When it comes to order processing for any ecommerce business, much credit is given to automated inventory management systems and organized warehouse personnel workflow. What is often overlooked, however, is the literal heavy lifting which drives any well-oiled logistics supply chain − specifically, the hard work done by forklifts and their operators to make sure the right payload arrives at the right order collection point.
The forklift itself is by no means at the forefront of tech innovation, nor does it appear to be the most obvious candidate for AI technology. Yet, the potential growth in order processing efficiency that could be enabled by AI-augmented forklifts is huge. This is particularly true for AI solutions that can decrease forklift accident rates and increase warehouse safety as a whole.
Warehouses, in order to keep up with pressing shipping deadlines and the ever-rising trend of single-day deliveries, are not always calm and well-ordered environments. In heavily-trafficked zones, where numerous payloads are being transported at any given moment, forklift accidents are the most likely to happen and tend to incur the greatest human and economic cost.
In addition, a single forklift operating incident creates a domino effect that disrupts the entire supply chain system. Redirected transport routes for circumventing an accident site and the resulting bottleneck of forklift traffic within a busy warehouse translate into time lost in collecting and organizing product orders. The personnel required for dealing with an accident and the additional vehicles needed to put everything back into order means that staff and machinery have to be transferred from their original tasks. Time lost for cargo transfer and order preparation means delays in meeting delivery deadlines. The end result − a general postponing of order deliveries and an increased likelihood of customer dissatisfaction.
By assisting forklift operators to prevent accidents, AI technologies like driver monitoring and people detection enable companies to significantly increase the safety of their warehouse staff and the efficiency of their warehouse operations. AI-powered driver monitoring systems, for example, alert the operator when they detect signs of tiredness and potentially risky behaviors such as phone usage and smoking. AI-powered people detection systems make it easier for operators to avoid colliding with colleagues who step within a hazardous range of their vehicle – an all-too-common occurrence in busy and crowded warehouse environments.
The need for safe and efficient warehouse order processing will only grow more critical with the continued rise of ecommerce. As inventory management systems become smarter and personnel workflows become better coordinated, it is vital that the forklifts which execute all our heavy lifting and cargo transport within warehouses receive an upgrade as well with the integration of AI-powered operator safety and accident prevention features.
Read how the AI-powered people detection and driver monitoring technologies in our new VIA Mobile360 Forklift Safety System can boost operator and worksite safety here.
Written by Josephine Cheng, an intern at VIA and a Communications student at the University of Pennsylvania.