Running a warehouse efficiently depends on making the most of worker’s time and helping ensure their safety. Bluetooth Beacons are a proximity solution stepping up worker productivity and safety through forklift tracking.
In the Seven Deadly Wastes of Warehouse Management, inactive equipment ranks number #1:
● transportation (driving an empty forklift);
● defects (time spent correcting errors such as mis-picks);
● inventories (congestion at the inbound and outbound areas);
● motion (interrupting movement such as staging product before put-away);
● waiting time (bottlenecks at pick locations);
● overproduction (holding too much inventory); and
● over processing (performing unnecessary steps such as labeling and checking).
Warehouses + Safe Drivers
Forklift drivers have a critical role in moving products throughout warehouse floors. The average forklift weighs 9,000 lbs. Incorrectly trained drivers can precipitate catastrophic equipment failures. According to OSHA, there are an average of 96,785 worker injuries per year related to forklift accidents. When you compare that figure to the total number of forklifts in the USA, around 855, 900, you get a one in ten chance that any given forklift will be involved in some sort of worker injury or fatality.
Certified =/= Safe
Training drivers is paramount to avoiding accidents. However, driver certification courses vary by country. In the UK, training can span days, while in the US, certification is possible after a two hour course. As a result, a certified driver isn’t always going to know the ropes. If smart technology could automate step-by-step guidance, workers would not have to rely on remembering shoddy training or direct supervision during procedures.
Proper Forklift Training should cover an exhausting list of topics:
Truck Related Topics
- Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate
- Differences between the truck and the automobile;
- Truck controls and instrumentation: where they are located, what they do, and how they work;
- Engine or motor operation;
- Steering and maneuvering;
- Visibility (including restrictions due to loading);
- Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations;
- Vehicle capacity;
- Vehicle stability;
- Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform;
- Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries;
- Operating limitations;
- Any other operating instructions, warnings, or precautions listed in the operator’s manual for the types of vehicle that the employee is being trained to operate.
Workplace Related Topics
- Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated;
- Composition of loads to be carried and load stability;
- Load manipulation, stacking, and unstacking;
- Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated;
- Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated;
- Hazardous (classified) locations where the vehicle will be operated;
- Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle’s stability;
- Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust;
- Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation.
Not only is training drivers time-consuming, it’s also expensive. After training, drivers often cut corners to finish tasks faster.
Incorporating Forklifts into your smart warehouse management system (WMS) can provide employees with step-by-step guidance as they go about routine tasks. Imagine a real-time display which a worker carries with them from task to task, providing a map of all moving personnel and stationary assets, coupled with turn by turn directions on how to proceed to collect assets. By tagging workers with UUID (Unique Universal Identifiers), the information directed to workers is individualized.
Bluetooth Forklift Tracking
A location solution built for indoor environments is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Bluetooth LE has a range of 200 meters and can interface with any modern smart device. This makes it a cost effective solution. BLE-enabled real-time tracking works by affixing Bluetooth-powered tags to products, skids, inventory bins and pallets. Personnel with BLE enabled employee cards will also register on employee’s smart devices in a blue-dot experience similar to GPS. Gateways mounted throughout warehouses will register the intermittent chirped signals of beacons and send that location information to a cloud. The cloud and accompanying application and software will then create compelling visualizations.
Unlike other forms of proximity sensing,such as ultra-sonic and RFID, Bluetooth tags do not require expensive transducers, receivers, or gateways.
Benefits of Bluetooth Low Energy for Warehouse Management Tracking:
Works with Smart Devices: Smart devices come with built-in Bluetooth technology, making beacons super cost-effective. No routers, networks, or WiFi needed.
Real-Time: Beacons are constantly chirping signals to gateway readers, giving management a second by second breakdown of all asset locations in a warehouse.
High Read-Range: Bluetooth 5.0, aka Bluetooth Low Energy, requires very little energy to push signals up to 200 feet, outranging active RFID considerably. This means you would need fewer gateways.
Less power consumption: Beacons often work via a coin battery which can last for years depending on the Tx (transmission) power of the beacon.
Inexpensive: Unlike RFID tags which are proprietary, Beacons are being manufactured by thousands of companies en masse, driving prices down.
Beacons are able to geofence regions of a warehouse to deliver step by step guidance to forklift drivers. Once a forklift enters a specific area, controls could automatically trigger a speed limit and warning messages based on proximity to objects and personnel could alert operators to mitigate risks.
By tracking vehicles and assets with Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, managers you can improve work processes, automate and reinforce training, and reduce workplace incidents.
User history reports aggregate from historical data will tell you how long average tasks take and can help you visualize discrepencies in labour expectations and output. The benefits of tracking heavy, critical equipment like forklifts do not just create more efficient processes, automated warning systems may help reduce the number of worker deaths each year.
Benefits of Forklift Tracking:
- Identification and reduction of inactive or non-productive time
- Reduction in need for ongoing workforce training
- Reduction in mishandling of goods
- Decrease in accident-related costs
Thank you for reading! Tracking technology is always ramping up. Stay tuned for more technological leaps.