Worker safety should be at the top of every warehouse manager's priority list in 2017. Unfortunately, countless, preventable accidents, including some that are fatal, happen each year.
Vehicle accidents are the most common cause of unintentional deaths in warehouses followed by slips, trips and falls. If employers make their warehouses safer places to work they may be able to reduce incidents.
How do they do this? By improving data collection, fixing the layout of the facility and enhancing communications. All three can be accomplished by using a highly sophisticated Enterprise Resource Planning solution along with a mobile data collection system that allows for real time, bidirectional transfer of data with an on-premise application.
Here's how advanced solutions can keep workers safe as they go about their day:
1. Increase Data Collection and Accuracy
If warehouse managers truly care about improving the safety of their warehouse employees, the first thing they must do is identify weak points in their facility. The best way to sufficiently do that is by collecting data related to hazardous substances, protective equipment malfunctions, sanitation procedures, mechanical repair reports, types of injuries and where they occurred.
There is a lot of data that managers can collect (which we'll discuss in greater detail in subsequent segments), so it's critical these professionals have the right tools in place to manage it.
An ERP, such as SAP software, is a solution that can help managers better handle the influx of data entering their facility. When we couple this with RFgen's Mobile Foundations for SAP, managers will have in their possession a complete, one-of-a-kind robust system that adapts to their always-changing business needs.
RFgen Mobile Foundations for SAP is a mobile data collection software solution that integrates easily with a company's current SAP software because it's independent of the main platform. Because it automatically updates databases, managers can be sure their company is using the most accurate data to make warehouse improvements. As you probably expect, the more precise the information, the more likely employees will be able to invest the proper amount of resources into protecting workers.
2. Fix Warehouse Layout
Customers are more impatient and demanding today when it comes to product delivery times than ever before. For example, The Wall Street Journal noted that in a study of 1,000 U.S. consumers, AlixPartners LLP found that consumers expected their delivery to arrive in 4.8 days. In 2012 that number was 5.5. And with the rise of Amazon Prime - which touts its speedy delivery - and the increase of smart warehouses that use advanced technology to increase efficiency, more and more customers will expect their products in hours.
Despite helping a company's bottom line, a faster-working warehouse can be detrimental to workers if its floor plan isn't laid out with safety in mind. For example, if managers feel like they're shipping hundreds more items today than a few years ago, they should consider increasing the size of the warehouse's receiving area. This could prevent accidents by giving heavy machinery more room to operate quickly. Also, they should consider widening aisles to give large equipment enough space to rapidly twist and turn. This might prevent forklifts from knocking shelves onto employees working nearby. To keep up with changing consumer demand, you can just change what you offer and how you offer it to consumers, you must also fix how those products are stored and delivered.
Of course, these suggestions aren't customized to the needs of your facility. To figure out how best to layout your warehouse, you need to gather and study data collected by your automated data collection software.
Collected data could determine, for example, if the aisle dimensions are too small, thus forcing machinery to take too long to move items from one corner of the warehouse to the other. Or information could reveal that the receiving area is too cramped, making it difficult for large vehicles to easily maneuver in and out. If injuries most often occur in the loading dock or aisles with heavy traffic, managers may consider restricting these parts of their warehouse to increase the amount of space between machines and people.
3. Improve Communication
Can you imagine a warehouse where workers are constantly looking down on a clipboard or their mobile devices and writing down or data entering data? Of course you can! You probably notice this all of the time.
Now what if we told you that RFgen's Mobile Foundations for SAP was voice-enabled, allowing for hands-free data collecting. Not only could this simple communication feature prevent workplace accidents by ensuring workers are paying attention, but it could boost productivity by 25 percent.
The right voice-enabled solution also prevents errors by eliminating the need to re-key data. This could reduce the amount of times managers have to request that workers revisit aisles to recount items. This better streamlines warehouse movements, and prevents confusion.
At the same time, mobile data collection further reduces wasted movement around a warehouse because all workers have access to the same information. This is especially useful when the risk of injury is high, and communicating remotely can prevent potential onsite accidents.
While we're on the topic of limiting wasted movements, RFgen's software supports roaming and semi-connected activity with on-demand cellular/Wi-Fi connectivity. This means that employees can always upload and access data even when connections are interrupted.
4. Stay in Compliance With Government Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a number of regulations that warehouses must follow. Not doing so can result in very hefty fines.
To stay in compliance, warehouse managers can visit OSHA's website, where they'll find a number of checklists and rules they need to follow. For example, one self-inspection warehouse safety check list asks whether open or exposed loading dock doors are chained off, roped off, or otherwise blocked. It also asks whether aisles are clear of debris and whether the allotted time given to employees to complete their jobs includes time to make sure they're practicing safe work procedures.
All of this information can be tracked using a data collection solution. Managers can, for example, keep track of the number of times an open or exposed door is left unchained or blocked. They can also plug in the number of aisles and their locations that are typically filled will clutter. Finally, these tools can also keep track of how long employees take on certain projects, which will allow managers to make time for safety inspections.
You need to take warehouse safety seriously, and it starts by understanding your warehouse and how employees operate within it. From there you can integrate a robust warehouse management solution that will collect data so you can make more informed decisions to improve workplace safety. If done correctly, you could see employee injuries drop.