Huib Slijkhuis, Managing Director at Brigade Electronics BV in The Netherlands, discusses how technology is helping to improve safety for the warehousing and logistics industry.
The warehouse and logistics sector has increased rapidly over the last few years. This has been fuelled by a growing e-commerce market with a third of all purchases in the Netherlands now being made online. Inevitably, this has meant that warehouses are bigger and busier than ever before, with companies like Amazon, Wish and Alibaba investing heavily in people, technology and vehicles to fulfil orders as quickly and efficiently as possible.
However, this presents huge challenges for warehouse operators when it comes to safety, particularly where people are working alongside vehicles and machinery. Human behaviour is still the cause of a vast majority of incidents at warehouses. Trucks are arriving and leaving regularly, forklift trucks are in continuous operation and containers are getting bigger. This makes it more and more difficult to spot personnel and keep them out of harm’s way. Therefore, it is crucial for warehouse operators to have robust safety procedures in place and ensure workers are protected from hazards posed by vehicles and machinery operating on site.
Image: Huib Slijkhuis, Managing Director at Brigade Electronics BV in The Netherlands
Forklifts are especially dangerous for groundworkers and are the fourth most common cause of deaths and injuries at work. These incidents include drivers not seeing pedestrians, a pedestrian being somewhere unexpected, pedestrians not hearing vehicles approaching, drivers losing control of the vehicle or being unable to stop it in time and pedestrian and forklift zones not being correctly configured or unclear.
We are seeing more and more forklifts, as well as other machinery, being used in warehouse operations and this creates more potential for hazards, including collisions with objects and people. Detecting people and objects is, therefore, imperative to ensuring that deaths and injuries are prevented and damage to equipment is avoided. Even though all forklift drivers in the Netherlands require a special licence to operate the vehicle and pedestrians cannot walk in zones where they operate, human behaviour means incidents can still occur.
Brigade’s ZoneSafe® is an ideal solution for warehouse and logistics companies, and we are achieving some great results for this product in the industry.
We also make sure that we emphasise the dangers of using machines in the workplace, particularly where there are groundworkers nearby, and the importance of ensuring that safety policies and procedures are as robust as they can possibly be.
ZoneSafe® uses RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to create detection zones around vehicles and mobile machinery. Vehicle-mounted antennas detect RFID tags, which can be worn by workers, placed on objects or property, or set up around restricted areas. When a vehicle approaches a ZoneSafe® Tag, the vehicle operator automatically receives a visual and audible alert, enabling them to take the necessary action. A ZoneSafe® Tag worn by a worker will vibrate to warn them of an approaching ZoneSafe®-fitted vehicle.
The system can be connected to trigger barriers, doors etc. for restricted or controlled access for workers and vehicles. This makes it ideal for a warehouse set-up where there will be restricted zones for forklifts to operate.
Image: Brigade ZoneSafe® RFID Tag Tester
Many of the companies that are already using us for their transport requirements are now asking us for advice with their warehouse safety solutions, so we are seeing more and more demand for the product.
One of the first customers to have ZoneSafe® fitted was Attero – a big player in the Dutch waste market. It processes almost three million tonnes of waste annually across 15 locations, which presents numerous hazards. They wanted to ensure their safety was watertight – ZoneSafe® provided this additional layer of security.
We recently took a prospective client to visit a number of our existing customers who are already using ZoneSafe® so they could see first hand how the product functions in a real-life workplace environment. They were very impressed with its features.
It’s inevitable that machinery is going to become increasingly advanced and will be utilised more extensively in place of people. There’s a real shortage of new recruits in the warehousing industry, so companies are having to come up with innovative solutions to address this shortfall. Autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence will no doubt play a huge part in warehouse operations in the future, and, at Brigade, we need to be ready to adapt to these changes as they unfold.