How Augmented Reality is disrupting supply chains. – Abhilasha Satpathy

With over one billion AR enabled smartphones and tablets already in use, companies don’t have to wait for low-cost augmented reality glasses to start reaping the benefits of augmented reality. Here are five ways that AR is transforming the supply chain into a nimble tool for global distribution:

1) Pick-and-Pack Services

Augmented reality is being used in warehouses to more efficiently locate products and pack them in outgoing boxes. One of the costliest parts of running a “pick and pack” service is training new workers to navigate a large warehouse and find the one product they are searching for. AR glasses can paint an imaginary line on the warehouse floor to simplify the searching and training. During the peak holiday season, temporary workers need to be on-boarded quickly. AR shortens the learning curve by providing new hires with constant feedback on their glasses about how they are doing and what can be improved. Field tests of AR pick-and-pack systems have reduced errors by as much as 40%.

2) Collaborative Robotics

Robots are the ultimate human augmentation. Workers sitting comfortably at their desks can wear AR glasses that let them see what a robot in the warehouse sees. AR glasses can now chart the paths of robots through warehouses and use their strength to lift and move heavy cargo. Dangerous or repetitive tasks, such as loading a truck, can be delegated to robots that operate with human guidance when it comes to how to best load the items to achieve the maximum load. Additionally, logistics robots are able to scan each product for damage, check its weight, and abide by any package shipping instructions. By connecting robots with managers, customers can be automatically alerted if any products that aren’t available before the truck even leaves the warehouse.

3) Maintenance

Fixing a problem before it happens is the most cost-effective form of maintenance. With many aircraft engines now transmitting usage data via Wi-Fi when they are on the ground, augmented reality is assisting maintenance crews in reducing engine downtime by comparing engine data with the past history of other similar aircraft with avionics systems. These algorithms then suggest maintenance before a problem is likely to occur. For planes that spend most of their ground time at distant locations, AR can also enable more experienced maintenance teams at the airline’s hub to see what local technicians are dealing with and provide timely live support.

4) Last Mile Delivery

In logistics, the last-mile of delivery to customers is the most expensive. AR can save money by cutting the time spent on last-mile delivery nearly in half. According to a DHL report, drivers spend 40% to 60% of their day searching inside their own truck for the correct boxes to deliver next. Instead of having to remember how their truck was loaded that morning, augmented reality is used to identify, tag, sequence, and locate every parcel. Combined with artificial intelligence, AR glasses can also navigate the driver to the proper door or building gate for delivery. These systems will record each and every delivery so that new drivers will benefit from past driver experiences. In the near future, every driver will be given a graphic overlay of each building they encounter.

5) Procurement

The distributed ledger capability of blockchain is being combined with augmented reality to bring transparency and traceability to procurement. The entire supply chain falls apart when customers can’t be assured of a product’s origin or authenticity. Each year, billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit pharmaceuticals are distributed to patients, and tens of thousands are dying. Using AR to identify and track each shipment from manufacturer to end user is a way to help solve this deadly problem. Recording each transfer of ownership on a blockchain can also assist in tracing the origin of fish or the source of harvested crops.

Big data drives the decision making behind the world’s distribution of products throughout the supply chain. Augmented reality is now poised to exponentially increase the speed at which data can be analyzed and acted on. The insights augmented reality bring to the supply chain can be used to power the next generation of the supply chain, which will feature autonomous vehicles and delivery drones.

References:

“5 Ways Augmented Reality Is Disrupting the Supply Chain.” Fortune, fortune.com/2018/03/01/5-ways-augmented-reality-is-disrupting-the-supply-chain/.

Questions:

  1. How does augmented reality help in reducing costs in supply chain?
  2. How is blockchain is being combined with augmented reality to bring transparency and traceability to procurement?
  3. How does augmented reality help in last-mile delivery?