Mixed Reality in Logistics

An article on FreightWaves looks at the role immersive tech, especially mixed reality, can play in improving the logistics industry.  Ground-level workers within the logistics realm often find themselves in a position where physical handling of packages is inevitable – be it in warehouses, loading docks, or last-mile delivery operations. Though most of these tasks seem to be mundane and fairly simple processes, workers often have to juggle several items and product lists at the same time, making them prone to mistakes or errors in judgement.

It is here that mixed reality, a concept that fuses augmented and virtual reality, can be put to good use by helping workers become hands-free with the processes and focus solely on the package at hand. Workers wear smart glasses that act as a hands-free communication device, connecting people with the processes by displaying real-time digital information in their field of view.

“Mixed reality is considered the next major technology platform. We went from the desktop to the laptop, and to using phones and tablets today. Market studies indicate that in the next decade, smart glasses will be the next big thing in technology,” said Nick Cherukuri, founder and CEO at ThirdEye Gen, a mixed reality hardware and enterprise solutions company.

Ground-level logistics personnel have the need to look down at their hand-held readers and tablets to gather information on the packages to be processed. Cherukuri explained that with mixed reality solutions, all the information required for workers to function could be displayed visually, helping them work faster and more efficiently.

“Roughly 80 percent of the global workforce uses their hands while they work during the day. So being hands-free is incredibly utilitarian. Mixed reality can also be used to provide remote assistance. So when a worker wears smart glasses, a person who is somewhere else can also exactly see what the worker sees. The worker can then get live step-by-step instructions on how to fix a machine under repair,” said Cherukuri.

The ease in relaying information helps businesses save time and money, with Cherukuri pointing out that efficiency rises by about 40 percent in certain situations. “It also improves worker safety and lowers errors that occur during operations,” he said. “The biggest markets for mixed reality right now are industrial warehousing, logistics field services and healthcare.”

ThirdEye Gen has had interactions with logistics giants like DHL, FedEx, Walmart and Amazon, to understand their worker-related warehousing problems. From those discussions, ThirdEye Gen learned that picking error rates were noticeably high. For instance, a worker in a warehouse could mislabel a cart, and thus, the packages in the cart end up being wrongly assigned, causing complications with last-mile delivery.

“With mixed reality smart glasses, workers do not have the need to carry around a manual or a hand-held scanner, and can get instructions just by looking at a package and scanning its QR code. Details like where the package is from, where it needs to be moved, what kind of label should the package have –  all these can be displayed on the glasses,” said Cherukuri.

Information on the efficiency levels of workers, including data on the time they take to handle a package, overall effective time spent and their productivity during the day, can be gathered and sent to management so they can have an eagle-eye view over operations.

Cherukuri explained that though the technology is still not available at a price point that is conducive to smaller businesses today, the advancement in technology will help make the glasses much cheaper in the future. ThirdEye Gen already manufactures one of the smallest and cheapest mixed reality glasses on the market, which Cherukuri said will only get better with time.

“Mixed reality is a new technology, and thus it is important to educate businesses on how it can be quickly and effectively deployed across their operations,” said Cherukuri. “It is essential to convince them to invest in the technology that can really incentivize their business, with a return on investment (ROI) seen within just a month of deployment.”

Find out more about ThirdEye Gen on their AREA member profile.


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