The safety of warehouse workers should be the top priority for warehouse owners. Not only is it a legal requirement, but it is also essential to ensure good health and satisfaction for the workers. If the right measures are not taken for worker’s safety, it can result in several types of accidents, fatigue, and even fatalities.
There is also a financial aspect to this. Poor health of workers can cause a massive dent in a company’s finances. Lack of safety standards can also prove to be costly in the form of damage to warehouse equipment and goods. All in all, neglecting warehouse safety can snowball into legal, financial, and ethical issues.
The most reliable answer to concerns around worker safety is automation. Automation not only reduces dependency on labor, but it also carries out important tasks in an efficient manner, thus saving numerous lives and finances. In fact, the American Manufacturing fraternity is already seeing a surge in automated technologies. According to The Boston Consulting Group study, 1.2 million more advanced robots will be deployed by 2025 (Source).
Automation provides other intangible benefits too. Human resources can be deployed to do other important or intellectually demanding tasks since the mundane and sometimes dangerous tasks are carried out by automated systems.
The Warehousing Industry has many such statistics that validate the push towards automation. Patagonia, a leading clothing and accessories retailer, moved from a traditional roller conveyor system to an automated belt-driven tech. In just about 9 months, person-hour efficiency increased by 20 percent, and power consumption decreased by nearly 30 percent. (Source)
It is important to evaluate different automated technologies before integrating them into warehouses or distribution centers. Below are some examples:
3 Warehouse Automation Technologies That Owners Can Explore and Embrace
Pick-to-light is a type of system that assists in picking the warehouse inventory. It is an efficient system that not only improves accuracy but also results in lower labor costs.
While there are some variations to them, generally the way pick-to-light systems work is that it automatically lights up LED lights near the relevant warehouse inventory and the worker scans the said inventory, thus informing the system that the inventory is ‘picked’.While these systems certainly save a lot of time and improve accuracy, it may not be a good fit for extremely small warehouses or for warehouses that cannot be customized to fit in the equipment for pick-to-light systems.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs):
Automated Guided Vehicles, or sometimes called Self Guided Vehicles, are material handling systems/vehicles that automatically navigate in the warehouse to handle inventory across locations.
There are several advantages to using AGVs. Warehouses can see increased efficiency, accuracy, and better ROI in the long run. Reduced dependency on labor and having the AGVs handle dangerous goods means that it is a safer alternative to manual labor.
However, AGVs require high investment in the beginning, along with high maintenance costs throughout their use. They are more suited to warehouses that are large in size and have a clear use-case for AGVs.
Automated Inventory Drones:
Scanning inventory remains an important task for warehouses of all sizes and categories. Whether it is for audits or to forecast demand based on the flow of goods, frequent inventory scans provide numerous benefits. This task, while important, is also repetitive and mundane, while being prone to human errors. There are also safety concerns around manual inventory scans, with workers having to scan locations that are difficult to access.
With autonomous drones scanning the inventory, the scans are faster, accurate, and time-saving. Since drones are compact and robust, they can scan locations that are traditionally difficult to access. They are also ROI-friendly since the drones are autonomous and do not require any specialized labor to operate them.
For example, FlytWare’s Autonomous Inventory Drones provide payback periods that are as low as 9 months! There are few limitations to these drones. They are suited to scan inventories that are stored one-deep. Smaller warehouses or warehouses in certain countries may not see a healthy payback period. In order to determine whether warehouse inventory drones are a good fit for a warehouse, warehouse owners can visit the FlytWare ROI Calculator to evaluate the scope of this technology.
Addressing concerns around warehouse safety in a timely and effective manner is a win-win situation for the whole ecosystem. If the warehouse workers are healthy and happy, it is reflected on consumers too, due to the high likelihood of better services, which in turn is good news for the company’s reputation and bottom line.