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Warehouse automation & the future – superior safety

Article by Michael Trimmer

 

Warehouse automation is a powerful force for change and advancement in so many different business arenas. From third-party logistics to ecommerce, pharmaceuticals, apparel, food, and everything in between, many separate sectors will be changed with the advancement of industry 4.0 and next-gen robotics. This creates a vital question to ask – how do the warehouse staff operatives feel about all this?

When asking this question, the response typically focuses on the negative. Worries about job losses, lack of training, and complex cascade failures often get the headline-leading focus when it comes to staff reactions to warehouse automation. It is therefore refreshing that when the Harvard Business Review conducted its research into this question in February 2022, they found plenty to be positive about as well.

These researchers spoke to sixty front-line pickers and immediate supervisory staff spread across the UK, US, France, Spain, and China. From this, the HBR team of researchers (Rushda Afzal, Dave Light, Joe Lui, Raghav Narsalay, and Ida Nair Sharma) developed a comprehensive answer to the question “what can staff look forward to from warehouse automation?”

Safer workspaces

The single biggest positive response that staff spoke about was the improved level of safety in the workplace provided by warehouse automation. It came up in 42% of all of the positively framed responses discussed by interviewees, demonstrating the dramatic level of change this new technology represents. In the past, many workplace hazards native to the warehouse were simply tolerated as ‘the cost of doing business’. Accepted as something to be put up with and worked around. With the new technologies, even issues as big as these can be mitigated or even eliminated entirely.

This safety comes in many different forms, but the two biggest ones mentioned were surface safety and avoidance of bodily wear and tear.

The processes of lifting and carrying gargantuan loads can be immensely taxing. With warehouse automation able to carry much of the strain, the overall situation becomes much more bearable. One French forklift operator working for a global logistics company had this to say “I used to be on sick leave several times due to severe back pain. The automated forklift truck has improved the most important aspect of my physical health.”

Surface-based contamination has of course been a serious concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies have been working extremely hard to minimise possible exposure. With robots doing a larger percentage of the handling, this radically reduces overall contamination risks.

Warehouse automation is making warehouse safety more manageable, better for staff, and represents a vital investment for all warehouse-utilising businesses moving forward. The maintenance of these standards can only make warehouse operations better and more productive.

Automated activity assurance

The same technology that makes modern warehouse automation dramatically safer and more secure, is also the technology that makes the overall operation much more efficient. By using the minimum possible infrastructure and the most advanced suite of sensors and scanning equipment available, the AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) offered by Wise Robotics provide the perfect blend of safety and swiftness in their automation solutions.

Using a blend of LiDAR (laser detection and ranging), ultrasonic pulses, and machine vision augmented camera feeds, the AMRs that make up our warehouse automation solutions can accurately distinguish between inanimate obstacles, staff members, and picking stations. Feeding this information wirelessly into the RCS (robotic control system) allows both an individual AMR and the entire operational fleet, to readjust their activities as needed.

This allows the robots to move the freestanding shelves safely, avoiding problems with staff moving around the operational area. In addition, it lets the robots chart the most efficient possible route from rack to picking station every single time. A truly giant leap in the world of warehouse automation.

See superior safety in-situ

Discover how industry 4.0 is bringing both safety and speed to modern warehouse automation. To really understand what’s happening in this field today, why not pay a visit to see for yourself? Wise Robotics is proud to own and operate Europe’s first flexible automation demonstration centre. See for yourself what this technology can do to make your warehouse safer, faster, and generally better than ever before.

When you see for yourself the real capacity of modern warehouse automation, you’ll understand why we say that the robotic revolution isn’t coming. It’s already here.

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