Organisations across all industries are under increased pressure from a rapid rise in consumer expectation to deliver a faster, more agile service, and as a result, we are seeing ever-more complex and challenging working environments in warehouses and distribution centres.
In the rush to automate and connect processes to meet new efficiency and productivity targets, safety cannot be overlooked and needs to remain the top priority. So how can managers best manage a mixed-experienced workforce, optimise the same amount of space, handle a busier working environment, respond to ever tighter deadline expectations and improve accuracy to safeguard slim margins – all without compromising workforce safety?
This National Forklift Safety Day, 11th June 2019, Jon Divers, Customer Service Director at Jungheinrich examines how, while warehouse safety has always required careful attention, it is no longer enough to address risk in isolation. The need for organisations to take an end-to-end, holistic and business led approach to intralogistics solutions has never been greater, if they are to continue to future proof operations and scale safety throughout the warehouse.
An organisation’s number one asset is its people. When it comes to safety, it’s not just about those that operate equipment but pedestrians too. Research has shown that pedestrians are often the most likely to be harmed in the event of an incident. Therefore, providing regular certified training and materials handling equipment fitted with the latest safety solutions will help reduce the risk of accidents and improve safety for all employees.
On-board cameras, scanners or sensors, for instance, can be used to continuously scan for potential obstructions in a truck’s path. Intelligent systems are available that can examine hazard areas using stereo cameras to recognise obstacles and differentiate between people and objects. When an obstacle is detected and identified, the system will deliver audible and visual alerts for the driver, while automatically slowing the truck to ‘crawl’ speed or ultimately stopping the vehicle in emergency mode.
To achieve a faster, more agile supply chain, extra workers are often deployed in the warehouse, increasing the associated risk of accidents. Alongside implementation of the safest equipment, the use of automation can actually minimise the number of workers required on the warehouse floor to reduce accidents, enabling individuals to be redeployed to other, more low-risk areas of the operation.
It’s important for organisations to note that when it comes to automation, a growing trend in logistics, that there is no one size fits all model, and the same applies to automation solutions. Automation can be a hybrid system - part automated, part manual. This is why working with suppliers who provide this business led and consultative approach to intralogistics will enable a complete tailor-made solution to be created that best suits a business and its employees.
Equipment and machinery
With regular maintenance, in combination with the relevant safety assistance systems, organisations can reduce the risk of forklift truck accidents for the safest possible environment for employees, and the long-term performance of equipment. Preventing accidents also plays an important part in protecting your machines and vice versa. If a truck does experience an impact, warehouse managers need the data fast to assess the damage and future risk, which shouldn’t be the responsibility of the operator alone. Shock sensor technology, for example, can be retrofitted to a truck to record the effect of a shock in the event of an accident. The sensor module reacts to impacts and sets off an acoustic and visual warning. The truck automatically shuts down and the data can be collected for the necessary analysis straight away, preventing any risk of the incident going unnoticed.
New innovations in forklift truck technology are crucial to continue to reduce risk. It’s vital that organisations look at advancements in intralogistics technology, not only to help drive efficiencies and optimise their operations but also utilise the technology to enhance safety for those workers on the frontline of all operations within the warehouse.
Technology alone though is not enough, especially within a fast-changing warehousing model. The combination of insight, technology and, of course, operator training is key.
When it comes to intralogistics solutions, organisations must remember that it’s not an either/or situation and while the drivers for investing in warehouse are efficiency, productivity and reduced costs, a holistic approach to safety that considers every aspect of a warehouse, the people, processes, equipment and software can deliver both efficiency and employee safety.