Other Voices: Play It Safe with Automation

Cimcorp in the News:

In his article for Modern Materials Handling, Cimcorp Sales Manager Derek Rickard explains how automation is reinventing warehouses to improve safety and better meet fulfillment needs. 

Modern Materials HandlingOn-the-job danger is particularly high for people who work in warehouses and distribution centers. The risk is even greater in traditional facilities where employees pick and prepare all orders by hand. When fulfilling orders manually, warehouse workers have to repeatedly twist, bend, reach and lift heavy objects—all activities that put considerable strain on the human body.

These strenuous activities can cause not only immediate, short-term injuries to muscles, tendons, joints and nerves. They can also lead to long-term damage and chronic pain, including conditions like repetitive stress injuries, repetitive motion injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, cumulative trauma disorders, and cumulative trauma injuries.

Growing risks amid labor shortages and operational challenges
For jobseekers and recent graduates, the rigorous physical demands and ergonomic risks often make materials handling less appealing as a potential career path—a major issue contributing to the labor shortages that currently plague warehouses and distribution centers around the world.

These shortages only add on to the multitude of operational challenges facing facilities today: managing growing inventories due to SKU proliferation; meeting greater consumer demands; and keeping up with the wave of sales during busy peak seasons. As these issues compound, existing staff must work harder, faster and longer to keep orders moving out the door on time and with accuracy—ultimately raising their likelihood of injury even higher.

In an effort to mitigate the ergonomic risks inherent with manual handling, many companies have taken steps to provide warehouse employees with better training on proper lifting and handling techniques. Further, governments around the world have implemented regulations aimed to improve workplace safety, such as the European Union’s Directive 90/269/EEC and the United States’ Occupational Safety and Health Act. Training programs and regulatory standards, however, can only go so far. Warehouses and distribution centers should explore automation as a way to drastically improve safety while optimizing operations.

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