The role of robotization in work design: a comparative case study among logistic warehouses

Hannah A. Berkers, Sonja Rispens, Pascale M. Le Blanc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Robots are increasingly used in a variety of work environments, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to how robots change work. In this comparative case study, we explore how robotization changed the work design of order pickers and order packers in eight logistic warehouses. We found that all warehouses robotized tasks based on technological functionality to increase efficiency, which sometimes created jobs consisting of ‘left-over tasks’. Only two warehouses used a bottom-up approach, where employees were involved in the implementation and quality of work was considered important. Although the other warehouses did not, sometimes their work design still benefitted from robotization. The positive effects we identified are reduced physical and cognitive demands and opportunities for upskilling. Warehouses that lack attention to the quality of work may risk ending up with the negative effects for employees, such as simplification and intensification of work, and reduced autonomy. We propose that understanding the consequences of robots on work design supports HR professionals to help managing this transition by both giving relevant input on a strategic level about the importance of work design and advocating for employees and their involvement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2022

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