Every morning, warehouse worker Jack Westley puts on a belt to work, securing a black device the size of a smartphone. It records each of its movements and transmits data about it to the employer. And this is not the beginning of a fantastic story in which the "big brother" is watching us. This is the real life, because such devices are already used in Walmart farms. Manufacturers point out that such trackers can improve the safety system and reduce the number of injuries. But not everything is so easy.
Why keep an eye on the workers?
Created by startup StrongArm Technologies (and named StrongArm), the device collects and sends information about work and labor productivity to employers. The inventors of Gadget say that trackers can supplement existing safety programs by identifying people who need additional training, as well as devices that help locate places that need to be rebuilt to reduce the likelihood of injury and improve productivity.
The working principle of the StrongArm device is quite simple: it records the performance of the muscles and how effectively they work by reading out electrical impulses. For example, in a series of tests at several sites, StrongArm found that there was a place in a warehouse where workers often had to turn their backs too much. There, the staff stood by the conveyor belt, watching the movement of objects, and sending them along the 90-degree curved belt. The StrongArm software recommended changing the angle of the tape by 45 degrees. Injuries were much less.
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In another trial, StrongArm had to study high fatigue rates among temporary workers. During the preliminary talks, camp supervisors seemed to suspect that the workers were simply lazy. However, the StrongArm system found that it was overwhelmed by pulling boxes four times faster than normal personnel to complete the job faster. This made it possible to do a great deal of work in the short term, but if additional efforts were needed, the staff just did not have the stamina they needed. As a result, the pay system was overhauled, which did not put people in a hurry. Now StrongArm is used by more than 30 companies including Heineken NV and Toyota.
Trade unions, however, fear that employers who start collecting data on workers may be able to use this data against them. First and foremost, they are sure that workers can be fired or punished if their productivity decreases. However, the opacity of data analysis tools can make it difficult to understand why this happened. What do you think? Is this progress or an additional element of monitoring? Write about it in our chat in telegram.
At the same time, the manufacturers of StrongArm declare that the products are exclusively designed to increase safety and performance. The company also claims that the device does not track individual performance and that all data is received by employers in anonymous form.