Predictions for 2022: The Year that Mobilizes Everything
From warehouses to dining services, businesses will break free from the chains that bind
It’s that time of year when we hear from all the prognosticators and pundits about what’s in store for the new year. A theme that has dominated much of the coverage is the coming machine revolution. From robotic processes in warehouses to automated cooking robots, it’s been said that 2022 will see a rise in automation and robots. In fact, according to Forrester, “thirty-five percent of service companies will introduce physical robot workers.”
While this may be true in some industries, the human worker is very much alive and well in industrial markets such as e-commerce fulfillment, warehousing and even in food services. In fact, according to consulting firm, ResearchAndMarkets, 80 percent of warehouses today have no automation and traditionally the food services industry has been slow to automate.
Yet, while automation may not replace workers in these industries, what will be true, however, is that how humans go about their business will drastically change. Just as COVID-19 disrupted the traditional office model, other industries also are redefining traditional models of operations. They too are realizing that project management doesn’t have to happen within the confines of a dingy office above the plant-floor; or that printing barcodes can only take place at a fixed printer station. Food services providers also are reconsidering where food is prepared and delivered – maybe it doesn’t have to happen within a cavernous and crowded building.
2022 will become the year when industries break free from the chains of stationary desks, printers and sweltering-hot kitchens and smelly dining halls. They’ll increasingly come to rely on advanced power-based rolling workstations that provide them with all of the tools of their trade, at the point of task.
What’s driving this new model of work? Consider the following:
Worker shortages see no signs of stopping.
While robots won’t be replacing humans anytime soon, in some ways, it’s too bad they can’t. Many are predicting that the worker shortage will continue in 2022, disrupting supply chains and forcing existing workers to take on more work than ever.
In order to address this, industrial markets are focusing on improving the employee experience, making worksites safer and more productive. They’re also finding ways to reduce steps and motion fatigue is a clear way to do more with less people, while also ensuring happier workers. From recent time-motion studies we’ve done with a client, we found that it could save 30 man hours a day for each person, simply by reworking work flow and reducing steps in a distribution center.
In a food services industry where restaurants are reducing their hours or even closing because of a lack of workers, many food service providers are getting creative. They’re offering more self-service options that require less workers, and boosting the experience of workers, by bringing them out of the kitchen or dining hall. To do this, they’re reconfiguring dining settings, bringing food and beverages to diners via mobile powered cooking stations outdoors.
Integrated ecosystems increase.
As more computing and electronic devices are added to workplaces, the need for greater integration is increasing and require more seamless interchangeability.
In industrial markets, batteries are fueling mobilized carts, but they’re also mobilizing the devices that are used on them, such as RFID devices, laptops and printers. Workers will require that the mobile powered workstation they are using to scan pallets, will also power their laptop or help print new labels.
Food service providers in universities, micromarkets and sports arenas, also are adding power to places where it once was impossible, such as in the middle of a stadium field or in a corner of the hospital lobby. They’re increasingly relying on battery power to free them from electrical cords.
In 2022, systems will become more tightly integrated across the device ecosystem and will require battery systems that are multifunctional to enable multiple operations from the same system.
Health & safety takes priority.
As a result of the pandemic, no one will ever look at a closed public space with 500 people in it the same way – and sneezing in such an area? You may as well put yourself in solitary confinement. In 2022, whether in a fulfillment center or dining hall, social distancing and other safety measures will remain in place.
Warehouse workers will want to eliminate unnecessary movement as much as possible, and avoid extra touch. Mobile powered carts will help them eliminate unnecessary steps across a warehouse floor, for example, to connect to a printer and create a new shipping label. Since a printer can be directly on their cart, they can print in place, while reducing extra touchpoints (and germs) found at printer stations used by many people.
Dining services also will get creative in providing safer eating locations. They will turn to open-air options to bring food to people, but the people won’t settle for fast-food or pre-prepared meals. They’ll still demand healthier, made-to-order options. Additionally, consumers will want a more frictionless, or touchless experience, with online and app-based ordering, in-store kiosks and mobile payments.
E-commerce complexity grows.
There was a time when the fulfillment center’s key focus was on shipping massive pallets to retailers and it was the retailer’s job to take it from there. The continued growth of e-commerce is creating a level of complexity where individual consumers are not only purchasing massive amounts of one-off products online, but they’re also returning them in bulk. The growing complexity is requiring more efficient processes in the fulfillment center, as well as human logic to figure out if there’s any sense in trying to resell a 2021 plan-ahead calendar that was returned. New e-commerce demands will force everyone to work more efficiently and quickly in 2022. According to Insider Intelligence, e-commerce sales are projected to surpass $1 trillion in 2022. That’s a whole lot of online consumer purchases at a time when worker shortages will be slow to recover.
There’s a revolution coming in 2022 – independence from the chains that keep workers tethered to their desks, food service appliances, printer stations or other power devices. As the year takes shape, lessons learned from the past two years will cause industries to redefine how they work and help them step out of traditional, confining models of delivery, whether it’s in goods or food services. It’s a new year, companies will be shaking it up, so it’s time to get moving.