Thinking about autonomous mobile robots for your plant? Common objections answered

Posted on 9 Feb 2023 by The Manufacturer

When I hear someone object to the urgency, value or necessity of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in manufacturing, distribution or warehousing operations, I’m ready to set the record straight.

Most objections are either the result of misinformation, a lack of information, or perception about the state of the world and the issues mounting up in supply chains. Here are three of the most common objections I hear and how I redirect them.

Objection 1: I don’t have a lot of people to manage technology

With the Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) model, you don’t need a lot of people to manage flexible automation solutions like AMRs. These highly secure, easily configurable, cloud-based robots can be remotely managed. They can be monitored and managed by third-party solution providers as needed, taking the burden of managing another technology platform off your team.

Once you have the robots configured and operational – which can happen in a matter of days or hours, depending on your use case – you don’t need anyone on your team to do anything with the robots. They’re built to be self-sufficient.

If you ever want to check in, just login to the dashboard to see how each AMR is performing. That same dashboard is the starting point for reconfiguring or reassigning the AMRs to support new tasks across your operation, whether it’s moving more items, working in a different zone, or shifting from the plant to the warehouse for material movements as labour and order levels fluctuate.

Objection 2: I don’t want people to leave because they think robots are replacing them

People aren’t leaving because you’re rolling out AMRs or other automation solutions. They’re leaving because you aren’t. Workers are tired. They don’t want to carry the load by themselves anymore. They don’t want to walk miles on end, at least not like this. Nor do they want to stop and restart what they’re doing constantly.

In fact, three-quarters of workers assigned to warehouse operations highly agree AMRs would make their jobs less stressful. Just as many believe that if their employers do not invest in technology to improve warehouse operations, at a minimum, they will not meet the organisation’s own business objectives.

You have to remember: when you don’t automate certain parts of your operation – specifically those in which people are currently being asked to walk, lift or carry a lot for long distances – then, you run the risk that people will run out of time and energy to meet demand.

Flexible automation solutions like AMRs are the best way to prevent dock-to-stock and fulfilment operations from becoming sluggish as overworked teams become worn out, mainly because they prevent exhaustion. Among all global warehouse associates currently using AMRs, more than 80% say the benefits are increased productivity and reduced walking/travel time.

Flexible automation essentially splits one person’s role into two parts: AMRs handle the material movements, inventory counts and other things that don’t require human faculty and people handle all the important tasks, such as actually unloading, producing, processing, picking, packing or loading inventory. The labour ‘force’ multiplies without adding headcount, giving people the superpowers they need to be front-line heroes to consumers who rely on your company to deliver accurate orders on time, in full. Better yet, as those superpowers need to change – or people want to grow in their roles to make an even bigger impact – AMRs can help backfill or facilitate their development.

Don’t believe me? Well, maybe you’ll believe those who have experienced the benefits first hand. Two-thirds of global warehouse associates credit AMRs with enabling advancement to new roles or opportunities, according to feedback received during Zebra’s Warehousing Vision Study, conducted within the last year.

Objection 3: Robots aren’t people

You’re right, they aren’t. But they can make people faster, smarter, stronger, safer, more productive, more efficient, more accurate and more committed. Robots augment workers. They don’t replace them. People will always be at the heart of your business.

But there will come a time when you need more people, and they may not always be available. So, you have a choice: hope the people you do have can work a miracle or let them marvel at your decision to ease their workloads by bringing in robots that can give them some relief.


Doing things the way you’ve always done them won’t lead to improvement, and you need to improve operations continuously. With AMRs, you can make your operation look larger as demand intensifies. So, don’t view a flexible automation implementation as something you’ll get to when you can. Make it a priority today. It is one of the few things that you can actually do to automate operations and augment workers in a day or two, without breaking the bank or having to re-engineer processes or retrain workers.

Ready to look more into how AMRs could help your warehouse or plant? Take a look here.

About the author

As Vice President and General Manager, Robotics Automation, at Zebra, Jim Lawton is focused on helping customers harness intelligent automation and advanced robotics to transform their operations with greater efficiency, higher productivity, and lower costs.

His experience in developing and delivering leading-edge innovation – including early days in e-commerce, supply chain optimisation, and collaborative robotics – has shaped his passion for helping manufacturing, supply chain and logistics organisations capitalise on the intersection of technology and business performance.

Jim holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University, an MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT, and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where he was a Fellow in the inaugural MIT Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program.