Robots and a Safe Environment

What are some key steps to introduce robots into your existing operations safely?

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robot worker with safety paneling

In this new age of warehouse or facility labor shortage, more and more companies are turning to automation and robotics to help fill in the gap and increase productivity as well. With e-commerce showing no signs of slowing and innovative supply chains being rewarded, you can bet that companies embracing this new dawn are showing better ROI and efficiency. One aspect of adopting robotic help for your warehouse to review is that of safety. While the overall safe environment you provide to your operations is crucial, when adding robotics or automation to the mix it requires a new set of ideas and priorities to ensure your workers and ‘bots can coexist.

So what are some steps you can take?

Prepare for new additions

Before you’ve even made the initial purchase, you’ll want the entire workforce to be on board with their new “co-workers”. Presenting the case for adding robotics into your facility not only entails a comprehensive plan on how the robots will work and share the floor but what safety steps will be taken from the initial onset to alleviate worker fear. Educating your existing force on how to safely work beside your new robots via presentations, worker-involved classes, and possibly VR-type showcases can push everyone towards the same page.

Within this beginning stage, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew and scale up too quickly. A company can get too excited about adding robotics, and will purchase too many too fast. This can cause employee training and education to suffer, as those existing workers will need time to learn and adapt alongside their automated counterparts. Gradual inclusion works best when protecting the overall safety environment of your (new) operations.

More: How to calculate automation ROI

Protect both types of workers

robot in machine guardTo create an environment where workers and machines can safely thrive together, there are many options. After education, of course, setting up some physical barriers to protect man and machine from possible accidents is essential. An assessment of where your robots will be placed with regard to human contact is a great start, and one that can offer you multiple options for installation.

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Once you’ve figured out the placement, to keep human and robotic employees safe from each other, consider a barrier such as a machine guard for those types of robotic equipment that could be dangerous due to the potential to strike or injure a worker. Floor marking tape is a low-cost deterrent that can enhance safety around a robotic worker area and help keep traffic out. When AGV type robotics are used in a facility, this tape can help reduce employees from walking into a robot’s path as well, staving off another potential interaction.

Use robots to safely reduce risks

robot in machine guardOne of the advantages of introducing a robotic workforce is that they can do jobs that are potentially dangerous to humans. Another way you could safely bring robots to your facility is to specifically look at how they could make work shifts and tasks less dangerous for employees. Think about maximizing your efforts concerning warehouse robotics safety by assessing which tasks are the most dangerous for your workers. Is there a specific area or cell of your warehouse that could be safer and more productive if a robotic workforce was added there instead of the human ones? Using safety reporting software or examining accident reports could point you in the right direction as you analyze the most threatening work. Then, evaluate whether there are robotic solutions that could cut risks.

Because robots don’t need rest and keep performing consistently throughout operations, they could be great for handling work that can increase fatigue and may make workers prone to getting hurt once they become tired.

Make sure checks and balances are in place

In order for all of this to co-exist, you will want your existing workers to understand the proper inspection and maintenance procedures needed to maintain this balance. Training your workforce on what to look for on the machines they work with and what inspections are needed in certain time intervals (daily, monthly, yearly) is a surefire way to create an efficient environment. Workers need to know the proper way to report any unusual behavior, and the process or checklist for doing so must be straightforward and easy to follow for accurate compliance and reporting.

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