When is automation not appropriate?

By North Star Projects

22 Nov 2023

cash-macanaya-X9Cemmq4YjM-unsplash.jpg.jpg

Over the last few weeks, we have noticed that there has been a lot of media coverage on AI and the effects that automation has on businesses, how this affects job roles and what it means for the future. We thought it poignant this week to see Booths reverse its decision to install self-checkout tills. 

In one article we read by The Guardian it states: 

“Some people love the speed and efficiency of supermarket self-checkouts. But then there’s the not recognising your bag, the unexpected item in the bagging area, the surprising item on the scale, the point-blank refusal to scan something, the constant coupon confusion, and that’s all before the long – so long – wait to get your alcohol or paracetamol approved.

"Booths, a high-end northern England supermarket chain, is siding with the dislikers and has announced it is removing self-checkouts in the majority of its stores. “We’re not great fans of self-checkouts,” the Booths managing director, Nigel Murray, told the Grocer. “We pride ourselves on great customer service and you can’t do that through a robot.””

This is something that we at North Star Projects have spent so much time in the last 2-3 years delivering consistent messages to our current and prospective clients that automation is not always the answer.

In the fast-paced world of logistics, the integration of automation has become increasingly adopted as the right way to go. It, and the companies who sell it, promise enhanced efficiency, reduced costs, and improved accuracy (and to be clear – in some cases it delivers). However, it is essential to recognize that not all aspects of logistics, much like retail and grocery stores, can be seamlessly automated. In certain scenarios, human intuition, adaptability, and problem-solving skills remain indispensable. 

As a result, we at North Star wanted to further give some pointers and share our thoughts on when automation is not appropriate and hope that it’s acknowledged that just in the same way customer service interaction is important to a retailer, so too is the balance for human interaction behind the scenes.

So, when can automation not be the right answer?

1.  Highly unpredictable Environments

Automation thrives in structured and predictable environments. In logistics, however, some situations are inherently unpredictable. For instance, natural disasters, sudden market shifts, or unexpected disruptions can significantly impact supply chains. In these instances, human decision-making is crucial as it allows for quick adaptation to unforeseen circumstances - If automated planning was in place for the Suez canal, you’d get a lot of tankers trying to do a U-turn!

2.  Complex decision making

Logistics often involves intricate decision-making processes that require a deep understanding of various factors, such as regulatory changes, geopolitical events, and customer preferences. While automation can handle routine decisions efficiently, it may struggle with nuanced choices that require a combination of experience, strategic thinking, and contextual awareness - Sometimes the rules that are set need to change!

3.  Last Mile Delivery

The last mile of delivery is notorious for its complexity. Navigating through crowded urban environments, dealing with unexpected obstacles, and interacting with customers all demand a level of adaptability and social intelligence that current automation technologies lack. Even in the automation of driverless cars, a truck carrying cargo will need to have a way to deliver inside - One word – London!

4.  Sensitive or High Value cargo

Some shipments involve sensitive or high-value cargo that demands a level of care and security beyond the capabilities of automation. Human oversight is essential in ensuring the safety of these shipments, as well as responding to any unforeseen issues that may arise during transit - You can programme a machine to understand value, but not its worth!

5.  Regulations and compliance

Logistics is subject to a myriad of regulations and compliance standards (I Know, we’re sadly an expert in a lot of them!) While automation can assist in managing routine compliance tasks, interpretation of complex regulations and navigating legal nuances often requires human expertise. Failure to comply with regulations can result in severe consequences, making human oversight indispensable in this aspect - Did you know that despite being neighbouring countries and the biggest freight terminals in the world, you couldn’t fly goods between Qatar and Dubai until they signed a treaty in 2021!

While automation undoubtedly offers numerous advantages in the logistics industry, there are instances where it may not be the most suitable solution. Recognizing the limitations of automation and even semi-automation (e.g., drones and robots in warehouses) is crucial. Striking a balance between automation and human expertise is the key to achieving optimal efficiency and adaptability in logistics. As technology continues to evolve, a thoughtful and strategic approach is needed to avoid reversals. Whilst its fantastic to recognise when you’ve got it wrong, this will definitely come with a cost.

