- An augmented reality tool allowed warehouse pickers to complete orders an average of 37% faster than those using paper-based lists, when tested on inexperienced workers, according to a case study published last year in The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
- In the case, researchers had inexperienced pickers retrieve 20 parts from a warehouse. Those using the AR tool were able to complete the task in an average time of 10.3 minutes, while the workers using paper lists took an average of 16.5 minutes. Along with making picking faster, there was also a reduction in picking error.
- But when experienced workers were tested, the paper list performed better, the researchers found. "The reason may be that skilled workers have a good understanding of the picking task and environments," the paper reads.
Companies have been testing AR solutions in warehouse environments for years now with the aim of improved accuracy and efficiency throughout the supply chain. A 2019 report from Zebra Technologies shows that 93% of survey respondents expect to have adopted wearable computing devices by 2028.
In that time, the technology could become cheaper, making it more palatable for companies to invest in. A 2018 review of wearable warehouse technologies scored different scanning applications based on cost, ergonomic efficiency and training effort. That paper provided the highest score to glove-mounted scanners, followed by generic eye-glass-mounted scanners.
DHL decided to expand a "vision picking" program in 2019 after finding the AR technology helped to increase productivity by 15%.
DHL has used Google smart glasses to help pickers locate, scan, sort, and move inventory. In the case study, the researchers used a Seengene XMAN Glass, which they specifically noted benefitted from a wider field of view than Google's Glass product.
The AR tool used by the researchers in the paper showed pickers where the next pick was located with a directional arrow, along with the current rack number and the current status of the ongoing order pick.
This research also suggests that some of the main benefits of the technology could be in training new workers and getting them up to speed more quickly. Training has long been considered one of the best use cases for AR and virtual reality technology.
Wearable technology has also seen specific use cases arise as a result of the pandemic. Amazon, for example, is testing technology that alerts workers that get too close in an attempt to encourage social distancing, according to CNBC.