January 23, 2018
A recent Wall Street Journal article depicts how productivity in supply chains is becoming increasingly reliant on IoT devices, particularly wearables in warehouses. Devices connected to cloud computing warehouse management systems (WMS) in eyewear, gloves and wrist-wear help optimize picking and put-away routes to save time and increase throughput.
By 2022, analysts predict that demand for distribution wearables will increase four-fold. Mark Ferguson, Director of Technology and Innovation at UPS Supply Chain Solutions, indicates that companies are prioritizing flexibility in their supply chains. Cloud computing programs coupled with IoT can help businesses make adjustments to their distribution programs under changing client demand and market conditions.
Smart Glasses in Distribution Environments
Warehouse workers wearing smart glasses can use heads up displays to guide them to pallet locations and see instructions on what to pick. This helps improve accuracy and efficiency in the picking process where saving seconds on aggregate can contribute significantly to the bottom line. Analysts have measured up to 25% efficiency gains and near 100% picking accuracy in pick and pack operations due to the adoption of wearables. As the devices improve, they become more comfortable and ergonomic for employees working long shifts.
In 2015, UPS deployed Google Glass to help with sorting packages and reducing the number of labels required for shipments. UPS is also now experimenting with virtual reality to drive efficiencies in its operations.
IoT for Inventory Management
The article showcases the German electronics company, Bechtle, that deployed smart glasses with barcode scanning capabilities. This allows for employees to use sight to log merchandise into inventory. The process proved so successful that the company no longer uses manual inventory entries for small parts.
Overall, deploying IoT wearables in distribution centers can improve speed, efficiency and accuracy. It ultimately leads to greater throughput and better customer service. Employees also feel more comfortable and spend less time doing re-work. IoT technologies in distribution environments is accessible for companies of all sizes. If it’s too cumbersome to employ these technologies in-house, partnering with a 3PL or leading logistics provider will allow your organization to take advantage of some of these IoT benefits.