Digitalization of Logistic work: Ergonomic improvements versus Work intensification
2021 – Researchers from the TU Dortmund have investigated the consequences for labor of digitization in logistics. Their question is: are there improvements in the quality of work or else intensification of work? They conducted four case studies in warehouses in Germany.
The research shows that digitization of order picking is almost exclusively used in these companies to intensify work and that eliminating repetitive, stressful and ergonomically demanding work – which could theoretically be a goal of digitization – is not a goal at all for these companies.
In four warehouses the researchers studied the following technological changes in order picking: Pick by vision, Pick by voice, Smart glasses and Electric monorail.
Practice showed that most technical solutions were aimed at increasing the number of picks per shift, limiting errors, shortening the onboarding time and avoiding idle time. The researchers call it ‘digital Taylorism’. The work is boring, monotonous and poorly paid. Workers will only choose it if there is no other work for them and there will always be a large absenteeism and turnover.
This digitization strategy will lead to major problems for the sector in a tight labor market.
Hendrik Lager, Alfredo Virgillito, and Tom-Philipp Buchberger: ‘Digitalization of Logistics Work: Ergonomic Improvements versus Work Intensification’