Expansion of Augmented reality across industries: Supply Chain

Augmented reality as a blend between real world and virtual one has been developing for the past decades and is finally, due to technological advances, reaching its true potential. The composite view generated by AR system augments the scene viewed by user with additional information. This method can enhance the user’s sensory perception of the virtual world they are seeing or interacting with. The borders between the virtual and real world blend and user cannot tell the difference between the two. Augmented Reality is already used in entertainment, military training, engineering design, robotics, manufacturing and other industries.

AR has got everything to do with human perception and this is why in the pilot project it was used to improve the efficiency of manual operations, such as picking, completeness checks, trade documentation preparation, handling, assembly and warehouse planning. Currently warehousing accounts for about 20% of all logistics costs, with two-thirds of this share resulting from picking. Commonly used method of pick-by-paper can have high error rates and long picking times. The project tested pick-by-vision software where staff equipped with head mounted displays are guided to the right shelf, similarly to Google Maps, and the object recognition feature finds and scans the product.

Although the results demonstrated an average 25% increase in pickers’ performance, no further trials by other companies suffering from high levels of picking errors, or any warehouse operators for that matter were reported. This is however not the first trial of its kind. The first prototype was already developed 10 years ago but despite the encouraging results still did not become operational. AR being one of latest and most influential current technological trends creates enormous publicity for the company involved in its testing and the positive results are reported promptly. But despite the encouraging results the technology doesn’t seem to be catching on. Suppose the infrastructure can be developed, additional costs are justified and the concept is welcomed by public. What is holding the companies back? Can the use of augmented reality for the already routine and monotonous tasks augment the reality to the point of degrading it?