The manufacturing space is no stranger to workplace safety technology. During the last decade, the sector has been an early adopter of solutions, such as wearables and inspection drones, with the aim to keep people safe. It is because of this commitment to safety that leaders in the manufacturing space have already been exposed to indoor sensor technology and the basics of the Internet of Things (IoT).
It is also thanks to this track record for safety prioritization that the world has long looked to the manufacturing sector for cues on worker safety. There is now an opportunity for manufacturing to take the lead on worker safety in a new context.
The current pandemic presents a new risk for workplace safety professionals.. This industry, which employs approximately 13 million workers in the U.S. alone, has been particularly susceptible to the negative impact of the virus because of the on-site nature of the work, the close proximity of workers, and the global economic volatility wreaking havoc on supply chains. Safeguarding the health of the manufacturing workforce is a huge public health and global economic priority, and while for many businesses that has meant full or partial facility closures, technology can help keep people at work, safely.
New, advanced technologies are being developed to aid in risk minimization and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 around the world. By harnessing indoor intelligence technology, organizations can power solutions for contact tracing, social distancing and targeted cleaning to protect employees and visitors. In many cases, the existing network infrastructure can be leveraged to deploy solutions quickly.
A Closer Look at Contact Tracing
In order to keep people safe in the face of COVID-19, we need to be able to identify where people have been within facilities and who they’ve been in contact with, and to do so in ways that respect employee privacy. This can be accomplished by using technology to keep track of the locations of cell phones or wearable tags. With access to this information, workplace readiness technology can effectively support not only contact tracing, but also physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
Embracing indoor intelligence helps enable businesses to monitor social distancing compliance and to measure occupancy rates and overcrowding on the manufacturing floor.
These technology solutions, designed to help keep people safe, will also invariably improve operations in the long-term. According to recent polls, an overwhelming majority of organizations indicated that it is important to include future-proof solutions and technologies in their return-to-work plans.
It is therefore very important to note that the indoor intelligence architecture that will help keep people safe during this crisis can be used as a springboard for further technological innovation in the manufacturing space. The groundwork for indoor intelligence supports high-value use cases ranging from robot tracking and vehicle collision avoidance to asset tracking and industrial IoT implementations that improve manufacturing operations and building energy efficiency. The sensors and software that enable contact tracing also allow companies to explore proactive deployments of automation technologies.
With all facets of IoT technology, little can be accomplished without building and manufacturing system interoperability. There are many pieces that must come together to collectively enable organizations to address short- and long-term use cases such as collaborative robotics, autonomous materials movement, and creating a robust industrial real-time location system. It’s important for facilities to consider both the current climate and their future needs while exploring technologies for return-to-work and worker safety solutions.
As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve and change, the manufacturing industry is facing unprecedented challenges across all fronts. It is also being presented with a chance to once again take the lead on worker safety in a new light. It is imperative that companies not only deploy smart workplace safety solutions like contact tracing within their facilities to keep their workforces safe and businesses operating, but also look to the future, beyond surviving the immediate concerns, to lay the indoor intelligence foundations they’ll need to thrive in the future.