Create a Safer Manufacturing Workplace with Location Solutions

Ryan Spurr

When it comes to location solutions, so much attention is spent tracking materials, products, and vehicles. Automation and business system integration in these typical areas can deliver outstanding business outcomes for manufacturers, but what about our most valuable assets: employees?

Regarding employee-based location solutions, peoples’ initial thoughts typically point to one of two places. First, tracking employees for more nefarious purposes like ensuring employees act a certain way and do what they should. This is often frowned upon by unions and can create distrust among employees. The second is employee safety or workplace enhancements that improve the employee experience. With the latter, we can include employees as part of the business change and put improvements in place that visibly improve or protect their interests.

If your company values safety, health, and environment, or has strategic initiatives in these areas, consider how location technology can play a part in improving employees’ well-being and help your teams measure success. Let’s take a quick look at how these technologies come together to make all this possible.

Infrastructure

Next-generation location solutions like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are becoming pervasive with the implementation of modern wireless access points and beacons. For example, both Aruba and Cisco Meraki access points include BLE antennas. This means that the infrastructure necessary to leverage BLE location services may already exist (if your IT organization recently upgraded wireless), or your organization should be considering this with its next upgrade.

To learn more about Bluetooth Low Energy technologies in more detail, check out our prior blogs. This is a game-changer for other business functions like HR, Safety and Health, and Facilities because it means that you can quickly adopt safety-based location solutions at lower entry-cost points, and the same solutions can promptly scale to any site in the company. If there are gaps in the deployment of BLE-enabled access points, beacons can be added that can connect to existing wireless or wired networks, extending the range or coverage where BLE doesn’t exist. This is especially useful where access point density is limited, in bizarre corners of buildings where wireless signals are weaker, or in the case where wireless may not exist at all.

Tags and Sensors

With the proper infrastructure, we can turn our attention to how we tag employees, deploy sensors that monitor the safety conditions of the environment, or push buttons that allow employees to alert for help. 

Employee tags have come a long way. For example, today’s tags are the same size as an employee badge or contained within a retractable lanyard adaptor and last years on a single battery. Some options exist with programmable buttons that can be used to call for help or trigger another desired business event. Sensors can monitor temperature, light levels, humidity, air quality, and even occupancy levels. All of this comes together to ensure that conditions are optimized or alerted to when employee safety might drift towards or breach control limits. Together, this can create a smarter workplace and better working conditions that help to attract and retain employees while keeping everyone safe.

Software and Quick Time to Value

Lastly, it’s software that integrates all this technology and delivers business value. Today’s software is easy to acquire, deploy, and brings value in minutes. For example, you can buy a starter kit from many partners, enter license keys, and be online in under 15 minutes with little effort. This makes proof of concepts and scaling a breeze. The software provides many out-of-the-box capabilities, dashboards, alerts, and event management. And when you have outgrown the basics or wish to integrate the data with business systems, these same toolsets offer application programmer interfaces (APIs) to bring higher forms of data integration and automation to the business.

Driving Safety through a Connected Workplace

Safety and employee experience are top of mind for almost every manufacturer we engage. Keeping employees safe, productive, and retained are goals worth pursuing, especially in today’s marketplace. Bluetooth Low Energy infrastructure, along with a wide range of safety, environmental, and employee-based solutions is a great place to initiate your next smart initiative that aims to empower and protect your very most valuable asset, your employees. If your business is looking to explore location technologies or automate various business processes, engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and how its many use cases can benefit your organization.

Ryan Spurr is the Director of Manufacturing Strategy and Business Development at Connection with more than 15 years of experience in manufacturing and information technology leadership. He holds an MBA, MSIT, and is an ASQ member.

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