The logistics industry has expanded and improved drastically in the past decade. With globalization, the growth of e-commerce, and the advancements in technology, the end-users became more demanding but less patient. And so, we are now living in a world that customer experience is significantly connected to fast and accurate delivery. Hence logistics companies are expected to facilitate the constant movement of goods and services with great care and do it in the minimum amount of time.
In the logistics industry, most operations are held by humans, and therefore the work is highly affected by the workers’ decisions, conditions, and fatigue. To supply the demand of the consumption economy, logistics companies have to shift their operations from human-dependent to technology-dependent. With the developments in technology, it is now possible and undoubtedly essential to reduce the workload and simplify the decision-making and routine operations.
Innovative technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) enable logistics and transportation businesses to optimize efficiency by automating and standardizing the workflows. Using AR can enhance warehouses’ maintenance, improve packaging and order picking processes, and reduce the time spent on transportation and delivery.
AR technology combines the real world with computer-generated visualizations by applications developed to improve augmenting real-world spaces with additional and necessary virtual information. By projecting digital images, models, and texts to physical objects through advanced mobile devices and smart glasses, AR can boost the workers’ understanding and improve their work pace. To lower the error rates and ease the workers’ decision-making process in logistics, it is necessary to use technologies like AR and simplify their tasks. It will also clarify most of the logistic business steps like assembly, storage, sorting, inventory, order picking, transportation, and more.
A good receipt is the incoming goods and material in the warehouse. It is generally the first step that goods enter the logistics cycle. The work here is to unload the received goods, check the quality and quantity, and transfer them into the warehouse. To simplify this step, AR can be used to review the incoming goods’ necessary information, like how to unload accurately and automate and digitalize the process of quality check and counting.
After receiving the goods, workers transfer them into the warehouses, where they will be stored until shipping. Since there are many different types of goods made out of various materials and in numerous shapes and sizes, storing them has to be done deliberately. Likewise, the warehouses’ size and capacity are critical elements, which can lead to chaos unless the storage is done precisely. In the storing process, AR can be used to display pictures or videos of the goods to make it easier for the workers to identify which item to pick and how to handle them. Like an in-house GPS, AR can also be used to display the goods and workers’ location while showing where the goods need to go by projecting digital maps and signs on the workers’ real-time environment. This way, the best and fastest routes will be used, and process quality will be optimized. Additionally, if the businesses integrate the AR applications in their management and control systems, they can automate the goods’ inventory.
As the logistics industry evolve and expand greatly, the warehouses turned into gigantic stations that serve not only for storing purposes but also for maintenance, assembly, labeling, packaging, etc. To keep these massive places in order while all of the work is going on, the warehouses’ design and arrangement should be flawless. Also, because there is a constant flow of items as new goods come and go, the warehouses’ plan constantly changes and should be rearranged for the new set of goods. These rearrangements can be formed and checked digitally with AR solutions before physical modification. By in-depth visualization of the warehouses, necessary measurements can be tested, new workflow plans can be created, and real-time or future conditions can be displayed. Most of the time and energy spent while planning to remodel the warehouses can be transferred to digital environments. Thus, the expenses can be decreased, and possible work delays occurring because of any miscalculations can be avoided.
One of the most extensive steps in the logistics industry is order picking. Considering the complexity of the tasks and high dependence on human activity, it is also one of the most challenging business parts. Therefore, it is typical that a significant portion of the total money spent in the industry is used in this step and for optimizing it. While picking, it is crucial for the workers to pick the correct item from the right place in the minimum amount of time and without any damage. In this case, hand-free working is becoming essential. Using AR Smart Glasses makes it possible for the workers to work with both hands while continuing to see the additional information and checking conditions of the goods. AR can help workers pick the correct item with object recognition and confirm if its quality or quantity is adequate in a shorter time. Also, barcode reading and digital-based inquiries built with AR eliminates the traditional paper-based checking system, and again, the workers will be able to use both hands while picking. Besides, the audit for picked items will be automated.
The freight loading process is another significant step for the logistics and transportation of goods. It demands competent management to have an optimal operation flow. The accuracy of arrangement and preservation of goods with various freight sizes, weights, fragility, and end-destinations is vital. Businesses can use AR systems to better understand the cargo space and more effective estimation and planning instead of subjective measurement or erroneous calculations of humans. For easier and simpler loading and delivery, basic information about the goods and loading and unloading information can be given to the workers through AR, with digital highlights in real-world cargo and trucks, both before and during the process. Consequently, the arrangement and positioning will be optimized for carrying the ideal amount of goods, better item recognition, and faster take-outs.
For ideal and cost-efficient transportation of the goods, businesses should aid the workers in charge with the necessary information about the items and the routes they have to take. AR technology can provide the operators with data and instructions on traffic, alternative and faster routes, and overall transporting vehicle conditions. Besides saving time, fuel, and money with automating displays of these instructions, it can also prohibit the possible damages to the transported goods. If there is a complication in the cargo spaces, AR systems can alert the operators to check the goods and work out the problems to save them with instant precautions and prevent possible losses.
Last-mile delivery is the last and a very costly step of the logistics cycle. One of the main reasons that it is such an expensive step is that last-mile delivery is held in a distinct structure that businesses cannot have complete control over – in the urban space. In the warehouses or cargo space is where the companies can plan a range and control most of the things it is easier to work for more efficiency and optimization. However, in the urban space, the businesses have to adjust their workflow for last-mile delivery in line with the specific city or town that the goods are transported. Since every urban area has its own characteristics, it is not possible to plan every phase beforehand. A significant percentage of the job lies in the hands of the operators in the transportation vehicle. AR systems can assist the drivers and carriers with information on the delivery place, like highlighting the buildings and showing entrances. Likewise, it can also work as an indoor GPS and navigate carriers in large indoor areas where standard navigation systems like Google Maps might fail to speed up deliveries.
As explained in this article, there are plenty of ways that AR solutions can be used for the logistics industry. As the technology grows and logistics budgets expand, the necessity for wearable devices and AR systems is increasing though fortunately, they are also getting simpler to use and less