Robotics and automation in supply chain management can help address a number of safety hazards, including lifting injuries, falls, and worker fatigue.
The lifting and transportation of inventory and materials is an inherent part of warehouse management. While using mechanical equipment cuts down on the risk of injury, even with safety measures in place and adequate training on proper lifting techniques, accidents can still happen. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a rate of 5.1 recorded illnesses and injuries per 100 warehouse workers in 2018. Because many autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are designed to lift heavy objects — and because they don’t experience physical fatigue like human workers do — they can go a long way toward preventing these types of injuries.
Another advantage of AMR and other automation solutions is reducing the risk of falls. Inventory management in warehouses helps maximize space, incorporating both horizontal and vertical storage. Robotics can safely reach items that are too high up for human workers. While there is always some risk on the warehouse floor, warehouse robots limit the amount of time that human workers are required to spend at potentially hazardous heights.
Warehouse automation can also help prevent injuries caused by worker fatigue. A recent study found that workers’ risk of injury increases substantially when breaks are too infrequent or too short, when shifts are nine hours or longer, or when shifts take place at night — and especially after three or more consecutive night shifts. One key advantage of robots is that they’re able to work long shifts without the dropoff in performance that can happen as human workers become fatigued. Human workers still need rest breaks, of course, but by assigning more strenuous physical duties to robots, warehouse managers can avoid overworking employees.