900 current warehouse technicians will be expected to retrain for new jobs or leave, with new job openings being necessary for technicians to operate and maintain the assembly line.
Why It’s Important
The increase in automation in U.S. industries has created concerns among laborers and workers about mass layoffs in the name of efficiency. This is particularly notable for Brooksville, where the Walmart distribution center is one of the largest local employers. Many employees at the center tell The Journal that they are worried about layoffs and the effect that automation will have on the local community.
Some employees say they are enthused by having to perform less physical labor, but others remain worried. One employee reported gaining 30 pounds since shifting his job off the warehouse floor and working behind a computer screen.
At its peak in 2021, Walmart hired 1.7 million American workers and laborers to run its stores and distribution centers, many of whom could be replaced if the entire warehouse system is automated.
Walmart is trying its best to reassure employees that they can adapt to the new status quo, with many of them being offered the opportunity to retrain in less physically demanding jobs that require greater mental stimulation. Employees who retrain are given a six-week course on operating the new systems and encouraged by their managers that it is an improvement from their previous work.
“What this technology does for us is increases capacity, increases the accuracy of our loads, increases the speed of the supply chain, and lowers cost. [It is] also completely reshaping the way that our associates work within the distribution center,” says executive vice president David Guggina.