How to Better Manage Networked Assets to Keep Logistics & Distribution Center Workers Safe
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted logistics-driven organizations such as distribution centers and big box retailers in multiple ways. Because ecommerce has become a lifeline for consumers unable to shop in specialty retail stores, big box retailers, major online retailers and associated delivery personnel have been designated essential workers in this crisis. Distribution centers have been elevated from an often-overlooked back office function to a critical component of day-to-day business operations.
The need to keep workers safe has also forced warehouse managers to rethink their operational processes. Many logistics functions require staff to work in close proximity and to use devices and tools that may have been handled by multiple people.
The Asset Management Challenge
Managing the radio frequency (RF) scanners used to pick orders and update inventory is a case in point. Staff must check out devices at the beginning of each shift and check them back in at the end of the shift. The devices then have to be docked for counting and charging. A supervisor takes inventory of all the devices and batteries and replaces dying batteries. If a device stops working during the day, the worker must locate another unit.
Each of these activities creates significant health risks. In many facilities, staff spend time waiting in line to get a device and sign in. Each device is touched multiple times for check-in, check-out, charging and counting. It’s almost impossible to go through the registry to find out who last used a device.
How SageNet Can Help
SageNet has developed an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that simplifies asset tracking and management. SageIoT is designed to provide visibility into network performance from the user and device perspective. As part of that, it gathers data from multiple sources and uses predictive analytics to pinpoint problems and enhance the overall user experience.
What does that have to do with asset tracking? Well, since SageIoT can see devices on the network, it can associate them with users, locations and more. It can even analyze battery performance and manage battery inventories. It supports Android, Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded devices, including ruggedized scanners and wearable devices.
In terms of warehouse operations, SageIoT facilitates the distribution of RF devices at the start of a shift and the collection of devices at the end of a shift without employees waiting in line or gathering in crowded areas. All devices can be tracked whether docked or deployed. Crucial battery management functionality provides metrics regarding battery health, including charge level and drop rate. This provides intelligence into power remaining in a specific cycle and identifies batteries in need of replacement before they reach the point of failure.
What’s more, should a specific user test positive for illness, the device usage log can be analyzed for contact tracing of a particular worker.
Mobile devices aren’t just potential sources of coronavirus spread — they can also be used to aid in social distancing. For example, some companies are experimenting with smart watches that notify the wearer if they’re getting too close to another person.
SageNet is exploring a similar use case for the SageIoT platform. The location-tracking capabilities of the network could be used to trigger an automated sensor that sounds an audible warning when two devices get within an undesirable distance.
Because the novel coronavirus can live on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces from hours to days, warehouse managers must take steps to ensure that equipment and devices don’t become a source of COVID-19 spread. SageIoT can facilitate pandemic best practices by supporting social distancing and minimizing device contact through effective asset tracking and battery management.
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