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Warehouse Workforce Preparedness in the Wake of Industry 4.0: A Systematic Literature Review

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Capstone/ET Projects III - Mechanical and Manufacturing Focus

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Lei Xie Texas State University

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Dr. Lei Xie is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Organization, Workforce, and Leadership Studies at Texas State University.

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Malini Natarajarathinam Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Malini Natarajarathinam joined the faculty of the Industrial Distribution Program at Texas A and M University in 2007. Natarajarathinam received her Ph.D. in Supply Chain Management from The University of Alabama. She received her Bachelor of Engineering (Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering) from Anna University [Tamilnadu, India], her MS in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University, her MA in Management Science and MS in Applied Statistics from The University of Alabama. She has experience working with many industries such as automotive, chemical distribution, etc. on transportation and operations management projects. She works extensively with food banks and food pantries on supply chain management and logistics focused initiatives. Her graduate and undergraduate students are an integral part of her service-learning based logistics classes.

She teaches courses in strategic relationships among industrial distributors and distribution logistics. Her recent research focuses on engineering education and learning sciences with a focus on how to engage students better to prepare their minds for the future. Her other research interests include empirical studies to assess the impact of good supply chain practices such as coordinated decision making in stochastic supply chains, handling supply chains during times of crisis and optimizing global supply chains on the financial health of a company. She has published her research in the Journal of Business Logistics, International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management and peer-reviewed proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Michael Johnson Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Michael D. Johnson is a professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University. Prior to joining the faculty at Texas A&M, he was a senior product development engineer at the 3M Corporate Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University and his S.M. and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Johnson’s research focuses on engineering education, design tools; and computer-aided design methodology.

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With the emergence of Industry 4.0, new job roles are being created: data analysts, solution architects, and network professionals within manufacturing. New technologies are being applied to the workplace: Internet of Things, big data, and blockchain (World Economic Forum, 2018). But this rapidly disruptive change can cause anxiety among warehouse workers because advanced technology may bring about mass layoff (Huynh et al., 2017). In addition, from the employee’s perspective, cooperation with machines and the negative psychological influence of new technologies may deteriorate the work environment for warehouse workers (Derksen, 2014). From the employer’s perspective, unpreparedness causes issues as mass layoff in warehouses, which leads to increased cost in replacing workers. For example, Lee et al., (2018) point out that an Internet of Things device enhances efficiency and increases warehouse workers’ job satisfaction. However, the industry is suffering from fewer job opportunities because advanced technology supplants human workers. Despite the warehouse workers who are disruptively affected by the introduction of advanced technology and systems, the majority of published reviews focus on ways/models/systems of improving warehouse performance using new technologies (e.g., Azadeh, De Koster, & Roy, 2019; Staudt et al., 2015; Yener & Yazgan, 2019). Organizations need to develop skills internally and invest in training to embrace the change that Industry 4.0 has generated. Universities ought to adapt the change and update teaching approaches as well. For engineering educators, it is preferable to shift the focus from warehouse systems improvement to studying how to prepare the next generation warehouse workforce. This literature review tries to answer the research question: what are effective means that warehouses use to prepare their employees for the change that Industry 4.0 is bringing about? This systematic literature review will employ an extensive list of search terms related Industry 4.0. For example, we will include: Industry 4.0, internet of things, blockchain, digital, connected, sensor, robotics, artificial intelligence, smart, and big data. In addition, it will focus on how to prepare the next generation workforce at various venues, such as 2-year college, university, workplaces. Also included are: education, training, and talent development as another three key search terms. The work uses four popular databases, ABI/Inform Complete, Business Search Ultimate/Business Search Complete, Web of Science, and EBSCO, to survey the literature, synthesize findings, and make suggestions for future research. Boolean search techniques related to key terms are used to refine the selected articles.

Xie, L., & Natarajarathinam, M., & Johnson, M. (2020, June), Warehouse Workforce Preparedness in the Wake of Industry 4.0: A Systematic Literature Review Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35493

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