Inefficient and unsafe warehouses lead to lost time, productivity and brand reputation – none of which supply chain organizations can afford in today’s ultra-competitive, hard-to-retain talent environment.
Thankfully, automation technology enables warehouses and distribution centers to become not only more efficient but safer, too. When a robot, for instance, can take on a repetitive task that an employee used to perform, injuries are more likely to go down, while at the same time, efficiency and job satisfaction go up.
Our most recent Körber Master Class addressed some of these technologies, and how they’re being employed to improve safety and efficiency throughout the supply chain. A quick recap of each section follows, but if you’d like to dive into the webinars for the first time – or even revisit them – all five 30-minute sessions are available on our website: Workforce Efficiencies and Safety Master Class Series.
Session #1 ‒ Going beyond picking: how can voice create efficiencies
A poll conducted during this Master Class session showed that nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) have yet to adopt voice technologies – a stunning number, given the benefits of these solutions. Voice technology allows employees to focus on the most important information for collecting an order and reduces fatigue on the brain and eyes. While picking is voice technology’s most-utilized workflow, voice can be used for a wide range of warehouse processes: fleet maintenance, cycle counting, put-away, receiving and replenishment, to name a few.
And the real beauty of voice? It allows users to focus on the task at hand hands-free. When device handling is no longer necessary, warehouses and distribution centers can reduce time-consuming process mistakes – and increase productivity.
Session #2 ‒ Digital Twins: simulating efficiencies in your warehouse
A digital twin is a representation (model) of a physical object, like a warehouse and its operations. The digital twin market, globally, is projected to grow from $2.66 billion in 2020 to $29.57 billion by 2025. Why? Because it provides risk-free experimentation – inside and outside the warehouse.
Among other benefits, a digital twin can:
- Identify optimal warehouse designs like upgrading existing warehouses or new builds;
- Improve warehouse efficiency, helping warehouse professionals evaluate different storage or picking solution benefits; and
- Ground strategy, allowing supply chain management to determine whether different storage or picking solutions are warranted.
A digital twin drives warehouse efficiency by playing back yesterday’s activities and identifying reasons for performance failures – and by simulating future demands to anticipate and mitigate potential problems.
Session #3 ‒ Hands-free warehouses: how voice and vision improve safety
A survey of participants taken at the beginning of this Master Class session revealed that two-thirds of warehouses rely predominantly on paper rather than technology like voice and vision, which enable people to work hands-free. When employees have to look down at a hand-held device to input data, their line of sight is no longer straight ahead but on a device. This can lead to unsafe conditions – and slips, trips and falls comprise 15% of accidental deaths and 25% of injury claims in warehouses globally.
Heads-up interfaces allow workers to safely move around the warehouse while completing necessary tasks. Solutions such as voice and vision technology ensure better awareness of employees’ surroundings and improved focus on their duties.
Session #4 ‒ How robots can increase safety in your warehouse
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 95 million people miss work each year because of on-the-job injuries, with warehousing topping the list of dangerous occupations. In the United States alone, 20,000 employees are seriously injured, and 100 workers are killed in forklift-related accidents each year. Additionally, the frequency of workplace injuries adversely affects employee morale – in an industry where labor shortages and turnover is high.
In response to these challenges, warehouses can adopt more automation technology, like robots, into their facilities. Robotics solutions help improve warehouse working conditions by:
- Reducing manual fork-truck miles
- Automating manual movements with safe autonomous machines
- Improving ergonomic conditions
- Reducing the risk of fatigue-related failure
- Minimizing errors and reducing training times
- Enabling a heads-up, hands-free workplace
Session #5 ‒ Adding automation to improve safety and increase productivity
E-commerce fulfillment is the largest factor driving the adoption of warehouse automation technologies – and while meeting customer expectations is an important reason why automation is gaining in popularity, its positive impact on employee health and safety is critical.
Automation can reduce not only warehouse workers’ physical strain and support healthy lifting procedures, but also common back and shoulder injuries. Ergonomically designed workstations, for example, can be quickly readjusted based on the user’s height without requiring significant exertion. And exoskeletons redistribute the weight and physical stress of lifting to help support a wearer’s body or increase a worker’s physical strength by allowing him to move or carry heavier weights.
Additionally, automation technologies improve safety and increase efficiencies by helping to:
- Keep workers from pushing themselves beyond the physical limits of the human body;
- Reduce illness-related absences brought on by physical strain; and
- Assist employees performing repetitive, unhealthy tasks;
Workforce Efficiencies & Safety is the fourth installment of our Master Class Series – and you can revisit any session you’ve missed. Check them out at the links below; collateral downloads for each session can be found by selecting the “Watch on Demand” button.
Sign up for upcoming Master Classes
Our fifth Master Class Series, SAP Supply Chain Excellence, is right around the corner. This series will address strategies to ensure you’re getting the most out of your SAP implementation, including ways to handle the impending migration from SAP Warehouse Management to SAP Extended Warehouse Management. Take a look at the lineup:
- Sept. 29 – SAP supply chain logistics – best practices for implementation
- Oct. 1 – Migrating from SAP WM to SAP EWM – key considerations for your project
- Oct. 6 – SAP EWM in the cloud – how to pick the best deployment option for your business
- Oct. 8 – Automating your warehouse with SAP EWM and SAP MFS
- Oct. 13 – Enhancing SAP supply chain logistics with voice solutions
Get more details and sign up here.