Man and machine: how the bionic worker can increase supply chain efficiency
The combination of a shortage in warehouse space and the increasing demand for goods ordered online has the potential to cause havoc in the supply chain industry. Companies are expected to innovate faster in the areas of productivity and efficiency in order to meet the rising demands placed on them by retailers and consumers alike, and bionic technology, that works in collaboration with warehouse employees, can help businesses to achieve this.
Man and machine
Mobile wearable devices have been the foundation of the warehouse for many years, but they now have much more scope to automate simple or mundane tasks. Devices have been upgraded from ruggedised, green screen devices into sleek, user-friendly tablets that hold much more resemblance to the consumer devices we are all familiar with. With these aesthetic updates also comes software upgrades that allow them to offer many more capabilities, such as voice and vision-enabled picking. The new capabilities that wearable devices are beginning to offer are designed to integrate into an employee’s work as seamlessly as possible to make them more efficient without becoming a hindrance. Wearable, bionic technology can be so effective in increasing productivity that MHI has predicted that over 70% of warehouses will have implemented wearable technology by 2025.
The advantages that bionic technology can bring are hugely valuable when consumer expectations are as demanding as they have ever been. Consumers expect every order to be delivered on time and correct, first time, every time. Implementing technology into their work, instead of using paper-based picking systems or manual computer searches, can enable pickers to be much more accurate and minimise mistakes, therefore saving the time it would take to notice and rectify any issues. Minimising the risk of errors and removing time-intensive admin tasks, such as inputting order data, can also ensure workers are picking the maximum number of orders possible in a day and therefore speed up the entire fulfilment process.
Solving the problem of space
Supply chains are being forced to deal with ever-increasing numbers of goods to pick and orders to fulfil, all while stuck in inefficient environments. One answer to this problem of expensive and in-demand square footage is to use existing space in new and innovative ways, something that can be achieved using bionic technology. This technology has a number of uses within warehouses, such as allowing companies to utilise vertical space with robotic pickers or movable shelves. It can even help to enhance efficiently in mega-warehouses through the use of drones. Drones can transport products to pickers rather than forcing them to travel to different ends of the warehouse to fulfil one order, therefore enabling them to work more productively.
Health and safety
In addition to business efficiencies, bionic technology can bring significant health and safety benefits to the wearer. For example, vision and voice-picking enabled devices allow workers to pay more attention to the environment they are working in rather than focusing on a screen, which can save them from trip-hazards or other accidents that might occur if workers are caught unaware. Exoskeletons that wrap around the body for support and to add additional lifting capabilities are also valuable additions to the workplace and can reduce the repetitive strain injuries that many pickers face.
Employees may also be concerned that beginning to implement technologies with the ability to automate certain aspects of their work means the end of their jobs. However, that is not the case because it is the collaborative element of bionic technology that enables it to be so effective. The combination of the accuracy and speed of robotics and the common sense and experience of the employee is the real key to success.
While bionic technology is still in its infancy, due to its significant benefits it is starting to be deployed more and more to effectively meet the ever-increasing demands of eCommerce and provide essential support to warehouse employees. The warehouse doesn’t have to rely entirely on robotic automation instead of employees, more so to ensure it effectively combines the two to drive future industry success.
Chris Tozer is Territory Manager for UK, Ireland and Italy at Ivanti Supply Chain.
Ireland is key launchpad for US expansion into Europe
The first transatlantic cable was laid between Newfoundland and Valentia Island in County Kerry, Ireland, in 1858. It was a flawed effort; the connection was poor, causing enough issues with efforts to send telegrams along it that major repair efforts were set underway immediately - efforts which ended up further damaging the cable line, severing the connection just three weeks later.
This first step towards transatlantic subsea communication, shaky as it was, laid the foundations of more than a century and a half of information exchange across the ocean, between the East Coast of North America and Western Ireland.
It’s been 163 years since the completion of the first transatlantic cable, an event which cemented Ireland’s position as the landing stage for subsea connections between Europe and the Americas. That position has, in no small way, been a driving force behind the country’s modern role as a landing stage for US and Canadian firms looking to do business in Europe.
Today, some of the largest firms in the world, like Pfizer, Janssen, Zurich, Metlife, Google and VmWare use Ireland for their European Headquarters. The combination of an English-speaking workforce (a boon made all the more important as Brexit makes the UK and the north of Ireland an increasingly complex environment that provides diminishing opportunities to access the rest of Europe), a cultural and regulatory landscape that welcomes foreign investment, and world-class connectivity makes the country an unparalleled choice for firms looking to establish a foothold in the EU.
As a result, Ireland has become one of the world’s leading data centre hubs.
Based on leading data centre firm Interxion’s Data Gravity Index, Dublin will be among the top five European cities that will contribute to Europe’s growth in data in the coming years, following London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. The amount of data generated in Dublin itself is expected to grow alongside its economic expansion, with the Data Gravity Index also predicting that Dublin will outpace cities and data centre hubs like Mexico City, São Paulo, and even Shanghai, to be among the top 20 cities to experience annual data growth by 2024.
Ireland ranks 6th in the 2020 EU Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), meaning that it is among the leading ranks of EU Member States in terms of the uptake and use of digital technologies. Likewise, the trend to locate data centres in Ireland serving overseas clients will continue to generate increasing amounts of international traffic
Managing the Dublin Data Boom
According to Interxion, subsea connectivity will continue to play a massive role in helping both international and domestic organisations digitally transform themselves to meet the challenges of changing markets post pandemic.
As the pace of global digital transformation - and the subsequent need for more connectivity - accelerates like never before, this rapidly developing world is driving urther demand for these cables as individuals and organisations become increasingly reliant on subsea cable’s exceptional data speed and capacity.
According to experts at Interxion, this connectivity will be pivotal to Ireland’s continued success in attracting international companies in the technology, pharmaceutical and financial sectors.
The subsea cable industry is a key contributor to the Irish economy across many sectors. The draft National Marine Planning Framework reported that subsea international networks make Ireland an attractive region for investment for the technology and digital sectors. Telegeography states that there are twelve existing subsea cables connecting Ireland to the US and UK, and a further four systems are under development. The Iish government’s statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Strategy identified Ireland as a location of choice for many different sectors reliant on digital and telecommunications capabilities, all of which in turn rely on subsea cable interconnectivity.
Subsea cables are of strategic importance to Ireland’s future as a catalyst for economic and societal prosperity. Ireland can be the ideal location for your company’s expansion plans. To find out how, you can hear from leading experts throughout the data centre and digital infrastructure industries on June 15, 2021, as speakers from the IDA, Aqua Comms, GTT Communications, euNetworks and Interxion discuss subsea cabling, digital transformation, Data Gravity and the fate of Ireland’s digital economy.
Key topics will include:
- Key facts about existing subsea infrastructure,
- Future plans,
- Challenges (including Marine Maintenance) and opportunities,
- Terrestrial networks (demand vs supply);
- Ireland's role as a gateway to Europe
The virtual panel (which is taking place between 10:30 PM - 11:30 PM JST on June 15, 2021) will conclude with a 20 minute Q&A. Mike Hollands, Senior Director of Market Development at Interxion, will moderate the event.