AI & Biofeedback Sensors for Personalized Safety
Valuing employees and defining their importance and worth to an operation is material to business performance. Improving worker engagement, leads to quantifiable enhancements and a reduction of lost workdays and employee turnover.
New advances in ergonomic training using sensors and biofeedback are forging a step change in manual handling injury reduction. Leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, coaching workers to self-correct their movements in real-time and avoid ergonomic injuries, stimulates an engaging personalized pathway to behavioural change.
Miguel Trivino, CSP, director of environmental, health, and safety at Kenco Logistics says,“Nobody likes back pain, but proper lifting is a habit that many new associates have not yet developed. The Soter device gently yet persistently raises the level of awareness, building a good incentive to use better body mechanics”.
When it comes to declining productivity in the workforce, the main causes are lost workdays and high employee turnover. Gifting workers with the tools to help them learn to move safely and feel valued by the individual attention it can provide them, can help with the pull between productivity and safety.
Sarah Moore, Health and Safety Leadership Partner - Sales & Group Projects - Coca Cola Amatil advises, “Feedback from employees that have completed the program has been extremely positive. The coaching modules and live Beep/Bizz feedback providing with a real time understanding of their personal risk movements, has empowered them with the information they need to be more mindful of their own manual handling movements, because for the first time they know what ‘good looks like’ for them”.
The sensors offered by Soter Analytics enhance a worker’s learning potential by teaching and notifying them specifically about their movements. They can track, share and compare with other colleagues building camaraderie and fun on the job.
Reducing Lost Workdays
Despite various regulations, safety training and preventive technologies, workplace injuries are still the main driver of lost workdays. The core lies within the people and their behaviour. It’s difficult for everyone to follow the same process or move safely when being fatigued or stressed and there’s no wallpaper or sign to fix it.
Many companies use outdated learning methods. Classroom training has its benefits, but it’s not enough to make significant changes. Not the specific, targeted changes required to assist direct injury prevention.
Vimel Budhdev, Head of Health, Safety and Environment at Travis Perkins implemented individual tailored environmental controls by leveraging data from the wearable sensors.
“In one simple instance, the device highlighted that one of our colleagues was bending at a low level roughly around 100 times a day so by easily moving some things around we have reduced around 26,000 high-risk bending movements in a year”
Reducing High Employee Turnover
Maintaining the required number of workers on-site to meet all goals is a huge challenge. Especially for high-demanding jobs. On average, employee turnover in logistics sits at 10-30%, while to get a trained replacement takes 4 weeks - to have them fully adapted and effective takes up to 3 months. This is time-consuming, puts more pressure on existing workers and can cause a loss in motivation for all parties, possibly resulting in absenteeism or resignation.
The art to employee loyalty comes in many forms: salary, colleagues, working environment, safety, but it is the appreciation and respect from the organization that is the number one activator. When a worker recognizes an employer showing care for their well-being, there’s a lesser chance of them leaving the job.
What Vimel Budhdev from Travis Perkins said about this: “We found the set up really easy, it was pretty much step 1, 2, 3 and the colleagues easily linked the devices to their mobile phones. Tracking their own data created a really positive engagement and during the debriefing sessions the colleagues continually wanted to know more about their results and how they could do things differently”
A product that keeps the safety conversation going amongst workers as they track, share, compare and improve their movement data. With a 93% positive feedback rating, workers are saying:
“I love how it made me more aware of how I was moving”
“A great demonstration that certain movements I might have previously considered unimportant can still have an impact either singularly and/or cumulatively”
“The device made me think about my movement before commencing activity”
Lincoln Butler, General Manager Systems and Safety Pacific at Swissport noticed: “We have seen what fitness trackers and smartwatches have done for engaging people in their own general well-being and fitness, and I expect this type of simple, effective device will help drive more preventative behaviour at work”
These high-tech tiny devices are flipping the process around. Individual workers can be responsible to follow their own injury reduction program, harbouring an autonomous learning experience, keeping them safe, engaged and on the job.
Upgrading RFID and Automated Track and Trace Solutions
During the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chains faced the challenge of rapidly adjusting their business priorities to new customer preferences. Local supplier backlogs, winter storms, and the Suez Canal backup in March underscored the need for efficiency and visibility across the supply chain.
According to Christof Backhaus, Digital Lead Product Supply and Smart Label Project Lead at Bayer, companies must now place critical importance on tracking and tracing their products. “All large enterprises in the world dealing with finished goods,” he said, “seek functional and technical solutions to real-time channel inventory.”
Indeed, RFID’s real-time tracking data allows executives to make quick, well-informed decisions in moments of supply chain crisis - and rather than unfolding across days or weeks, it only takes a matter of minutes.
Why does RFID remain relevant despite digital disruption?
