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Employee safety in the logistics industry starts with data collection and analysis

Logistics organisations are under unprecedented pressure to improve not only efficiency, but also employee safety. The COVID-19-inspired spike in demand has highlighted endemic performance problems and created new workplace challenges; how can companies recruit and retain staff in a highly competitive market when the transport and storage industry exhibits a higher rate of injury at all levels of severity compared to other sectors?

Digital transformation provides a chance to improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance responsiveness to customers, and transform the day-to-day experience for employees. This can only be achieved, however, if organisations get the right data collection and analysis solutions in place that quickly and effectively deliver new insight to logistics teams, explains Peter Ruffley, CEO, Zizo, and Ian Brown, CEO, Excelpoint…

Data Capture Challenge

While there are many technologies associated with digital transformation, in essence it is about data; using data to both automate processes and gain better understanding to drive business improvement.

For many organisations, however, that simple statement is the stumbling point. What data is required? Where is it located? How is it accessed? Can it be used in combination with other sources? Is there any contextual information? How often does it change?

The first question, of course, is: how can data be collected? For warehouse operations still reliant upon many manual, even paper-based processes, data collection is complex and time consuming. It can require significant effort to entice any insight from systems – information which is then out of date in this fast moving environment.  Inefficiencies remain unchecked and safety risks ignored.

Extracting Value

Achieving fast, effective data capture is a priority. No-code automation software that can be configured into a range of solutions for business-critical processes can quickly improve access to information, eliminating the need for multiple inputs across numerous systems. Such software helps businesses to streamline the way they manage people, systems and information, in turn, improving the workforce’s welfare, achieving flexibility and significant cost savings.

For example, from a safety perspective, simple, automated solutions for logging, recording and resolving incidents can both ensure Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) compliance and provide vital insight to ensure the incident is not repeated in the future; while automated safety audits create a structured process where information driven insights support employee safety while meeting compliance regulations.

In addition, the deployment of sensors or wearable devices, connecting to an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform or at the edge, can very quickly deliver new business insights.  For example, data from smart controls, such as loading docks, blind intersections and door openings can be used for operational improvements, as well as ensuring employees are safe and following protocols.

Employee Safety

With a holistic overview of operations, logistics managers gain confidence to make better decisions regarding both performance and employee well-being.  Workforces can identify areas where incidents could happen, highlighting risks before an accident occurs. In addition, information gathered from wearable devices can pick up an individual’s lifting techniques, body temperatures, heart rate or distance travelled in the workplace – providing managers with the ability to intervene in any unsafe practices in real-time.

This insight also creates a unified picture of what is happening across the factory or warehouse by highlighting patterns of behaviour that previously may have been undetectable, information that can be used within a feedback loop to drive continual improvements. For example, employees can be offered specific interactive and data-driven training – which will not only enhance employee wellbeing, but also improve employee productivity, in turn, increasing their satisfaction.

This is crucial as, according to the Health and Safety Executive,training helps people acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes to make them competent in the health and safety aspects of their work.’ Such programmes, driven by data-insight, can ensure that individuals performing a task have the competence to do so without putting the health and safety of others or themselves at risk.

Conclusion

Good employees are hard to find right now. For an industry experiencing a significantly higher number of safety incidents – for example forklift accidents account for approximately 85 deaths and 34,900 serious injuries each year – more must be done to both improve the operational risk environment and create tailored employee training and education.

Furthermore, employee safety is a great place to kick off a digital transformation programme. With wearables and no-code solutions, the process is simple and creates zero disruption; and the insight is both immediate and accessible for logistics staff. Critically, it builds confidence in the value of data amongst logistics teams, accelerating their commitment to transformation and helping to create an appetite for data driven change.

Once businesses realise the benefits and can see the impact, such as better employee safety, warehouse managers will begin to question what else they can do. What else can be improved? What else can be changed for the better? And this is the foundation to driving the digital transformation process forward over time.

Zizo joins University of Buckingham’s Knowledge Exchange Programme

Data analytics for business and logistics specialist Zizo has entered a long-term partnership with the School of Computing at The University of Buckingham, becoming an Academic Partner as part of the school’s Knowledge Exchange Partnership Programme. 

The aim of the partnership is to bring mutual benefits for the school, staff, students and the data analytics industry as a whole, by combining the academic credentials and qualifications from the University of Buckingham with Zizo’s complementary expertise and focus on solving business problems in the data space.

The partnership will involve the research and development of AI-based systems for big data analysis, allowing for the application of academic research to support real-life business challenges that Zizo is working on, with impactful industry outcomes. These opportunities will also enable students to gain from insightful, hands-on work experience in the field, guided by experts from the Zizo team. 

Dr Harin Sellahewa, Dean of Computing at the University of Buckingham comments: “Collaborative partnerships with industry provide unique opportunities for students to benefit from experiential learning. Our aim is to work with Zizo to expose students and postgraduates from the University of Buckingham to the forces that are thriving us as an industry, with business challenges to solve, so that they can go back into the academic environment, and on to future employment, understanding what the hurdles are and how they can be overcome. The partnership exemplifies the School’s commitment to deepen collaborative relationships with businesses in the UK and overseas. The partnership is closely aligned with the National and Local Industrial Strategies and UK’s vision to secure its status as a pioneering nation.” 

