Effects of robotization on employees in logistic warehouses
How can robotization in logistic warehouses be utilized and developed in a way that does not conflict with workers’ sense of meaning in work, work motivation, and general well-being?
Robots have entered our warehouses, and are there to stay! Thus far, however, little attention has been paid to social factors in the implementation of advanced robotization. How can logistic warehouse workers maintain their well-being and a sense of meaning in a robotized work-environment? With philosophical, psychological, and technological insights, this project aims to provide practical guidelines on how to give workers the sense of working ‘with’ instead of ‘against’ robots.
Robotization is currently a hot topic in the societal debate on the effects of new technologies on the quality of life. As part of the general technologization of society, workers also increasingly have to deal with robotization.
The fear that robotization will strip all motivating aspects from jobs is widespread and may lead to resistance among workers. An important question is therefore how possible resistance against robots can be turned into acceptance of or enthusiasm about robots.
Furthermore, robots can frequently be found in the same work-environment as human workers, and they often have to collaborate with one another to execute the daily worktasks. Hence, robotization also comes with significant changes in the way in which humans have to work and collaborate. This means that human workers have to acquire new knowledge and skills, which consequently requires adaptations in education and training. Taking human factors into account in the design phase is vital to creating robots that can effectively and safely collaborate with people. In their turn, workers have to understand and accept how robots are changing their workplace and must be properly trained in how to work with them.
Robotization increases within the logistic sector as well. In the Netherlands alone, in the past five years sixty-three new robitized logistic warehouses have emerged. This project aims at delivering an evidence-based theoretical framework of key social/human factors that have to be taken into account in the implementation and operation of robotics in logistic warehouses. It has long time been known that the success of the implementation of new technologies depends on how well it is embedded in the (work)context. However, research into the social/human contextual factors is still in its infancy. A clear ethical framework for the new roles and responsibilities of human workers in their collaboration with robots, is also lacking.
The main question of this research project is how robotization in logistic warehouses can be utilized and developed in a way that does not conflict with workers’ sense of meaning in work, work motivation, and general well-being. How can workers be optimally prepared for the introduction of robots into their work-environment? And, how do we ensure that human workers in a robotized work environment retain a sense of ‘ownership’ (that is, control and responsibility) in their work, a sense of contributing in a meaningful way to the ends and goals of the organization, understand the aims of introducing robots and their functioning, and retain a sense of ‘belonging’? With philosophical, psychological, and technological insights, this project aims to answer the above questions with theoretical insights and practical guidelines, and ensure that human workers in robotized work environments have a sense of working ‘with’ instead of ‘under’ or ‘against’ robots.Official project title: