The Golden Zone: Improving Warehouse Safety and Ergonomics with Automation

Are you breaking your back trying to pick parts every day? Or are you bogged down with workers comp claims for your employees with work related injuries? Stop the madness! Take a look at the impact of poor ergonomics on your operations.

Serious, non-fatal workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses nearly $60 billion in non-fatal worker compensation injury claims in 2017, according to a 2017 Workplace Safety Index study compiled by insurer Liberty Mutual’s Research Institute. Two top factors associated with physical exertion most frequently seen in retrieval of stored items are:

# 1: Overexertion injuries, involving “lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing, cost businesses $13.8 billion in direct costs and accounted for nearly one quarter of the overall national burden.”

# 2: Exertion/reaction injuries resulting from tasks such as bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing, stepping, kneeling, sitting, standing or walking, were responsible for 6.5% of the overall injury burden, costing U.S. businesses $3.9 billion.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers the direct costs of occupational injury and illness, such as medical costs and wage replacement (indemnity). How much might an ergonomic injury cost?

The average cost of a back injury related workers comp claim can be $40,000 - $80,000 per employee.

Say what? On top of that, employers, however, also experience significant indirect costs associated with a worker injured on the job — from two to 20 times higher than direct costs. That’s because there are so many hidden or unanticipated expenses resulting from an employee injury. It doesn’t take much for this to add up.

If you’re spending this kind of money on workers comp claims instead of on revenue generating activities, it’s time to revisit the ergonomics of your warehouse or distribution facility. Because right now, your money is being wasted on injuries that could be prevented.

This doesn’t have to be the norm. To improve your employees performance and reduce worker injury, organizations are deploying ergonomically designed automation systems and you could too

Dynamic storage and retrieval systems are ergonomic solutions which help workers complete picking and order fulfillment tasks while simultaneously eliminating the risk of injury. In addition to enhancing warehouse safety, the devices can boost productivity and reduce a variety of costs – positioning both workers and companies for operational success. And the cost justification for these systems is easy.

Let’s take a look at your options. To minimize the exertion injuries associated with manual material handling processes (including lifting, reaching, walking, stretching, bending, stooping, pulling, pushing, twisting, gripping and climbing), a variety of automated goods-to-person storage and retrieval systems exist. These include:

 

Ergonomics of Automated Storage

 

Workers in a conventional warehouse spend as much as 60% of their time walking to product, searching for it and climbing on a ladder or kneeling down to access stored items. These three automated solutions improve warehouse safety by eliminating this unproductive and physically tiring travel and search time. Instead, required items are delivered directly to the operator at an ergonomic position known as the “golden zone”, or waist-high. As a result, picking productivity can increase by as much as 600%! Hello – that’s more orders out the door and more money in your pocket.

 

golden zone delivery

 

Reducing all of the walking and search time we just talked about also makes workers less-fatigued resulting in a more alert worker, which means more accurate picking. Minimizing this fatigue keeps workers focused on the task at hand. Equipping your sparkly new automated storage and retrieval system with light directed picking systems can also further reduce picking errors, resulting in up to 99.9% accuracy. Less mispicks = more satisfied customers!

There are other options to improve worker ergonomics and warehouse safety depending on your business. Are your employees lifting really heavy parts? Don’t make them do it by hand – avoid the risk of injury by integrating an ergonomic hoist so they don’t have to lift that impossibly heavy part. It’s not worth it. The investment in a hoist will have a faster ROI than any workers comp claim.

If ergonomic benefits are only part of your problem, additional benefits include highly dense storage, reducing floor space requirements by as much as 85%; fast access times; computerized inventory control for simplified warehouse management; and interface modules that communicate with other warehouse management systems (WMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Stop letting workers comp claims pull your bottom line down. By implementing dynamic storage and retrieval systems, your work environment can be much more conducive to productive, efficient work. And those workers comp claim payments will stay in your “pocket” instead!

 

IRL

Zimbrick European consolidated parts into a VLM to eliminate employees from travelling up and down stairs.

Take a look at integrating an ergonomic hoist for improved warehouse safety and ergonomics too!

 

 

Sources:

https://business.libertymutualgroup.com/business-insurance/Documents/Services/Workplace%20Safety%20Index.pdf

http://www.encompassgroup.net/content/pdf/safe_patient_handling/Cost%20of%20Workplace%20Injuries.pdf

http://qbena.com/media/20161/accident%20costs%20qbe.ppt

http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/improving-picking-practices/