By Steve Shakespeare, Business Director, Jungheinrich UK.
Warehouse safety has always required careful attention, but as operations become more complex to handle the rapid rise in customer demand, it is no longer enough to address risk in isolation.
With organisations looking to automated and connected processes to meet new efficiency and productivity objectives, the warehouse must be considered in its entirety – calling for a holistic approach to the 360-degree protection of five key areas.
1. Protecting people
The safety of people is and always will be the number one priority within the warehouse, and not just of those operating equipment; research has shown that pedestrians are often the most likely to be harmed in the event of an incident. Providing regular certified training and materials handling equipment fitted with the latest safety solutions will therefore help reduce the risk of accidents and improve safety for all employees.
On-board cameras, scanners or sensors, for instance, can be used to continuously scan for potential obstructions in a truck's path. Intelligent systems are available that can scan the hazard area using stereo cameras to recognise obstacles and differentiate between people and objects. When an obstacle is detected and identified, the system will deliver audible and visual alerts for the driver, while automatically slowing the truck to 'crawl' speed or ultimately stopping the vehicle in emergency mode.
With many organisations experiencing increasing demand for a faster, more agile supply chain, extra workers are often deployed in the warehouse, increasing the associated risk of accidents. Alongside implementation of the safest equipment, the use of automation can minimise the number of workers required on the warehouse floor to reduce accidents, enabling individuals to be redeployed to other, more low-risk areas of the operation.
2. Moving goods
Goods stored within the warehouse are a valuable asset to be protected at all times from loss or damage. At the same time, an efficient supply chain that handles goods quickly, reliably and to the highest standard delivers the most competitive advantage. It can even be argued, in the age of eCommerce, that a fast and convenient service is now more important to an organisation and its customers than the goods themselves.
Assistance systems therefore exist to ensure goods are manoeuvred both safely and efficiently around the warehouse. Jungheinrich curveCONTROL, for example, will automatically reduce cornering speeds in accordance with the load and prevent the truck from tipping due to incorrect loading – making it possible for empty trucks to also travel faster, and achieving maximum throughput while maintaining the highest quality.
3. The warehouse
As demand on the warehouse rises, organisations are forced to look at new and innovative ways to maximise their operations and optimise space. Automation and building racking higher are two such options becoming increasingly popular, but that pose new risks to people, equipment and goods that must be considered. Calculable risks will be eliminated at the point of consultation and deployment, which should be reassessed regularly to catch damage or wear early. Professional inspections of racking must be performed annually in accordance with the European Norm EN 15635 to demonstrate all safety-relevant measures have been implemented in line with industry best practice. Not only do these systematic inspections boost warehouse safety, there is also the opportunity to exploit opportunities for making savings and gaining efficiencies.
4. Equipment and machinery
With regular maintenance in combination with the relevant safety assistance systems, organisations can reduce the risk of forklift truck accidents for the safest possible environment for employees, and the long-term performance of equipment. Preventing accidents also plays an important part in protecting your machines and vice versa. If a truck does experience an impact, warehouse managers need the data fast to assess the damage and future risk, which shouldn't be the responsibility of the operator alone. Shock sensor technology, for example, can be retrofitted to a truck to record the effect of a shock in the event of an accident. The sensor module reacts to impacts and sets off an acoustic and visual warning. The truck automatically shuts down and the data can be collected for the necessary analysis straight away, preventing any risk of the incident going unnoticed.
5. Securing systems and data
As the warehouse becomes an increasingly connected and digitalised environment, data is the lifesource to generating greater efficiency and productivity gains. A robust and secure software and web application to assist in the protection of data should now be a key component of every safety strategy to avoid breaches and protect from downtime. It's imperative that all internal material flows in the warehouse are administered and managed safely, with certified safety solutions, to guarantee secure communication of systems. Harness data correctly and the return is an ocean of invaluable business information. With Jungheinrich ISM Online, it's possible to keep track of a fleet, regardless of size and complexity, whether at one or several locations, in a local or international context. Fleet management tools such as this can provide reliable protection of data and equipment, alongside concrete, consolidated information to underpin future decision making.
Safely moving forward
As organisations look at ways to increase throughput and reduce costs in order to meet the demand for just in time delivery, the warehouse is undergoing huge change, which must be achieved without compromising workforce safety. But this is not an either/or situation. A holistic approach on the journey to Warehouse 4.0, considering every aspect of a warehouse and the people, processes, equipment and software within it, will deliver the greatest levels of efficiency and ensure 360-degree protection.