Smart electronic devices in the form of wearables are delivering intriguing possibilities for logistics companies.
Wearables are hands-free devices connected to the internet which automatically deliver information to the wearer. MHI predicts that 70% of warehouse facilities will adopt some form of wearables by 2023.
This trend is happening for good reason. Brands such as UPS use wearables to streamline their supply-chain processes and save time.
The devices increase productivity within warehouses and around the business-strategy table. They offer three main advantages to today’s supply-chain managers: they minimize manual labor, provide comprehensive data, and offer real-time feedback. Companies with logistics operations should evaluate whether these use cases can add value to their business.
Minimize Manual Labor
Wearables streamline warehouse workflows by removing manual steps from day-to-day processes.
Solutions such as barcode scanners allow logistics workers to quickly scan barcodes without picking up packages. This allows for a faster, more ergonomic process. In addition, scanner-enabled wearables allow employees to automatically send reports to management that would otherwise have to be manually typed in.
In 2011, UPS gave international supply chain workers scanner-enabled rings. The electronic device increases the efficiency of transferring packages between facilities. It sends the data to a terminal worn on the worker’s hip. Then the package information travels via Wi-Fi to a UPS data center.
Since that time, wearable scanners have advanced. Now, they can link to smartphones via Bluetooth. The scanners quickly inform workers if they’ve chosen the wrong item or selected the wrong amount.
The more often workers move inventory, the greater the benefits of barcode scanners. Saving 30 seconds per item adds value when you’re dealing with hundreds of items each day. Morever, warehouse workers using wearables have fewer steps in their workflow. This saves time, improves the reliability of operations, and enhances employees’ quality of life at work.
Provide Comprehensive Data
Wearables allow businesses to monitor their workers’ physical activity, location, and health. With this information, management can form strategies accordingly.
For instance, smart devices with biometric sensors report stress indicators such as a worker’s heart rate. This informs employers how their employees’ bodies react to physical labor.
A Fitbit is a well-known example of a fitness tracker that has been used in the workplace. Other wearables have been designed specifically for logistics operations. For example, Kinetic offers a wearable solution called Reflex that tracks irregular physical movement. Management can access dashboard analytics to understand the safety risks their workforce may face.
The Reflex wearable is designed to reduce the number of workplace injuries. If unsafe postures are detected, it provides real-time feedback to workers through vibration. The devices help employees learn ergonomic physical movements. Once employers have this data, they can take steps to adjust roles according to workers’ strengths and weaknesses.
The comprehensive data collected by warehouse wearables gives management the opportunity to better serve workers’ needs.
Offer Real-Time Feedback
Voice headsets, which are connected to a phone on the user, increase the accuracy of warehouse work through real-time feedback. Employees receive directions via the headset, and log reports after completing an action. They are notified if a report conflicts with the instructions they were given.
Honeywell Intelligrated offers a wearable solution for workers who locate and move items. It consists of a headset and device that straps onto the worker’s hip. According to the company, the wearable technology allows workflow accuracy rates of up to 99.9%. Headsets are connected with administrative controls that relay ongoing instructions to workers.
In addition to telling employees which items to choose, the hands-free solution directs them to the correct location for inventory pickups. Managers can use the system to communicate with employees while they’re in the warehouse.
Innovative voice solutions incorporate analytics to further optimize workflows. For example, a smart wearable can restructure workers’ tasks based on dynamic priorities. Voice-enabled wearables increase the productivity of logistics workers by providing dynamic instructions in the ever-changing warehouse environment.
The combination of human labor and smart devices offers useful opportunities for logistics companies. Barcode scanners, biometric sensors, and voice-picking solutions reduce manual labor and improve employees’ quality of life at work. They also augment workers’ ability to correctly locate, sort, and transfer warehouse items. Management teams can analyze data generated by these devices to further optimize their operations.
Companies that incorporate wearables notice enhancements in both the accuracy and speed of their operations.