From AI and machine learning, to advanced robotics and even drone technology, everyone’s talking about the bold new technological future and its impact on the workplace. Nowhere is this more relevant than in warehousing, material handling, inventory management, and logistics, which are in many ways some of the lowest of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to practical automation applications.
And yet, the human factor is not going away anytime soon. The ongoing eCommerce explosion, hastened by the proliferation of turnkey eCommerce solutions like Shopify and Squarespace, as well as the ever-expanding reach of the monolithic Amazon, has made efficient warehousing and logistics perhaps more key to industry growth than ever and with it, creating new workforce needs. It will take some time before we see hi-vis vests and elevated pedestrian walkways disappear from warehouse floors.
In fact, well-trained employees, particularly those occupying lower-level jobs such as pick packing, have never been more critical to an operation’s success. Technology is growing at an exponential rate, but so too is consumer demand online. Some 54 million people now hold an Amazon Prime account, to put that in context, it amounts to nearly half of all US households. Meanwhile, smart mobile devices have made online shopping quicker and easier than ever, with 20 percent of all online purchases taking place on a mobile device–it takes a considerable amount of people to process all of those orders.
As warehouse operators continue to bridge that gap, more people are hitting warehouse floors each quarter. The situation becomes crystal clear when observing the way state governments in the US fiercely bid on who will serve as home to Amazon’s next point of operations, vying for the eCommerce mega-giant’s promise of new jobs for local citizens with tax breaks and other benefits.
But we’re not here for a discussion of state-level politics. Instead, we’re here to consider the impact that an influx of hundreds of new warehouse workers, including a cohort of workers who may have no prior warehouse experience, could mean for the safety record of your warehouse operation and one of the biggest changes you can make to prevent disaster from striking–the elevated pedestrian walkway, also often referred to as a catwalk system or steel walkway.
The concept of the elevated walkway in warehouse pedestrian barriers is not much different to its implementation in a major city or town. The metal walkway decking is built elevated above traffic, allowing pedestrians to get around in a manner that’s siloed from the cars passing below. Elevated walkways have become particularly popular in places such as Hong Kong, where there are equal amounts of vehicle congestion and foot traffic, which can result in accidents.
But whilst the jury is out on the effectiveness of elevated walkways in city planning, the benefits in the warehouse space are clear. Elevated walkways are a relatively simple to install in an existing warehouse space and quality walkway systems are made from robust, lightweight, non-corrosive, and maintenance-free materials. They allow for safe access to roof-mounted equipment and ease foot traffic congestion on the warehouse floor.
Walkways become invaluable when dealing with particularly hazardous areas of the warehouse floor and what’s more, they allow operators to make better use of their existing warehouse space. Walkways can be elevated to suit your required height, allowing you to maximize the space you have available on the floor, or even better connect disparate areas of your warehouse, without the need for constant interaction and avoidance between forklift safety barriers operations and your workers.
With an influx of workers comes an influx of risk and it’s up to every warehouse operator and manager to ensure those risks are minimised. If there’s one upgrade you choose to make to your warehouse operations this financial year, consider the implementation of an elevated walkway.