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Safer Workplace Vehicles Deliver Cost Savings by Steffen Thierfelder, Market Leader, Dematic UK and Ireland

Safer Workplace Vehicles Deliver Cost Savings by Steffen Thierfelder, Market Leader, Dematic UK and Ireland

As warehouse operators seek to enhance their logistics operations, workforce safety must continue to be a primary concern. Certainly, implementing faster, more accurate order fulfilment solutions is critical to enhance operational efficiencies in an increasingly competitive market. However, even more important is developing solutions that improve the safety of a business’s most valuable commodity, its employees.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive’s manufacturing statistics for 2020 reveal that ‘lifting and carrying’ accounts for 22% of non-fatal injuries within the industry, while ‘contact with machinery’ represents 12% of all injuries. The same report finds that 66,000 manufacturing workers sustained non-fatal injuries on average per year (2017-2020).

Warehouse and distribution centre operators can mitigate human risk in a number of ways. For instance, the introduction of automated solutions can reduce instances of workers contacting potentially hazardous machinery.

Automated vehicles reduce worker injuries

As automation takes priority, employees are being moved to different, often more highly skilled roles within the supply chain. For instance, tuggers are being replaced by driverless solutions. Removing a driver reduces the risk of harm as they are no longer required to physically manoeuvre heavy loads, instead managing operations via a control panel.

Automation has been shown to significantly reduce workplace injuries. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), such Dematic’s Standard Fork AGV, remove workers from potentially hazardous roles within an operations site. AGVs also streamline intralogistics operations by rapidly and autonomously responding to orders.

Each vehicle has robust detection sensors to ensure it yields to people and obstructions.

Investing to prevent harm

AGVs need ‘software intelligence’ to be effective with their task management and respond to the environment in real time. For instance, being able to avoid an unexpected obstacle in their path will be crucial as they move about a worksite. On-board sensors and software control a vehicle’s interaction with its surroundings and guides the fulfilment of its assignment. This technology prevents collisions with objects or workers and eliminates the risk of human error. The vehicle is also fitted with warning lights and audible alarms that operate while it is in motion to alert workers of its location.

The on-board diagnostic technology helps to reduce workplace safety breaches by continuously analysing the location and performance of the vehicle. Where a component shows signs of a potential failure, the software will diagnose the nature of the malfunction and communicate it to the site maintenance team.

The addition of real-time diagnostics, in conjunction with a robust maintenance programme, reduces unit downtime. It also ensures that equipment is functioning correctly to reduce the risk of a hazardous encounter with a worker.

Safety equals cost savings

Injuries can be costly to a business, with £5.6 billion paid out to UK workers between 2018 and 2019. Many of these events can be avoided by implementing a series of preventative measures, such as introducing increased levels of automation.

Automation means that rates of fulfilment are greatly improved by removing the potential for human error. AGVs are able to manoeuvre a broad range of products with higher levels of precision and accuracy.

Initial investment reaps rewards

The financial burden of upgrading technology can initially deter facility operators from installing driverless solutions. However, there are considerable long-term gains, such as reducing goods wastage due to mishandling, expediting the goods retrieval process, and reducing workplace accidents.

The workplace can become a far safer place with stricter safety protocols and the introduction of technological solutions. Automation has been a welcome companion to facility managers looking to move workers away from hazardous roles. Those who recognise the opportunities to deliver a safer working environment, with improved fulfilment levels, reap financial rewards while, crucially, protecting the safety of their workforce.

https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/manufacturing.pdf

 

https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/cost.htm – 2019 figure represents the most recent statistic available

 

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