Latest news

1

Beer and gin festival returns in support of local youth charity Blackburn Beer and Gin Festival

Beer and gin festival returns in support of local youth charity

29 Feb 2024

2

Government minister tours Eden Project site Esther McVey MP Visited The Eden Project Morecambe Site To Learn More About The Latest Plans For The Forthcoming Attraction 6

Government minister tours Eden Project site

27 Feb 2024

3

Bowker Motor Group's million-pound charger investment PXL_20240222_151929237.jpg.jpg

Bowker Motor Group's million-pound charger investment

29 Feb 2024

4

Why you shouldn’t ignore sustainable logistics in 2024 Sustainable Logistics 01.jpg.jpg

Why you shouldn’t ignore sustainable logistics in 2024

29 Feb 2024

5

Society1 member interview: Mich Bondesio from-the-members-mich-2.png.png

Society1 member interview: Mich Bondesio

29 Feb 2024

Background image for hub sign up block

LBV Hub

Reach 50,000 members of the Lancashire business community

Post your news
Post your events
Post your offers
Company profile
Social reach
Magazine coverage
Sign-up
Events
LBV115 Magazine Launch Event
DSC9389
Networking
20 Mar 2024

LBV115 Magazine Launch Event

Delta Hotels by Preston Marriott, Garstang Road, Broughton, PR3 5JB

16:00 - 18:00

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Infinity
EVENT LISTING BNI Infinity.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
01 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Infinity

Hampton by Hilton, 2 Frontier Ave, Blackburn, BB1 3AL

06:30 - 08:30

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Brunch
EVENT LISTING SIZING Brunch .png.png
LBV Hub Networking
01 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Brunch

Samlesbury Preston Hotel, Preston New Road, Preston, PR5 0UL

09:30 - 11:00

Complete Charity Ball Event
charty-ball-1200x630.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Dinners / Balls
02 Mar 2024

Complete Charity Ball Event

Dalmeny Hotel, St Anne's

19:00 - 21:00

The Landmark Great Hall open day
The Landmark Great Hall will host an Open Day on Sunday 3rd March.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub
03 Mar 2024

The Landmark Great Hall open day

The Landmark, 1 School Lane, Burnley, BB11 1UF

12:00 - 15:00

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour
EVENT LISTING SIZING Endeavour.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
05 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour

Oak Royal, Bury Lane, Chorley, PR6 8SW

06:30 - 08:30

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Vista
EVENT LISTING SIZING Vista.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
05 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Vista

Hampton by Hilton, 2 Frontier Ave, Blackburn, BB1 3AL

06:45 - 08:30

Techy Tuesday Meet-Up at Society1
Techy Tuesdays.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Networking
05 Mar 2024

Techy Tuesday Meet-Up at Society1

Society1, Preston, PR1 3LT

12:00 - 13:00

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Diamond
LBV Hub Networking
06 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Diamond

The Marriot Hotel, Garstang Road, Broughton, PR3 5JB

07:15 - 09:00

Business Networking in Lancaster - Eden Business Network
EVENT LISTING Eden Business Network.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
06 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Lancaster - Eden Business Network

The Borough, 3 Dalton Square, Lancaster, LA1 1PP

18:30 - 20:30

Business Networking in Accrington - BNI Zeus
EVENT LISTING SIZING Zeus.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
06 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Accrington - BNI Zeus

The Mill House, Corn Mill Yard, Accrington, BB5 5HX

06:45 - 08:30

Blackburn and Preston Audi VIP Events
Stoke NN (2).jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Exhibitions
07 Mar 2024 - 11 Mar 2024

Blackburn and Preston Audi VIP Events

Blackburn Audi/ Preston Audi, Blackburn Audi, Trident Park, Whitebirk Drive, Blackburn BB1 3HT / Preston Audi Riversway Motor Park, Nelson Way, Preston PR2 2JZ, BB1 3HT / PR2 2JZ

08:30 - 19:00

Advertise with us

Reaching 50,000 members, our print, digital and event platforms offer a fantastic way to raise your business profile and help you grow.

Find out more Lbv114 Online Graphic
Subscribe now

Weekly news bulletin