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?

How robots are changing Supply Chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

One business area ripe for business process disruption enabled by robotics is supply chain execution, especially in order fulfillment processes in the warehouse. These processes typically involve a high degree of human involvement as well as a tremendous amount of movement throughout a facility. Now, it’s not as if robotics have been absent from these areas in the past; there are use case examples, but none at a large scale across supply execution. Those organizations that have introduced robots into their warehousing and fulfillment operations have delivered added value including productivity improvements, efficiency gains, the capability to better scale up/down with demand spikes and the ability to improve customer service levels.

The most familiar example of robotics in the fulfillment process is at Amazon. Thee-commerce giant acquired Kiva Systems (now known as Amazon Robotics) in 2012 for $775 million. Since then, Amazon has continuously expanded their use to upwards of 80,000 robots across 25 distribution centers. Through their deployment, Amazon has been able to accelerate delivery times and reduce fulfillment related costs. According to a note published by Deutsche Bank, the deployment of the robots equates to a roughly $22 million per year savings in facilities where they are in use, or an estimated 20% reduction to operating costs. If Deutsche Bank’s estimates are close, Amazon has proven that there is tremendous value to be gained through the use of robotics within the fulfillment center.

For some, a Kiva-type model will work quite well. These utilize fast-moving robots that shuttle entire racks of inventory from a segregated section of the fulfillment center to a picking station, where a picker selects the inventory needed to fill an order. After a pick, a robot returns the rack to back to the floor and moves on to the next pick. A rack-to-person model is best suited to high throughput facilities where speed is the most important element. The benefits include the ability to rapidly move product to picking locations and accelerate fulfillment cycles. However, the rack-to-person model also has its drawbacks. For example, it requires some facility modification to create a segregated area where the robots can safely operate and it requires a guidance mechanism to ensure that the robots operate within the appropriate spaces. These systems are not necessarily collaborative because humans aren’t allowed to work in the same aisles where the robots are operating.  One final drawback is that with these models, half of the movement is spent returning racks after a pick, essentially retaining 50% of the wasted movement in the process.

References:

Santagate, J., & Santagate, J. (2018, January 25). NextGen Supply Chain: The Robots are Here. Retrieved from https://www.scmr.com/article/nextgen_supply_chain_the_robots_are_here

Questions:

  1. How are robots disrupting supply chains?
  2. How are robots increasing operating efficiencies?
  3. How are robots helping in warehousing and fulfillment operations?

 

 

DRONES IN GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Two years ago, in an article in SCMR author Nick Vyas outlined real-life applications for drones in the healthcare industry, and predicted other use cases such as pipeline inspections or deliveries of parts and supplies in hard to access areas.

He also noted that “PINC, a provider of yard management systems, has deployed a solution that utilizes drones to identify the location of trailers, shipping containers, and other assets in hard to reach areas. Equipped to carry GPS, RFID, OCR, and barcode readers, the drones can fly overhead to quickly locate and identify assets that have been tagged in a yard or port.”

So, what is the state of drones in the supply chain today?

Companies are focused on improving inventory accuracy to achieve higher supply chain velocity. Tasks like taking inventory and cycle counting are still carried out by humans which can be done more than 300 times faster by drones.

What is the state of the technology? Today, the drone, or robot, flies autonomously in a gps-denied environment using advanced sensors. The company’s warehouse management system (WMS) feeds existing inventory information to the PINC application via integration. When the robot receives a task to count inventory – say the number of cartons on pallets in a storage bay – the software first creates the optimal path for the drone to travel based on mapping done previously.

The drone doesn’t need markers or lasers for guidance to navigate through warehouses. The robot is equipped with an optical system combined with computer vision and deep learning technologies. When it passes through an assigned location, which it knows by the X, Y and Z coordinates, it visually inspects inventory labels and takes photos of the inventory to be counted.

The digital images are processed in real time to generate a count, which is compared against the known count in the WMS system. Since the system manages by exception, after taking inventory, the application provides an exception report to the operator who can click on the exceptions, look at a photo to confirm a count and then, if needed, update the WMS.

Down the road, Yearling expects conversations about using drones in transportation to continue, if for no other reason than the amount of spend on transportation.

References:

https://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/the_emerging_role_for_drones

 

Questions:

  1. How are drones being used in supply chain today?
  2. How do drones aid Warehouse Management Systems?
  3. How do drones improve inventory accuracy?