Labour exchange

Labour exchange

With the high cost of human labour prompting more and more logistics companies to seek ways of working that rely less on people, interest in automation is greater than ever at this year’s IMHX, says Event Director, Rob Fisher

The shrinking labour pool is certainly hitting the logistics sector hard with HGV drivers, warehouse order pickers and forklift operators all in short supply.

Indeed, it was at a recent event organized by the Institute for Government, that the chief executive of Food and Drink Federation announced that the UK food supply chain is around half a million workers short. This represents some 12.5% of the total workforce required. 

Meanwhile, a recent survey conducted by the trade association, Logistics UK, noted 13% of respondents report severe warehouse staff shortages, with a substantial decline in the availability of forklift drivers cited as a major problem.

The worker shortage is forcing many warehouse operators to offer higher wages, and in some cases a signing on fee, in an attempt to attract the personnel needed. In November 2020, a leading online job search-engine reported the average forklift driver’s salary was advertised as £21,972, while warehouse staff positions typically paid £19,995 per annum. By November 2021, the remuneration for both forklift drivers and order pickers were up 8% year-on-year.

UKWA – the United Kingdom Warehousing Association – has warned that many logistics service providers will be unable to absorb these increases and will have little option but to pass these on to their customers.

Although it’s natural to assume that the most effective way to be competitive is on price, warehouse robot technology company, Autostore, believe that by offering additional benefits that add greater value for customers, logistics service companies can widen the conversation.

Autostore go on to explain that by employing data-rich analytics to repurpose the space within the store, warehouse operators can deploy automation to streamline their operating processes without compromising efficiency. 

Autostore is among a host of pioneering, industry-leading providers of automation solutions – including Swisslog, Gebhardt, Daifuku and Knapp – who will be demonstrating their latest innovations at IMHX 2022  (6 – 8 September, NEC, Birmingham).

For example, IMHX exhibitor Swisslog’s automated warehousing technologies range from traditional high bay warehouses to innovative robot-based materials handling solutions that provide quality, flexibility and efficiency and every application is customised to deliver the lowest cost per pick.

Meanwhile Gebhardt – who celebrate their 70th anniversary in 2022 – will show examples of the kind of customised and innovative intralogistics solutions that they have been supplying to customers throughout the world for more than seven decades.

The automated storage, transport, sorting and picking systems supplied by Daifuku include flexible automated guided vehicle (AGV) transport technology as well as rail-guided sorting transfer vehicle (STR) systems, while Knapp’s smart solutions and automated storage systems support the logistics processes of leading companies’ worldwide.

The current lack of warehouse operatives coupled with the increasing cost of labour is prompting more and more logistics companies to seek ways of operating that rely less on people and it is clear that automating those warehousing functions that follow a predictable pattern makes a lot of sense.

And, with much of today’s sophisticated artificial intelligence, robotics and automated handling technology within financial reach of SMEs as well as the biggest players, it’s easy to understand why the way warehouses operate is changing.

IMHX 2022 will provide an essential platform for logistics professionals to discover the very latest technological advances and gain insights that will enable them to ensure that their own operations are capable of meeting today’s increasingly complex global supply chain challenges in the most cost-efficient way.

IMHX 2022 takes place from 6 – 8 September at the NEC, Birmingham. To register for  your free visitor pass, please go to