ProGlove study shows retail managers are cautiously optimistic about automation

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ProGlove's wearable tech with a robotic arm.

A recent study found that retailers are interested in automation that will augment their human workforces. | Source: ProGlove

Up to 36.5% of retail leaders looking to automate expect to see benefits from new technology in two to five years, according to a recent study from wearable technology developer ProGlove. The Chicago-based company surveyed more than 1,000 retail management professionals in the U.S., U.K., and Germany for its “Leadership Insights for Retail Warehouse Management” report. 

The results of the survey show that retail leaders have conservative expectaftions for adopting automation. Only 11.5% of respondents said they expected to get returns from automation within the next two years.

ProGlove also found that 26.6% are expecting returns in five to 10 years, and 8.6% are expecting it to take a decade or more. According to the company, this data shows retailers have a lot of patience when they invest in technology. 

The study also showed that there’s a lot of room for growth and optimization in the automation space, said the company. Almost one in five of the respondents, 19.3%, indicated dissatisfaction with their current automation initiatives. 

Nearly half, 44.2%, said they were somewhat satisfied, while only 6.3% of respondents said they were very satisfied with their robotics and automation. 

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What do retailers expect from automation?

Retailers gave a variety of responses when asked what they thought would help them make savings. Some 25.3% said they expected productivity gains through human augmentation and selected human-machine collaboration as a key target area. 

The same number of respondents highlighted the need for new software, and 17% said they were looking for robotics and automation to gain productivity. 

The retailers also gave a variety of responses when it came to how much of a productivity increase they expected. Over a third, 35.4%, said they expected productivity increases of 21% to 30%, while 30.6% believed they would see increases between 11% and 20%. 

Overall, 55.3% said they expected gains beyond 20%. According to ProGlove, this demonstrated that retailers see tech investments as a worthy path for increasing productivity.

“Automation presents a complex landscape for retailers,” said Stefan Lampa, CEO of ProGlove, in a release. “While it holds potential for efficiency, our research underscores the critical role of human-machine collaboration. Retailers seek a synergy that leverages technology to empower, not replace, the human workforce.”

ProGlove finds challenges to adopting automation 

Integrating automation remains a challenge for 15.6% of respondents to the survey, ProGlove said. To put this in context, a similar percentage, 14.6%, said they struggle with integrating mobile commerce platforms. 

ProGlove said that its respondents’ biggest challenge was making sense of data and recognizing patterns while running analytics. This suggested that retailers struggle to extract the insights to uncover inefficiencies throughout their operations. 

The report also looked into fluctuating warehouse workforce numbers. ProGlove said its results show a blend of stability and change within the industry. This is because, over the past five years, leaders indicated a pattern of workforce increases in certain brackets, while the workforce remained steady in others. 

In the coming year, 15.3% of leaders predicted up to a 10% decrease in their staffing levels. Meanwhile, the same percentage predicted a 10% increase in staffing levels. In addition, 33.9% projected that workforce levels will hold steady. 

Altogether, Munich, Germany-based ProGlove said the report shows cautious optimism when it comes to automation within the retail sector.

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