The manufacturing industry has always been a high-risk sector for workplace accidents. In 2019, there were 395,300 workplace injuries reported in the industry, making it the third-most dangerous occupation in the jobs market. Such startling statistics make it imperative for manufacturing managers to place a higher focus on accident prevention and safety initiatives within the workplace. But where should they start?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already had a beneficial impact on the manufacturing industry, creating complex machinery and automated systems that have slashed operating costs, increased output, and reduced environmental damage. But until recently, not enough attention was being placed on how these new technologies can also improve health and safety for manufacturing workers. That’s changing now as more manufacturers wake up to the advantages of using a real-time locating system (RTLS).
What is RTLS?
RTLS refers to a location-tracking system, for example, based on the use of Bluetooth-enabled tags. Each tag sends out a signal to a series of sensors that collect the data into a positioning engine that displays the real-time location of all the tags in the monitoring system. The tags can be affixed to assets or carried by staff as a sort of ID card, allowing for a highly efficient tracking, monitoring, and locating system within the workplace.
The potential uses and applications of this technology are almost innumerable. Already, RTLS is being integrated into the daily operations of a wide number of sectors, including health care, hospitality, retail, transportation, and construction. In the coming years, it’s likely to spread to just about every sector you can imagine.
RTLS infrastructures come with a range of benefits for improving staff safety. Some examples include:
- Access Monitoring: Any factory or warehouse equipped with heavy machinery has a high potential for work-related accidents. Most of the time, these accidents happen because unskilled workers have wandered into high-risk areas that they are not authorized to be in. To ensure this doesn’t happen, an active RTLS platform provides real-time location information to an access monitoring system, so that only skilled workers are given access to pass within a designated area. Any unskilled staff members who try to do the same will set off an alarm signal that warns them of the danger.
- Automated Emergency Mustering: In an emergency that requires a full evacuation to a designated assembly area, a lot of precious time is often lost counting heads the traditional way. Meanwhile, someone could be missing and in need of immediate assistance. RTLS ensures there is no time wasted by providing managers and foremen with an instant headcount of everyone who has made it to the assembly area. If anyone is unaccounted for, the RTLS system can provide their last known location.
- Monitored Visitor Access: Other accidents are the result of allowing visitors unrestricted access to the workplace. By providing visitors with RTLS tags, you can restrict their access and prevent them from wandering into high-risk zones.
- Minimizing Stock Handling Mistakes: In the fast-paced work environment of a storage depot or manufacturing plant, it can be difficult for staff to keep track of stock. Mistakes and oversights are common, affecting not just a company’s bottom line, but also the stress levels of the staff who must fix the problem. Stressed staff members are more likely to cause accidents that could endanger their lives or those of others. Switching to the use of RTLS to track and locate stock with minimal fuss can prevent such a scenario.
- Better Safety Through Data Analysis: By analyzing the RTLS data on the lead-up to an accident, management can better understand how the accident happened and what the company can do to prevent similar accidents from recurring.
- Better Regulatory Compliance: Regulatory compliance is a top priority for businesses. Unfortunately, mistakes from human error while recording data can result in non-compliance, higher costs, and a bruised company image. RTLS reduces this possibility by automating the process of compliance data collection and entry.
- More Accurate Forecasting: Accurate planning is vitally important for all businesses. By using RTLS data on past trends and patterns, managers can make better forecasts about future production, inventory, and marketing campaigns.
By empowering your staff with an RTLS system you are not only providing them with an invaluable sense of safety, but you’re also making a profitable investment in your company.
Once you’ve covered the costs of the initial implementation, the return on investment for an RTLS system is huge. Reducing workplace accidents and showing your commitment to maintaining a safe working environment will undoubtedly reduce your insurance costs. Any money you save on overhead you can then invest elsewhere, such as better equipment, more staff, or new products or services. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved.
Tom Ruth is the Vice President of North America Sales and Business Development at Quuppa. He brings over 25 years of marketing disruptive technologies and managing smart growth within high performance organizations.