Offering undergraduate internships and projects, as well as involving postgraduates on a longer-term basis to delve into complex technical issues, Zizo says it aims to offer interesting, innovative challenges and new opportunities for the students across the university programme.

With pioneering research in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, IoT and more led by the University’s School of Computing, Zizo says it will also be able to build upon the strides made in academia and apply industry analysis to strengthen its AI and Machine Learning business propositions further. 

Zizo has already been involved with the students this year in reviewing student projects and providing feedback about the potential business applications of their ideas.

Peter Ruffley, CEO of Zizo, added: “Our partnership with the University, underpinned by its industry-leading research and expertise, will enable us to present our innovative solutions with more authority on cutting edge problems and further push the boundaries of what is possible in the space. It also offers an ideal opportunity to work with students to experiment and build prototype concepts before embarking on a full-scale project. It’s refreshing to mentor undergraduates and postgraduates at university who are motivated and passionate to investigate solutions for tangible business challenges. And with the University’s ground-breaking Computing and AI Centre set to be completed in 2021, we’re excited to see how our partnership can develop even further.

“We want to support the students in being able to realise their potential and prepare for their future careers. We are at the forefront of an industry that is advancing at a rapid pace and this partnership will not only help us to advance our offering as a business, but also work in collaboration with some of the brightest minds to solve unprecedented business challenges.” 

As well as hands-on work with the students, Zizo is additionally sponsoring the award for ‘The Best Final Year Project’ at the University of Buckingham’s End of Year Awards, with Tom Longshaw, Director of Research and Development at Zizo, on the judging panel.

GUEST BLOG: Data holds the key to food sustainability

A raft of new sustainability and food wastage initiatives is undoubtedly focusing the attention of food service and hospitality providers. Otherwise wasted food from kitchens is increasingly being repurposed by a number of great charities, which is a great start but should not distract from the bigger issues within the end to end food production supply chain.

In addition to improving the measurement and monitoring of food production within kitchens, it will be the sharing and analysis of data from manufacturers, 3PLs, processors and hospitality that will be key to achieving the ambitious targets in reducing wastage, Peter Ruffley, Chairman of Zizo explains…

Front Line Responsibility

There has been a plethora of recent initiatives to tackle the £3bn of food wasted in this food service and hospitality sector every year, from ‘Step Up to the Plate’ which encourages organisations to make commitments to measure and reducing their own food waste, to the ‘Guardians of Grub’ from Wrap and ‘Food waste, Bad taste’ from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

While the target to halve food waste by 2030 may seem ambitious, its goal is to get half of the 250 largest food businesses measuring, reporting and acting on food waste this year under the IGD Food Waste Reduction Roadmap that will require a very significant change in mindset. Right now, many of the companies in this sector looking at food sustainability have passed the buck to those on the front line: signing up with any one of the excellent charitable organisations, such as FareShare, which repurpose and redistribute surplus food.

While this is clearly an important step in ensuring this food is used wherever possible, it does not address the reason for that waste in the first place. Companies are not actively monitoring and measuring the entire food preparation process to better understand the causes of waste.

Data Driven Reduction

Clearly attitudes are changing; the idea that wastage is an inevitable biproduct of food production is being challenged. Given the economic challenges facing the issue, the financial benefits are also compelling: according to research from Wrap, the average benefit-cost ratio for food waste reduction was 7:1 over a three-year time frame.  And key to achieving this benefit is data driven understanding; from measuring food waste, to rethinking inventory and purchasing practices and reducing food over production.

Some steps are easier than others. Food waste is highly visual – and with the right approach companies can quickly map trends. Are some menu items routinely uneaten? Can portion sizes be reconsidered? Clearly it is easier to impose control within those mass market organisations with ubiquitous, often microwaved, food products. In many ways the trend towards fresh, local and healthier eating has made it more difficult to manage and reduce wastage. But measuring trends in food utilisation and consumption can quickly reveal opportunities to reduce portion size, tweak menus and rethink supply.

Changing Attitudes

Cultural shifts in this area will also pay dividends.  Change customer expectations by reducing the extensive menus, for example. It is far easier to predict demand and ensure consistent quality with a smaller product set, which will reduce waste; and publicising the sustainability goal will resonate with the customer base.  

Companies also need to look beyond the kitchen and consider the end to end supply chain – and this too will require a change in attitude from the industry to achieve transparency and understanding.

Right now, an organisation with a supply chain that stretches around the world will typically have no information from multiple manufacturers or third-party logistics (3PL) about wastage or fuel consumption. To achieve any meaningful insight into environmental impact will require a collaborative approach to data sharing if food overproduction is to be addressed right from the beginning of the supply chain.

Image by Lars_Nissen_Photoart from Pixabay