2001 Conference Proceedings

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JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Development of E-commerce-system and picking trolley

Inger Rundström
Swedish National Labour Market Board, AMS
E-mail: inger.rundstrom@lanm.amv.se 

Jan Breding
Swedish National Labour Market Board, (AMS)
E-mail: jan.breding@ams.amv.se 

Stig Gustavsson
The Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Sweden
E-mail: stig.gustavsson@catagon.se 

Ulf Keijer
The Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Sweden
E-mail: ulf.keijer@arch.kth.se

THE SWEDISH LABOR MARKET POLICY

The Swedish labor market policy has long been distinguished by the fundamental conviction that unemployment is of primary concern to society and that the principal task for government is to keep it as low as possible. In order to combat the consequences of unemployment, the Government, acting within the framework of the general labor market policy, has pledged itself to take both general and selective measures to improve the employment prospects of jobseekers who are insecurely established in the labor market.

Whithin the general framework outlined above, it is the task of the Swedish Labor Market Board (AMS) and the County Labor Market Boards to make these principles operational. Employment offices provide the services to the jobseekers.

The basic assignment is the same, regardless of whether a jobseeker has a functional impairment or not. Special attention is paid jobseekers with reduced working capacity.

A wide range of policy programmes aimed to support persons with disabilities in their rehabilitation process towards a durable anchorage in the labor market are available.

PROGRAMME - ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

A special programme, aimed to take advantage of new technology to increase the employability of disabled individuals, was initiated in 1985 on instructions of the government. The Programme, TUFFA (Tehnological Procurement for disabled in Working Life), began to operate at significant scale in 1989 and is still operating. The main goal of the system is to provide additional technological and training resources to the general labor market policy programmes for jobseekers with functional impairment.

The power of the programme is increased by two aspects of the way TUFFA has handled assistive technology:

1. TUFFA´s client- and workplace-centered approach keeps the technology focused on real needs.

2. The holistic approach which works not only with the "black box" of technology but also with training, workplace adaptation, job placement and the employer´s needs.

Within the framework of the project, a large number of people have been helped establishing themselves in the labor market. So far, persons with vision-, hearing- and motor impairment have been in majority, taking advantage of the programme. The need to expand the programme to comprise other groups of disabled jobseekers, such as people with learning disabilities, has been obvious and is also considered possible, due to the rapid development of information and communication technology. The project, described below, is an example of this new initiative.

ANALYSIS OF THE NEW OPPORTUNITIES

In the Swedish society, as in the rest of the world, very radical changings are ongoing, partly due to the globalization of the economies, partly induced by the ongoing technical development. These changes, successively, influence the economic structures on the national levels, i.e. the labor markets. On the micro levels organizational changes take place, business opportunities develop and new types of tasks and jobs emerge.

To follow what´s going on and to be able to identify the new job opportunities on this developing labor market area, a specific project was started, carried out by the Royal Institute of Technology, (KTH) in cooperation with the National Labor Market Board (AMS). Starting point in this project was the idea that these new jobs should be available to persons with disabilities as well. The general hypothesis was that the combination of new technologies and development of services and organizational changes in local communities will offer a new job opportunities, available also for people with disabilities.

The project has a special purpose in emphasizing a number of interesting aspects to be considered at an analysis of the general problem of enforcing job opportunities to less advantageous persons in the area of information and communication technologies (ICT).

Another aspect was the importance of the possibilities to early influence in the process, a third one was to build a platform for exchange of knowledge between researchers in this area and people with competence and knowledge about disabled persons abilities and special needs.

One very concrete goal for this project was to identify a variety of new jobs, find out what the major obstacles could be and what measures could be undertaken to compensate different disabilities, in this case persons with, so called, mild intellectual disability, to increase productivity and quality of the work performed.

E-COMMERCE CREATES NEW JOBS

One interesting area to study was the consequences of the increasing use of Internet when providing and delivering food and other every day commodity.

Contact with a large market hall in South Sweden was established. The company has started an internet service for its customers. Orders are taken by the net and the goods are collected and distributed to the individual customer. A new service which already has proved to be successful. However, assumingly, it requires a profound reorganization of the delivery system, in order to make it efficient and attractive for the customers. Organizational changes often open up opportunities for new jobs, jobs not earlier recognized or fully conceived.

The market hall will fully retain their ordinary business and develop it in parallel with this new internet service. This latter activity will be considered as a business development of its own.

A customer, making her order via Internet starts an activity chain according to the following. A first step, however, is the weekly ads over the network to connected customers. The offerings for the weekend are directed via Internet, which include discounts and features of different kinds, e.g. menu suggestions, or the dietist´s counseling. Profiling is possible, meaning that specific offerings are directed to certain groups of customers.

The customers´ orders are transmitted - via Internet - to the computer system of the retailer. Compiling and packaging of the ordered goods is done manually from the shelves of the market hall. The computer orders the goods conveniently for minimizing the way through the hall. For economic reasons the compiling takes place for several customers at a time. The computer should be able to replace goods out of stock with corresponding items, possibly customer dependent.

Some food, like fruits, vegetable, fresh meat etc., have to be weighted in order to get the right quantity according to the order. Prices must be given for each item in order to produce a final bill for each order. Passing through the ordinary paying gate, checking the items once again should be avoided.

The orders are related to several other logistic issues. Frequently, the goods cannot be delivered directly after having been collected. They are stored for later delivery together with other orders and with regard to the customers' preferences regarding time and place for the delivery. In addition, some goods require cold storage.

THE NEW EQUIPMENT FOR THE CONCEPT

The figure shows a trolley most like an ordinary trolley used for shopping. The usual basket for goods is here replaced by a platform for up to three different boxes. The platform has the facility to be moved up and down, to optimize the ergonomic conditions for the user. A computer, a scale and a handscanner for the barcodes, are placed close to the handle, easy reachable for the user.

Figure 1 Picking trolley for three customers (Dator=Computer, Våg=Scale

Plocklådor=Boxes, Kund=Customer) (Source: Nomadiz, Malmö)

Incoming internet orders are sorted according to shortest path and appropriate storing into the pack-box (no tomatoes in the bottom). A computer is placed on a new type of trolley, with three boxes for the handling of three separate orders, see figure 1. The wares are put in bags in each box. The computer is connected to the central computer of the market hall. A bar-code reader is used for checking that the right item is selected according to the order. Out of stock items are replaced by predefined wares. A digital balance on the trolley is connected to the computer, for defining the amount of specific fresh food, as mentioned above.

The procedure seems to be simplistic and strait-forward. Still it contains a number of steps that call for specific attention if persons with intellectual handicaps will be able to contribute substantially in this service chain. The emerging tasks, however, are not predefined. A profound analysis together with all parties involved might very well sort out a number of routines which could constitute a complete job for persons under consideration. It is likely that some sort of technical adaptation of the work environment and the workplace, based on each individual`s ability, problems and needs, will be necessary in order to compensate for the disability. A well structured introduction and training programme must also be considered as a requirement, necessary for the individual to succeed and increase his/her productivity and quality of the work performed.

More tasks are envisaged with the same equipment. An obvious one is the successive of the emptied shelves. Also here the bar code technique is expedient for the task.

If we look at the total service delivery chain other tasks are the transport of the goods to the place where the customer picks them up and also the final delivery to the customer's premises or home. These tasks could be convenient tasks for persons with disabilities, provided appropriate organizational and technical measures are at hand.

The administration of the system for the network service may be another task which could be handled by people with disabilities, in this case, however, more likely with a person with a physical handicap. Other jobs are the care of customer relationships, handling complaints, advertising and web site development and maintenance.


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