Worker safety has been a topic of prime concern in the warehouse industry over the decades, U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS reported 21 fatalities per 100 full time workers in 2021. The workforce constitutes about 50-70% of the warehouse budget, therefore, worker safety takes center stage in all the legal, financial, moral, and ethical regards. Warehouse Management is one of those businesses that rightly justifies the saying: If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your clients and the business will take care of itself.
The two major challenges reported in the warehouses are high injury rates and workforce skill shortages. The inclusion of automation in the warehouses has helped overcome these challenges. We further explore how the warehouse associates are vulnerable to risks while operating at three primordial stages: the inbound operations, storage, and outbound operations; and how automation has enhanced worker safety with expeditious operational efficiency throughout.
Need of the Hour: Automation in Warehouse Management
The warehouses are beginning to grow not just horizontally, but vertically as well. The increased customer expectations like delivery within 10 minutes of the order placement make the entire industry more versatile and on the toes to provide better service.
What comes to the rescue? The integration of Warehouse Management Softwares (WMS) coupled with some hardware automation in warehouse management. The purpose of both the hardware and software warehouse solutions is to replace the risky and repetitive tasks done by warehouse associates so that they can actually focus on more intellectually driven tasks. For example, the Material Handling Equipment (MHE) is aligned to move precisely on the designed tracks using sensors; or is merely replaced by Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) to reduce the riskiest task of placing or picking the heavy crates stacked at various heights. Furthermore, the simple monotonous procedure of updating the location of a putaway task is done using a barcode scanner, filtering the human input errors and providing great mental relief. These examples ascertain the automation technology as a friendly solution to ease the day-to-day warehouse operations. It is not completely intended to replace humans and their jobs in the overall scenario.
Automation in Warehouse INBOUND Operations & Safety
The inbound operations in a warehouse mostly consist of unloading the material and appropriately assigning a putaway task to it. The likely risks faced by the warehouse associates at this stage include slips, trips, falls, misjudged ergonomic-related pains while lifting, pulling, pushing and material handling accidents related to box drops or forklift malfunction. Integrating automation solutions at various places in inbound operational activities ensures that the workforce is well informed and trained to avoid any kind of risks or accidents. For example, a light system on the dock can imply that the truck is adjusted on the dock. Green light indicates its ready to unload and safe for workers to enter it. A red light indicates no entry. Similarly, small gadgets and barcode scanners can configure the weight of each box as displayed in the info meter, to use appropriate box lifting methods. Thus, automation in inbound operations warrant informed and alert workforce.
Automation in Warehouse STORAGE Operations & Safety
The main risks involved in the storage operations are inventory checks and updates. Ever wondered about humans manually updating a warehouse inventory spread on acres of land? This is where Warehouse Management software comes as solutions that provide for real-time inventory tracking and management. Workers have access to all necessary data that helps them pre-order or just know what product is placed where. This kind of automation and tracking not only ensures workload safety but also financial security in the true sense.
Automation in Warehouse Outbound Operations & Safety
The outbound operations make the most of warehouse movement hustle. It has all and more risks involved while picking, packing, sorting and shipping, that were in the inbound operations. The automation is configured to help warehouse associates achieve multiple tasks at once, thereby enabling minimum repetitive rounds of picking and seamless procedures thereafter. For example, placing a conveyor belt for the movement of packaged boxes for sensor-based sorting and shipping. Another example can be using a management software that will strategize picking orders in minimal time over a single route. This saves time and stress of over-demand in the ecosystem.
Right Automation for your Warehouse & Safety
Each warehouse has its own set of challenges to address. For example, delayed delivery, fluctuating demands, inaccurate inventory count, shrinking order fulfillment capacity, etc. Therefore, a warehouse would need an automation solution pertaining to the problem it is facing. Hardware integrations certainly come at an upfront cost. While digital automation and warehouse management, execution, and control software have become the must-have economical solution in these competitive times. Companies like Hopstack help you identify the right automation solution to introduce in your warehouse procedures and processes. They help you analyse the right investment plans that outlay greater yield.
To summarize, the increased online sales have got the warehouse business in the limelight. Automation is a paramount resource for warehouses to meet the current demands. Only 10% of the warehouses reported sophisticated usage of automation technology in 2016. The year 2018 saw a breakthrough in the Warehouse Management System adoption that exceeded 90%. (Source: Westernacher Consulting) The focus is invested in upscaling and training the existing workforce on the floor. Automation ascertains worker safety and helps concede a greater work-life balance for warehouse associates. Investing in end-to-end warehouse management, control, and execution software can be a good first step in the warehouse automation plan. Get free technical consultation from Hopstack product experts to direct and scale up your warehouse operations with the right automation solution.