November 21, 2018

Two way radio: Keeping up to speed in FMCG

Ask most people to tell you which industries still use two way radio and you will probably hear lots of answers related to the emergency services or security.

Examples such as police officers on the beat, ambulance crews, security guards and event stewards certainly provide some of the most visible examples of two way radio in use for professional purposes. But the truth is, two way radio remains the communication method of choice across a broad swathe of industries, from manufacturing through to retail.

Reliable, flexible and hard wearing, two way radio has remained relevant through the era of the mobile phone and internet because, amongst other things, it works anywhere without the need for external masts or routers, and it offers superior audio quality for critical communications.

In recent years, two way radio has undergone a significant evolution which has made it more relevant to the needs of industry than ever before. Thanks to digital technology, two way radio now offers much more than just trustworthy mobile voice communication, with advanced functions and data integration features that have turned it into a complete end-to-end communications solution for industry.

In FMCG, two way radio’s flexibility is a key strength. Whatever the area of operation – production, packaging, transportation, warehousing, retail – digital two way radio helps modern businesses boost efficiency and achieve compliance obligations. Let’s take a closer look at some specific examples.

Coordinating teams

One of the reasons reliable means of wireless communication are so sought after across many industries is to improve management and coordination in the workplace. Right across the FMCG supply chain, from production lines through warehousing to supermarkets, operations are characterised by large teams moving around large facilities either on foot or on vehicles, be it forklifts or delivery trucks. To keep everything working efficiently, you have to have a means of keeping everyone in touch and a way to allocate jobs and coordinate different teams remotely.

Alongside standard voice communication, modern digital two way radio often come with work ticket and dispatch functions. This means that, in warehousing and transport operations, for example, supervisors can keep on top of order allocation even when they are on the move talking with other teams. These features can also be connected to software platforms that provide a central command console to keep tabs on workflow and handle allocation in the most efficient way possible.

Workplace safety

Because of the prevalence of machinery and vehicles across the sector, health and safety compliance is a high priority in FMCG. Packaging conveyors, for example, account for almost a third all workplace accidents in the food and drink industry, while the transport and storage sectors have the third highest injury rate of all UK industries.

Efficient and reliable communication plays a key role in effective health and safety management by means of accident prevention. Digital two way radio solutions also offer a range of advanced features aimed at improving monitoring and responses when accidents do occur. Most modern industrial class models include either an emergency override so an alarm can be raised no matter how busy the airwaves happen to be with other calls, or a one-touch emergency button that triggers a network-wide alarm.

Other common safety features include Man Down, a motion sensor-based alarm system which issues an alert if an operator stops moving or if it detects an unusual movement associated with a fall. Lone Worker uses a timer protocol to monitor staff working in hazardous situations alone, such stacking shelves in a far corner of a warehouse, asking them to check back in with colleagues at fixed intervals.

IoT oversight

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications is becoming increasingly important as sensor and data-based automation drives the evolution of so-called ‘industry 4.0’. But while artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly sophisticated to the point where many industrial systems are capable of self-management, it is highly questionable whether this is desirable for any business.

Ultimately, while automation helps to increase efficiency and lower costs, it is people who make the important decisions, e.g. whether to increase or decrease a production run, change order or delivery details, when to run systems maintenance etc.

Industrial IoT works best when there are effective systems in place for machine-to-human communication as well, when the data created by networked equipment (and vehicles) is available to inform decision making. Integration between IoT infrastructure and digital two way radios means this intelligence is available to operatives in real time and decisions can be made on the move, helping to create more agile, proactive operations.

For more information about the latest in two way radio, visit www.brentwoodradios.co.uk.