Essentially, RFID uses radio frequency waves to transfer data wirelessly between a scanner and a tag. In contrast to barcode technology, which requires a stationary scanner, RFID tags can be pinged from anywhere in the world, allowing companies to track real-time movement through the supply chain. RFID tags can also scan unique SKU numbers and distinguish between varying product sizes, colours, and styles: a critical feature for increasingly personalised end-user products.
Though the first patent for RFID tags appeared in 1973, higher accuracy rates, lower costs, and advances in sensor and data technology have made it newly accessible to a wide range of companies. Today, the technology is used in logistics networks, manufacturing and delivery networks in the pharmaceutical industry, and any business where efficiently tracking and monitoring product location is critical: raw materials, consumer products, cars, electronics, retail, and agriculture.
What are the key benefits?
Overall, automated track and trace solutions keep labour costs low, optimise operating costs, mitigate security risks, use capital effectively, and assist companies in adhering to regulatory requirements.
Below are three in-depth dives into how RFID benefits major industries:
- Pharmaceuticals: RFID tags help manufacturers safeguard sensitive products such as vaccines, tracking where they are and when they will arrive in real-time. Sensors closely monitor temperatures to ensure regulatory compliance. If anyone tampers with a shipment, the sensors alert the company.
- Logistics: RFID identifies process gaps and frequent anomalies by monitoring a product’s lifecycle from shipment to delivery. This data helps decision-makers predict the most efficient routes and therefore optimise their distribution schedules.
- Retail: Sensors help guard shipments against theft and provide critical intelligence when shipments go missing. Before adopting RFID technology in 2203, UK retailer Marks and Spencer relied on barcodes to scan inventory. When they made the switch, their productivity increased from a maximum of 400-600 items scanned per hour to up to 15,000 items scanned per hour. Building on their initial success, the retailer expanded the use of the technology and is still using it today.
Regardless of the industry, RFID promotes accuracy, immediacy, and efficiency. Companies reduce human error by automatically scanning products, keep track of inventory even in geographic locations with poor connectivity, and help streamline warehouse operations by identifying exact product locations.
Which recent innovations have changed the game?
With recent developments in cloud technology and IoT, a multitude of cloud-based alternatives have emerged to challenge traditional RFID technology. One of these cutting-edge solutions is Sony’s Smart Label - an intelligent shipping label that runs on AT&T’s global cellular network.
As with any good innovation, Sony’s proprietary technology started with a customer need ready to be solved: the Bayer Crop Science Division lacked an international IoT solution that could track seed products from start to finish throughout its distribution channel. Millions of dollars of revenue stood at stake, so Bayer turned to Sony to develop a smart label that would set the organisation up to manage its supply chain with end-to-end visibility.
Sony’s printable and disposable adhesive label allows companies to track the condition and location of their products worldwide and act upon the vast amounts of data it collects. The process is simple: the label activates when attached to the package, connects to AT&T’s secure LTE-M network, and sends data to the Smart Label Cloud in real time.
In sharp contrast to other smart label solutions that place trust in a patchwork combination of Wi-Fi, radio-frequency identification, and other limited coverage connections, the Sony Smart Label connects solely through a secure and universally-available cellular network. “Working with Sony,” says Robert Boyanovsky, the vice president of Mobility, IoT and 5G at AT&T, “we provide full visibility of every item shipped.”
Most importantly for companies on the edge, the Smart Label integrates with existing enterprise systems to achieve full visibility, thus adding value without disrupting supply chain process flow.
Why is this important now?
Companies that previously delayed introducing RFID and other automated track-and-trace technologies can capitalise on recent developments that lower costs, improve accuracy, and supercharge traceability.
Clearly the technology has value in today’s uncertain global marketplace, and can help decrease the costs of tracking goods. To quote Christof Backhaus, the Project Lead at Bayer, “the Smart Label indicates how much product is in the market, from the packaging line to the end customer.” Companies no longer have to spend a small fortune to take advantage of recent IoT developments. “Due to the technical composition [of the label],” Backhaus explains, “we don’t require additional infrastructure, manual scanning, or other expensive tools.”
Over the decades since RFID was first introduced, support for introducing it to company supply chains has also improved. AT&T’s IoT Professional Services Organisation, for example, supports companies through the end-to-end design and integration process--from installation to deployment and project management.
Companies that invest in traceable and visible supply chain solutions stand the best chance of survival, adjusting in real-time to natural disasters, shipping backups, and slowed-down supplier turnarounds as a result of the global pandemic. “Smart Label promises to help businesses like Bayer realise the full potential of the IoT,” says AT&T’s Boyanovsky. “[We can] deliver improvements in revenue and cost savings and make supply chains more efficient.”
Certainly, company executives will be hard-pressed to ignore recent innovations. In an age of uncertainty, RFID and its challengers herald a welcome sense of supply chain security. The next step? “Our sales team,” Boyanovsky adds, “is prepared to engage with prospective customers now.”