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September 27, 2023

Humans and Robots in the Warehouse: The Safety Dance

Author Icon Mary Hart, Senior Content Marketing Manager

If you’ve attended an automation or robotics trade show, you’ve seen all manners of robots that could benefit your warehouse. In order to determine how they’d work in your warehouse with your human workers, you wanted to interact with (or at least see a hands-on demonstration of) all of them. Were you able to? More than likely, there were many robotic solutions that were behind fences or other barriers at the trade shows for safety purposes for attendees.

Think About It

These same robotic solutions that need barriers at a tradeshow are supposed to work in your warehouse where you have human workers. How will that work? In order to keep your workers safe, you’ll need to section off specific parts of your warehouse for just the robots. What that is going to do to your pick density is that it’s going to drop and you’ll be left with less space than you had before – in the guise of more productivity. 

There’s a Better Way 

Robots like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can be used in your warehouse without the need for barriers and fences, and will also improve employee safety

How Robots Improve Employee Safety

AMRs are designed for safety – more on that below – and will improve safety for your human workers from the start by doing the “grunt work” of pushing or pulling heavy carts laden with 300 pounds of orders for up to 15 miles in a warehouse each day. Think of the number of push-pull injuries and employee short-term disability that your warehouse has on a yearly basis. Now, think about how much that number will drop, and employee morale will rise, when you bring on AMRs to take on that transport task in your warehouse. AMRs won’t go out on short-term disability and are built to handle the biggest orders. 

Designed for Safety

AMRs are designed with safety and security of the human workers in mind and undergo extensive testing and assessment both pre- and post-production. To know if a robotics provider is reputable, ask them if they have placed numerous safeguards into their machines, including:

  • Collision avoidance: AMRs are equipped with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors that detect objects or humans in their path and navigate around them. 

  • Emergency stop (E-Stop) buttons: When pressed, this button cuts off power from the robot’s motors. 

  • Depth-sensing 3D obstacle camera: The 3D camera enables the robot to avoid obstacles located below the plane of the LiDAR, and also to avoid drop-offs in the floor, such as stairways and loading docks. 

  • Safety-edge rubber bumper: Tripping or hitting the bumper causes the robot to enter E-Stop mode and run built-in self-diagnostics. 

  • Speed limits: Robot software and firmware limit the speed of the robot. In addition, a separate hardware component also measures the speed of the robot and limits this speed as an additional safety measure.

Together these measures minimize any risks inherent in large, mobile machinery operating autonomously. Safety is fully built into an AMR’s core functionality.

Picking the Safest Robot for Your Warehouse

As you’re evaluating new automation technologies for your warehouse, employee safety considerations should remain front and center. While some solutions require segregated areas with physical safety barriers during operation, this reduces usable warehouse space and picking density.

Instead, AMRs that are designed specifically for safe collaboration and interaction with workers offer a better approach. Advanced sensors for collision avoidance, emergency stop circuits, speed limits, and other integrated features enable these robots to operate safely alongside human coworkers, without diminishing square footage.

Making worker well-being a top criteria for selecting and deploying automation, you can unlock productivity and accuracy gains in your warehouse without compromising safety. When your employees are protected and work alongside intelligent machines, it creates the best safety dance between leading-edge technology and human ingenuity. 

Want to learn more about how AMRs from Locus Robotics can help you find the perfect harmony of safety and productivity in your warehouse. Talk to us