Why Supply Chains Love Wearable Tech

Robert Brice
Fri, Jun 24, 2016
Wearables are more popular than ever in business settings.
Wearables are more popular than ever in business settings.

Wearable technology is growing in popularity in a variety of industries. The International Data Corporation predicted wearable manufacturers will sell more than 200 million units in 2019. This would mean a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent between 2016 and 2019. While some of this growth is motivated by improvements to consumer smartwatches, certain businesses turn to wearables for the unique information processes they can provide.

Supply chain logistics management professionals often show great interest in any asset with potential to provide real-time insight into procurement, storage and shipping activities. When the employees in charge of picking and preparing orders wear data collection devices, they can send updates about every action and provide benefits for all parties involved in the supply chain.

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Good for Business

There are many different kinds of wearable devices. Voice recognition technology allows for hands-free, eyes-free voice picking while providing supervisors with a direct look at warehouse tasks. Employees can wear data collection devices to access ERP software simply and easily. More advanced options may fit into clothing and vests to track movements and monitor safety.

All of these options encourage visibility. By selecting the right devices, managers can get direct insight into exactly how tasks are performed and where improvements can be made. Supply & Demand Chain Executive suggested 2016 will see a huge increase in warehouse application of cloud-supported wearable devices that turn worker actions into observable data integrated into company information systems.

Managers with direct access to information they can compare and contrast to other data in a company's ERP system can make calls and plan routines for maximum efficiency. The RFgen white paper "Making the Case for Wearable Tech in the Warehouse" described how an ecommerce procurement center implemented Google Glass into daily picking activities,  increasing order preparation speed by 15 percent and decreasing errors by 12 percent. Any information that improves productivity is good for a company's bottom line.

Good for Employees

Some managers may feel employees will protest wearables because staff will feel like they're being outfitted with tracking chips. Research performed by Rackspace suggested this isn't true - in fact, it's quite the opposite, according to Entrepreneur. When a grocery store provided employees with arm bands to track inventory management activities, it increased speed and efficiency and worker satisfaction. Wearable users were 8 percent more productive and 3.5 percent happier with their work.

The convenience of wearable devices means employees also benefit from simple data collection processes. Most companies require their workers to report performance in some way. Wearables can remove busywork through connected devices and automate data collection. Instead of forcing employees to fill out forms, managers can just turn on live feeds.

Managers should ask about worker needs before purchasing wearable assets. Employee feedback allows decision-makers to determine which features of new technology will best serve daily tasks without causing negative disruption.

Good for Consumers

In the end, a business's success will rely on satisfying consumers. Wearable technology is not just a solution for simplifying internal procedures, the effects of improved productivity and happier workers should find their ways to consumers. Not only will products move faster, but the end result should be of the highest quality.

East West Manufacturing suggested wearable devices offer the data collection performance necessary to inspect inventory in real time. When workers handle, move and prepare products with devices that allow them to report problems, they can make errors instantly visible. At the same time, monitoring warehouse management procedures through cameras and convenient computing devices creates a data trail companies and regulators can inspect during recalls or other issues.

The more information a business has available, the easier it is to answer consumer questions. Wearable technology makes data collection a simple part of regular activities, so there's more than enough details for curious customers. 

Making the Case for Wearable Tech in the Warehouse White Paper

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