Most logistics and warehousing professionals will be familiar with using two way radios at work. They are a mainstay of on-the-job communications, allowing staff and supervisors to communicate on the move across even the largest facilities.
Long before mobile phones came along, two way radios were the first wireless devices that allowed people to stay in touch remotely as they worked. And that has been the core of their appeal in industry ever since – reliable, simple voice communication that supports real-time collaboration and communication.
Warehouse operatives will know only too well how the simple ability to talk to colleagues over the whole of the shop floor helps to streamline tasks and improve efficiency. Yet two way radio has evolved to offer much more than just voice communication. Modern digital models are powerful, feature rich data devices.
Here we take a look at some of the key features next generation digital two way radios have to offer, and what assistance they provide to warehouse operations.
Traditional analogue two way radio offers one mode of operation – calls broadcast across an open network to all users tuned into that particular frequency. Modern digital models have now evolved to offer group and private calling, meaning communications can be better targeted and there is less competition to be heard over open airwaves.
But the real innovation is that the technology has now extended beyond voice or even radio-to-radio communication. Many models now support text messaging, which is convenient if you happen to be working next to very loud machinery or don’t want to remove your ear defenders.
In addition, next generation two way radios offer WiFi and telephone integration. WiFi connectivity means radios can be plugged into much larger wide area networks, communicating with users at other sites via IP connections.
With telephone system integrations, pickers and inventory personnel can make or place calls direct from the warehouse to other departments to confirm stock details or provide updates on orders.
Warehouses can be giant facilities, and from the point of view of optimising efficiency with safety in mind, one of the big challenges is not just maintaining lines of communication but knowing where everyone is.
Two way radio has long since included some tracking capabilities in support of health and safety, mostly in the form of alarm and alert features. Examples such as Emergency Button and Man Down, which triggers an alarm if inbuilt motion sensors detect a fall, are now standard. Another common safety feature is Lone Worker, a remote monitoring system which requires users to check in a regular intervals, otherwise an alarm is raised.
While these provide a safety net in the case of accidents and emergencies, they do not solve the puzzle of knowing exactly who is where when it comes to work ticket allocation. The latest next gen models now include GPS for precision location tracking, which Bluetooth 4.0 provides an alternative using beacons technology.
The results of either method are the same – supervisors know who is where across a large facility, and can coordinate work allocation more efficiently. At the same time, safety protocols are improved, as team leaders can again spot if, say, there are any workers on foot in a loading bay when a vehicle is approaching. It also leads to faster response times in emergency situations, if the location of a colleague who has suffered an accident is known.