New technological advancements such as Google Glass, automation, Augmented Reality (AR), smart watches, and tablets contribute to an innovative productivity-boosting process and improvements for warehousing.
Increasing operational efficiency, productivity, and safety by performing hands-free tasks has always been a goal in the warehouse. With the aid of wearable technology this is now not only possible but recommended since the results can boost productivity, increase efficiency, reduce time, and reduce errors.
The widely spread use of smartphones, tablets, and more recently smart watches have contributed to the spread of location-based Augmented Reality (AR) applications. Industries from retail to healthcare providers have embraced AR to enhance customer experience enabling businesses to add a fourth dimension to their products.
Google Glass boosts productivity in the warehouse
Productivity-boosting technology innovation and applications for order picking are quickly replacing manual order picking in the warehouse. This results in more efficient, faster order picking and avoids human errors as well. Active Ants, an e-fulfillment specialist in the Netherlands, is the first Dutch company to use Google Glass technology for order picking. Active Ants has reported that warehouse order picking using Google Glass is 15% faster and reduces errors by 12%.
Active Ants worked with Glasseffect, a Dutch company that designs context-driven Google Glass services, and is also a partner of the Google Glass Explorer Program that is working to develop a specific application for Active Ants' specific requirements in the warehouse.
Startups which see the potential of this technologies are creating more options of the technology that will generate billions in just a couple of years' time to be used in the warehouse by logistics providers wanting to use the latest technology to bring agility to the business. Smartpick, a startup based in Ghent, Belgium, for example, leverages the Google technology for order picking and sorting.
Augmented Reality and Google Glass change warehouse operations
Augmented Reality (AR) has also entered the realm of logistics service providers' warehouses. DHL, for example, found out that AR can add value in a warehouse environment by increasing productivity by 25%. This was the result of running a test by DHL in the Netherlands for potentially using AR in logistics, and possibly in other areas of the supply chain as well.
The test was ran for three weeks using vision-picking technology from Google Glass, competitor Vuzix, technology firm Ricoh, and Germany based leader for Industrial Wearable Computing Solutions Ubimax. Watch the video below to see how vision-picking works:
plications of AR in logistics
AR in logistics is in relatively early stages of adoption, however, it could bring significant benefits that can't be ignored. This report, Augmented Reality in Logistics (PDF) by DHL Trend Research, raises awareness for the potential applications of AR in the logistics industry. According to the report, latest forecasts predict that by 2017 the AR market will grow to $5.2 billion. Experts foresee AR as the next big thing in the consumer, retail, medical, mobile, automotive, and manufacturing markets.
DHL Trend Research envisions several use cases for AR in the logistics industry arranged in the following categories:
- Warehousing operations
- Transportation optimization
- Last-mile delivery
- Enhanced value-added services
Driving the AR revolution
The future of logistics includes the adoption of AR in almost every step of the logistics value chain. From picking-by-vision in warehouses to assisting customers with after-sales activities the trend will continue to grow. It is clear that as more logistics providers adopt AR a new revolution will rise in the warehouse.