Labour shortage prompts United Drug to use robots at Dublin facility

A Locusbot at work. Photo: Boston Globe via Getty Images

Adrian Weckler

Ireland’s largest pharmaceutical distribution company has turned to robots for its Baldonnell centre as an answer to shortages in human labour.

United Drug’s Dublin facility has 21 robots deployed to help with customer orders.

The LocusBots, from LocusOne, help fetch items from warehouse shelves, automatically learning the most efficient travel routes “to dramatically improve efficiency and productivity two to three times over traditional cart picking”.

Executives say that increased demand for products, coupled with the “lack of available labour”, made them turn to machines.

“In a tight labour market, the Locus solution helps us to efficiently optimise productivity across our existing labour force so that we can enhance our customer service levels,” said Paul Malone, the firm’s head of operations here.

Robots in warehouses have been used for years by tech giants such as Amazon to speed up order deliveries and reduce the strain on human workers.

However, the number of robots used in Irish factories has been limited, with Amazon choosing not to deploy them in its recently-built Dublin warehouse.

“We are proud to partner with United Drug to deploy our powerful and efficient multi-bot solution to support their warehouse operations in Baldonnel, Dublin,” said Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics. “Our purpose-built robotics solution seamlessly addresses the needs of United Drug’s distribution warehouses by eliminating unproductive worker walking time to dramatically improve picking volumes and shorten order cycle times.”