Warehouses and distribution centers are moving faster than ever, and the pace will only quicken. While great for business, the need for speed can spell disaster for worker safety.
Luckily, technology is allowing warehouses to meet consumer demand more efficiently while keeping workers safe.
Here are 3 technologies we see having the biggest impact on a people-first approach to warehouse safety:
VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) AND AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) WAREHOUSE TRAINING
On-the-job training helps workers build skills in real-world situations. Unfortunately, when mistakes happen, they can cause real-world injuries. VR puts light industrial workers in a virtual warehouse where they can learn to perform tasks safely.
AR, or augmented reality, works similarly, but combines virtualization with real warehouse and manufacturing environments.
Warehouse workers that can meet operational goals safely and with better skills. From lifting, picking and packing, to forklift and drone operation, VR/AR will improve training for both manual and technical warehouse workers.
RFID TAGS, RTLS AND IOT
IoT (Internet of Things) technology can connect every element of a warehouse creating a work environment that is aware and responsive.
RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, for instance, can automatically alert workers if they are in the path of a forklift or too close to other potential hazards. The tags can also give forklift operators feedback if palette loads are dangerously off-center.
RTLS (real time location systems) can track worker locations and movement throughout a warehouse. Managers can use data from these systems to reduce warehouse traffic and create safer, more efficient routes for workers and vehicles during inventory processing. In large warehouses, if a worker has fallen or needs assistance, RTLS gives management their exact location so help can arrive faster.
While handheld barcode scanners bring speed and mobility to warehouse operations, wearables take this to the next level by creating a true hands-free environment.
Devices like smart glasses, wearable computers, voice-command headsets, and ring-scanners, allow warehouse workers to perform tasks safely using both hands. This can reduce fatigue, improve dexterity, and prevent ergonomic related injuries which are often the result of repetitive handheld tasks.
Like RFIDs, wearables can also be used to alert workers to potential safety hazards, or even remind them if they are not wearing a required piece if PPE.
New technologies will continue to redefine and improve the way the warehouses operate; however, worker safety should be at the forefront of these innovations. Thankfully, the technical advancements available today, and on the horizon, account for both.