7 tech-related tips to ensure material handling safety

Technologies and software improvements enable advances in how goods makers manage inventory and space

By Luke Goodwin February 8, 2022
Courtesy: FlexQube.

Material handling tasks such as lifting, carrying, pulling and pushing are a source of safety issues and injuries in many workplaces, and especially in the industrial sector.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 4.5 million workplace injuries occur every year. They also concluded that there are more and more preventable work deaths and fatal work injuries. In 2019 the number of preventable work deaths increased by 2% and as technology continues to evolve these numbers can grow much more significantly.

One of the key points to reducing workplace injuries is identifying ergonomic risks associated with manual material handling tasks.

One of the key points to reducing workplace injuries is identifying ergonomic risks associated with manual material handling tasks. Courtesy: FlexQube.

Workplace safety and employee health remain a prime concern, and one of the key points to reducing workplace injuries is identifying ergonomic risks associated with manual material handling tasks. By identifying and mitigating these risks, companies can avoid the enormous costs associated with workplace injuries. A sound material handling system will enhance safety and efficiency.

Innovative technologies and software improvements have enabled significant advances in the way organizations function and manage their inventory and space. This article will seven discuss tech-related tips that will ensure material handling safety. Keep reading to learn more.

1. Automated storage and retrieval systems

Automated storage and retrieval systems can safely manage a variety of material handling operations by allowing users to quickly handle, store and retrieve items from designated storage locations in a warehouse. The organization benefits from greater productivity, improved optimization and enhanced accuracy compared to traditional storage and manual labor.

AS/RS technology is widely used in manufacturing facilities and distribution centers to streamline warehousing functions. This automated solution reduces the need for repetitive trips down endless aisles and minimizes movement between shelves, saving storage and floor space. Moreover, it is easier to monitor and manage inventory with computer-controlled systems.

2. Goods-to-person systems

There is increasing pressure on e-commerce merchants to deliver goods faster than ever before. A goods-to-person system is an efficient solution that delivers goods to a fixed pickup station. This helps fulfill orders, eliminating non-value-added time between picks, thereby increasing the number of orders processed per person.

Unlike the person-to-goods system, where employees retrieve goods, the good is brought directly to the worker, increasing the accuracy and efficiency of the order picking process. Thanks to this feature, the stock units are handled safely and accurately tracked, and accounted for at all times. And more importantly, it reduces the number of workplace injuries and accidents by allowing workers to prepare orders at ergonomic workstations comfortably.

3. Autonomous mobile robots

Another innovative way that offers high flexibility in material handling is the use of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). AMRs are used for tasks like locating, picking and moving inventory in industrial environments or hazardous conditions that would be harmful to humans or impossible for them.

While performing a variety of tasks, AMRs can assess and respond to their surroundings without being directly supervised using advanced simultaneous location and mapping technologies. Because of this flexibility, AMRs are useful across a wide range of industries and applications to improve operational efficiency, ensure precision, and increase safety.

4. Automated guided vehicles

As the name suggests, automated guided vehicles can function without an operator on board at monitored speeds. In addition to automating the movement of heavy loads, they also improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

There are several ways that AGVs increase workplace safety; the most important – they eliminate the human element, which is the root of many injuries and accidents.

They can also perform tasks that would be hazardous for human workers, such as handling toxic materials, working under extreme temperatures, and hauling heavy objects.

5. Piece-picking solutions

The supply chain and material handling industries can now benefit from robotic arms, especially in sorting and picking tasks. Thanks to the latest advances in end-of-arm tools, organizations can increase productivity, especially when performing repeatable actions that need to be precise.

Warehouse safety is one of the biggest concerns employers face, and piece-picking solutions meet the increasing demand for employee safety. Some systems can handle a variety of items that come in different sizes and shapes or pick items from a specific zone. This technology also reduces labor costs and improves productivity creating a safer and more efficient workspace.

6. Internet of things

Innovations in the Internet of Things aim to improve data collection for health and safety, predict risks and prevent injury in workspaces. The applications include securing dangerous work sites by detecting potential hazardous situations and potentially preventing workers from entering dangerous situations.

With advanced technology systems integrated into workplaces, wearable sensors or moveable smart equipment can be used by employees to record information about working conditions. Simultaneously, alerts and data can be sent to the concerned personnel helping them to identify any potential risks to workers and prevent future incidents.

7. Working with smart wearables

The advent of technology has provided companies with competitive advantages in productivity and efficiency; this has also contributed to maintaining occupational safety. With the emergence of various technologies, another trend that is gaining popularity is smart wearables. These could be protective equipment like helmets and jackets or personal gadgets like smartwatches that help measure key staff health indicators to promote work environment safety and improve workers’ health.

Enterprises can monitor workplace safety by analyzing and optimizing industrial operations through smart wearables that help them to gain insights in real-time. This also allows organizations to make effective decisions and maintain occupational and environmental safety.

Final words

Ensuring work safety should be one of the top priorities for work environments around the world. Organizations need to accommodate diverse material handling systems with minimal human intervention for maximum safety to boost workplace safety. With tech-controlled systems, employees will not have to lift or carry heavy loads. This reduces the possibility of accidents, injuries, and other work-related physical problems such as lower back pain and fatigue.

  • Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for Material Handling Equipment estimated at U.S. $118.7 billion in the year 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of U.S. $156 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 4.7% over the analysis period, according to a report from ReportLinker.
  • According to Inside Indiana Business, Columbus-based forklift manufacturer Toyota Material Handling say it is making the largest product launch in company history with 22 new models, a move that also signals the manufacturer’s increasing adoption of electric power. Toyota says it is responding to growing demand for energy efficient machines. The company says nearly 70% of all material handling products sold last year were electric. Toyota expects that shift will continue for forklifts, lift trucks and pallet jacks. For decades, their products relied on compressed natural gas or liquid petroleum gas.
  • According to Material Handling and Logistics, “the combination of record-high general rate increases announced by the parcel carriers and most LTL carriers in the fall of 2021, along with ongoing strong pricing power for Truckload, is expected to send transportation costs to record levels in Q1 of 2022. This is according to research released on Jan. 13 by Cowen Research and AFS Logistics.

Author Bio: Luke Goodwin is an experienced content marketing manager with a demonstrated history of working in the logistics and supply chain industry. Currently, he works at FlexQube where he creates valuable content relevant to the intralogistics and material handling industries.