Automation plays a big part in the automotive industry and has done so for a long time. Car manufacturers were already using equipment such as sensors and industrial robots to boost their productivity and efficiency long before many other industries began exploring automation as a solution.

When it comes to loading and unloading in the automotive industry, automated loading solutions have a major part to play. Car engines and some of the components that make them up are heavy. Manual lifting can place a real strain on the workers, and when the factory gets forklift trucks involved in the loading process, there’s always a possibility of accidents. Employees must take special precautions.

Below is a look at automation in the car manufacturing industry and how loading solutions can lower risk. We’ll discuss the different types of risk workers in the industry face and ways that implementing automated loading solutions can help them steer clear of injury

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what does automation mean in the automotive industry?

A major element of automotive plant operations is the just-in-time inventory management system, in which manufacturers order parts, materials and other elements for production as closely as possible to when they need them. This lowers costs, minimises wastage and optimises production and efficiency. Unfortunately, it also places certain pressures around timing and planning on the manufacturer. A delay can cause production to stop at short notice or slow it down dramatically.

The JIT model places manufacturers at the mercy of the supply chain and the suppliers in it. Late deliveries and mistakes with the order are two ways they can trigger delays. Quality issues are another. Cargo may arrive damaged. Since they’re working with the bare minimum the manufacturer might not have enough inventory to substitute damaged items and may have to send them back and wait patiently for the next shipment. Again this slows manufacturing down.

Automated loading can reduce the damage to parts by allowing the company to load trailers safely. Remember that damaged parts can be dangerous. Automated loading enables the business loading a vehicle with cargo to pack the trailer tightly enough to minimise damage.

Automating loading operations also makes it possible for manufacturers in the automotive industry to get parts, especially heavy or bulky ones such as engines and tyres, from the loading dock to relevant parts of the factory or assembly plant not just more efficiently, but also more safely. Original equipment manufacturers work closely with car manufacturers, and the latter must order the parts from them and then transfer them from the loading dock to other parts of the factory when they arrive.

types of human risk in the automotive industry

When working in the automotive industry, employees face a variety of risks. Here are some of the main ones:

Ergonomic risks

Ergonomic risks are a particular hazard. Employees must lift heavy objects, carry them and put them down, but they haven’t always received the right training to do so. Performing these repetitive taska tasks incorrectly can exert stress on their bodies and create a great deal of accidents. They may suffer back, muscle and/or ligament injuries, which creates the risk and the likelihood of them dropping items and also placing their colleagues at risk.

This isn’t only the case in assembly plants, factories and other premises where people manufacture cars or car parts. Employees working in the car service sector are also at risk. Often, they have to perform tasks that include repetitive motions in uncomfortable positions or awkward ones.

Hazardous materials

Employees in the automotive industry must work with hazardous chemicals. The pads in the brake drums of cars, for instance, contain asbestos in some cases, and these can find their way into the air when a worker tries to replace them or fix them. Workers need proper protection to safeguard them against the breathing problems, chest problems and even lung cancer that long-term exposure to the chemical can create.

Antiknock agents, fuel additives used to reduce engine knocking and increase the fuel’s octane rating, and other substances are just as dangerous. Inhalation, ingestion or absorption of them through the skin can cause liver and kidney malfunctions. Manganese, touluene, benzene and xylene are other common hazardous chemicals in the automotive industry.

Fumes and metal dust

When welding, working on radiators, handling batteries, using lubricants or painting vehicles, workers have to wear suitable protective gear. If they inhale lead dust, they may suffer irreversible neurological damage. Lead in the lungs, muscle pain, abdominal trouble, digestive issues, impaired coordination, numbness and depression are all potential complications workers who don’t have the right PPE equipment may experience.

Diesel fumes can trigger nausea, dizziness and headaches. In the long run, the fumes can even cause brain damage, so it’s exceptionally important for workers to protect themselves with PPE.

Heat stress

Welding and working near controlled flames is a common and necessary part of car manufacture, but the tasks generate so much heat that employees working nearby can end up experiencing stress and discomfort. They may feel lightheaded, dizzy and confused if the exposure is excessive. They may even faint, in fact. All this increases the risk of accidents.

Risks associated with operating heavy machinery.

These can include:

  • People being struck or injured by moving parts or materials. Rollers, pulley drives and belts may also draw in parts of the body and trap them.
  • Sharp edges causing cuts. Parts that have sharp points may puncture the skin or stab it. Parts that have rough surfaces can cause friction or abrasion.
  • People being crushed between parts moving together.
  • Machine parts being so hot or cold a worker receives scolds or burns. Electricity can cause electric shocks or burns.
  • Injuries occurring because machines have developed faults or become unreliable.
  • Injuries happening because workers aren’t operating them correctly, due to a lack of training or lack of experience.

Other big risks employees may encounter when working in the automotive industry include slips, trips and falls.

how loading automation in the automotive industry can reduce workplace injuries

Thankfully, it’s possible to lower the risk of injuries by implementing automated loading solutions. Here’s how automated loading solutions help to reduce risk:

Logistic company employees in a warehouse planning process improvements to increase operational efficiency and reduce costs

Loading automation keeps loading areas free of traffic

Forklifts play a major role in loading and unloading, but unfortunately for workers, they also create a lot of safety risks. Systems such as our moving floor conveyor and powered cargo roller, which are ideal for dealing with engines, tyres and other bulky parts or materials, cut out the need for forklift trucks in loading and unloading. Forklifts don’t have to enter trailers, which reduces traffic in loading areas.

Loading automation helps to arrange cargo safely for transport

Implementing an automated truck loading system in your loading and unloading methods boosts efficiency, of course, but it also makes the loading safer in terms of how the business arranges the cargo. Automated loading systems help to pack more cargo into a trailer or other transportation vessel, and this greater utilisation of space keeps the cargo closer together and stops it from moving around as easily during transit. Cargo can suffer less damage and is less likely to fall, making it safer for the recipients to unload.

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Loading automation addresses a high-risk process

A lot of injuries can occur when it comes to working in the automotive industry, especially because employees are working with bulky or heavy parts. Loading automation makes it easier to handle them by taking care of the heavy manual work of loading. Employees load items onto the system, or the systems load them onto themselves for unloading, and the automated loading equipment will take care of the rest.

Note that as well as being strenuous, loading is repetitive. Employees can pick up injuries from performing the task repeatedly. This is another safety issue that automated loading addresses and from which they’re spared.


Loading automation reduces pressure on employees

The nature of car manufacture places pressure on planners and other employees for everything to run like clockwork, which, of course, it doesn’t always. The efficiency automated loading creates eases the pressure on workers so they can work more safely, rather than cutting corners to hit order deadlines.

Reducing risk in the automotive industry with automated loading solutions

Automating your loading takes a lot of planning and requires a significant spend upfront, so it’s best to get clear about what automating your loading would achieve for you before investing. Consider doing a health and safety review of your workplace so you can identify issues in your workplace and understand how automating your loading could solve them or, if not that, contribute to resolving them.

If you operate in the automotive industry and want to make your workplace safe, and wish to implement one of our automated loading solutions to help you achieve this, feel free to get in touch. We’ll be happy to discuss your project and advise you on which system will best meet your requirements.

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