A Case for Wearable Tech in the Warehouse

Tim Ingles
Fri, Aug 21, 2015
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Google Glasses and other data reporting tools can be worn by warehouse workers.

Every corner of a business has to operate with big data in mind. The information generated by sales, human resources, production and inventory management contributes to a company's infrastructure. A complete picture of operations is necessary for satisfying the modern customer and competing in a global market.

Unfortunately, warehouse workers don't have time to constantly report to a computer terminal. To keep inventory workers included in the overall system, companies have employed mobile technologies. As modern warehouses introduced tech tools, they discovered a need for devices that offer data exchange without distracting or inconveniencing their users. Mobile devices worn by warehouse workers offer the convenience, speed and practicality necessary for modern distribution demands.

New Technologies
Sometimes technology breakthroughs have trouble finding an audience. Tools designed for the consumer market might find a place in industry and vice versa.

When Google introduced Google Glass, the company's leaders were hoping they had created a piece of tech that would replace some mobile devices. The product never really took off as a consumer favorite, but Hacked said Google Glass may find a second life as tool for skilled laborers and warehouse workers.

Mobile devices like Google Glass provide a hands-free way for employees to access and share information. Tech-equipped eyewear displays process information to workers who are performing intricate tasks. It allows warehouse workers to view items and client specifications while picking orders. The glasses also come equipped with a camera, so supervisors can see what their employees are seeing.

Computer Weekly suggested one reason smart glasses never took off in the consumer market is because they are kind of bulky for everyday use. Workers aren't concerned with fashion, especially when safety is concerned. The camera capabilities of data-sharing eyewear provide a completely accurate account of what happened during a warehouse accident or other issue. A real-time data collection device that sends details to the ERP system that should be analyzed to prevent future incidents. 

Wearables and ERP
Wearable technology gives workers the chance to contribute to a company-wide ERP system. Enterprise software gathers information from different sections of a company and gets it to work together, sometimes in ways the company had not imagined.

Diginomica indicated data reporting tools like smart glasses, mobile devices and voice-picking capture data about individual employee performance. Glasses record warehouse travel paths. Tablets and phones log performance time. Voice capture technology allows workers to ask questions directly to supervisors despite their geographical distance. Wearable tech provides workers autonomy while acting as a constant source of information for the warehouse management system.

This information helps create schedules, estimates delivery times and charts warehouse performance. The more data that is delivered, the better informed management decisions can be. Computer Weekly said companies may use ERP software on smart glasses and watches to monitor employee health. Increased stress levels or other problems are flagged when coming from employees who are operating heavy machinery. Measuring the number of steps taken by inventory workers indicates how efficient picking paths are.

Physical measurement is just the latest strategy being explored by companies attempting to discover optimum ROI for new technology. Software partners with experience in particular industries can suggest uses for data. When shopping for hands-free solutions, a warehouse should find a provider that has experience with many unique distribution needs.

Hands-Free Inventory Solutions
Smart glasses and ERP equipped watches are fairly new, voice technology is a data collection solution that has already shown proven success.

According to an RFgen Software data sheet, voice-directed warehouse operations offer step-by-step directions, hands-free activity and fast user uptake. There isn't much training needed to implement the solution into a warehouse and proper adoption leads to a quick ROI. Employees picking inventory using instructions from a wrist-mounted computer and audio feedback make fewer mistakes. The headset allows workers to ask questions or report progress. The wearable technology integrates with company software, so inventory teams can become part of the infrastructure without taking time out of daily performance.

A company that relies on distribution and warehouse performance would be wise to team up with a software partner who specializes in mobile implementation. Working with a software provider ensures a company is made aware of any technical advances made available to its industry.

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