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Manufacturing Industry Updates Supply Chain Industry Updates

Technology Keeps Warehouse Workers Safe in the Busy Holiday Season — and All Year


Holiday shopping season has begun, and the goal is to grab holiday revenue to potentially make up for losses as a result of COVID-19. But this year, manufacturers face a new set of challenges around employee safety as a result of the pandemic.

First, the online retail industry is expected to grow by 18%, according to Forrester, which will continue to add pressure on the manufacturing industry as a whole. Second, employers must be hypervigilant about minimizing the chance that an employee could contract COVID-19 at work.

Manufacturers have had to quickly find a solution that supports an active worker’s health and safety in industrial settings. A digital-first approach that prioritizes equipping active workers with tools to stay safer and work smarter has proven to be a very effective solution. All industrial leaders should consider scaling digital solutions to continue operating safely and efficiently during the busiest time of the year.

Top technology considerations for equipping active workers include:

Social Distancing Technology

Social distancing is critical in all workplace scenarios, but it might not always be feasible for employees who work in a warehouse setting. It is very difficult to always be aware of your surroundings during peak times when there is pressure to complete tasks faster.

Social distancing technology shouldn’t be burdensome for active workers. Some connected worker technologies actually alert people when they are within six feet of their coworkers. Hands-free, connected worker tools with enabled location-sensing allow employees to focus on completing their tasks while letting the tech people handle the social distancing logistics. In addition, social distancing use cases stretch past COVID-19 because warehouses can use it to alert active workers when they’re too close to a machine.

Plants and warehouses can’t afford a shutdown during the holiday season, so contact tracing technology becomes a necessity.

Contact Tracing Applications

If a worker tests positive for COVID-19, organizations must have a system in place to trace who the infected individual may have come in contact with. After all, plants and warehouses can’t afford a shutdown during the holiday season, so contact tracing technology becomes a necessity.

Organizations need a digital tool with a contact tracing application that allows manufacturers to capture social distancing data and use it to alert employees when they’ve been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and in a data privacy-aware manner. Not only does this technology provide the ability to quickly decipher who needs to be notified, but it also avoids an entire plant or warehouse having to shut down by eliminating uncertainty about who has come into contact with each other.

Touchless Authentication

In warehouses and on factory floors, having to hold a device isn’t convenient. Right now, many active workers are wearing PPE to protect themselves and products from being infected. At the same time, workers are also expected to use a login for a system or enter a passcode to gain clearance and confirm that an order has been packed, or to use a machine, enter a room, etc. They shouldn’t have to remove their PPE and unknowingly expose themselves or disrupt their tasks.

Workers should also be able to complete administrative tasks like password entry more simply with the wave of a hand versus typing it into a device. Digital tools that work under PPE and incorporate touchless authentication using a worker’s biometrics drive a safer user experience, with virtually no learning curve or room for error.

Self-Health Check and Attestation

Following health government guidance, workers should complete a self-health check before entering facilities. In the COVID world, this is commonly done with an app that asks questions like, “Do you feel well today?” and “Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID?”

These apps typically log the official response as an employee attestation and return a “red” or “green” status that can be shown to security personnel. More-advanced connected worker programs actually link this to physical access systems for doors, floors and heavy machinery to prevent access by high-risk workers.

It is critical that all manufacturers have a plan in place to keep active workers safe ahead of this holiday season. Social distancing, contact tracing, touchless authentication and self-health checks are all important technology considerations that can help business continue. However, investing in separate point solutions with the capabilities to solve multiple challenges can be complex and costly.

Business leaders should evaluate a customizable and scalable solution that can not only address their core issues but keep the employee’s productivity and experience in mind. Luckily, there are existing connected worker tools and workplace wearables made for the active worker that have all these capabilities as well as additional enhancements beyond COVID-19 applications.

Chris Sullivan is CEO of Nymi.