Active warehouses are hubs of human activity. Pulling and loading inventory is an ongoing process in the highly dynamic distribution centers of today. To maximize floor space, which amounts to revenue potential for the facility, operators have reduced aisle space to a minimum in order to optimize storage space. But in a new era of social distancing requirements, these spaces where the most human interaction occurs must be re-evaluated. New warehouse technology can help logistics operators provide a safe workplace for their staff.
Warehouse Technology: Social Distancing Warnings Sent to Devices
The most effective tool for social distancing in warehouses is an employee's spatial awareness and compliance to social distancing guidelines, but even the most conscientious worker needs some help sometimes. Location detection technology is being deployed on some mobile devices to alert employees and management when employees breach safe distance zones for too long. Bluetooth technology has always been a proximity-based technology and it's proving its effectiveness in these systems. Systems can send electronic messages to mobile devices used by workers or a centralized computer monitored by a qualified staff member. Management can use this distancing detection program to identify areas in the warehouse where social distancing breaches occur too frequently, and it can serve as a contact tracing tool to identify personnel that may be required to undergo virus testing.
Identifying warehouse hot spots that experience a high frequency of contact points can suggest a need to modify the area, providing more movement space. Distribution centers may need to remove or rearrange shelving and infrastructure or modify traffic patterns to divert people away from the area.
Cameras + Contact Tracing Technology
An easier solution is installing more cameras in the warehouse. These cameras may be simple security cameras recording activity in more spaces or they can be integrated with contact tracing software for more advanced tracking purposes. The basic cameras can be effective in identifying social distancing hot spots after reviewing days of footage that would reveal frequent breach activity. Of course, this video record of activity could be useful later in identifying compromised personnel if virus testing is determined to be necessary.
More advanced camera technology is being used by Amazon to be more proactive in alerting employees of social distancing cautions.
"The software uses machine learning models to differentiate humans from their surroundings, as well as depth sensors to measure the approximate distance between workers." — according to a recent CNBC article.
This smart camera system can respond quickly for greater effectiveness in social distancing. Though we are all still learning a lot about the behavior of COVID-19, research suggests that the spread of the disease is dependent on proximity AND exposure duration. So, the sooner employees can be separated from each other, the greater the likelihood that the disease will not be spread.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)
Automated Guided Vehicles have been gaining appeal in warehouses purely for their productivity and efficiency benefits. Social distancing concerns are adding even greater value to these automated devices. Enabling the AGVs to transport goods through the warehouse keeps employees stationary in a safe spot. Any automation in supply chains can be helpful in this competitive industry, but reducing human movements in distribution centers can dramatically improve safe working conditions for all workers.
Social distancing in the warehouse will be crucial to keep supply chains intact. One COVID-19 case leading to a shutdown in a critical distribution center can cripple a company in this time-sensitive industry. While new technology is being developed to help with this new concern, some existing high-tech solutions are already available to make your warehouse safer and more efficient. Contact us for more info.