As smart watches, fitness trackers and other wearable technologies become more common in our daily lives, warehousing & distribution center workers are beginning to expect the same seamless usability and performance from the technology that they use on the job. Just as we no longer need to hold a device in our hand to receive a phone call, track steps or monitor social media, distribution center employees are looking for ways to free up their hands to be more productive and efficient in their daily tasks. And with companies losing on average more than $400,000 every year in picking errors, business owners are interested in new connected worker solutions that help improve accuracy and efficiency.
Today, many distribution centers are still using handheld scanners, paper-based picking methods and mobile computers to move and track goods in very hands-on, repetitive workflows like each picking for e-commerce. Early iterations of handheld scanners had wires, which at the time were an improvement, but restricted motion and became a nuisance when the wires got in the way. The industry has since moved to wireless handheld scanners, which eliminate that problem, but still don’t enable workers to work hands-free.
Also, the use of paper- or even mobile-based picking methods requires the use of one’s hands. But hands-free and wearable technology is rapidly becoming the de-facto choice for modern distribution centers.
From software that offers workers a voice-based connection to the warehouse management system (WMS), to wearable barcode scanners connected via wireless communication standards like Bluetooth®, technologies that help free up workers hands and connect them to data more fluidly are helping to move the industry toward the next era of efficiency in data capture and order fulfillment.
For example, the industry has seen an increase in the adoption of voice-based solutions that instruct distribution center workers through their picking methods in real time, and enable them to input data verbally, eliminating the need for physical picking lists or labels that must be carried around and updated manually.
In fact, in a survey conducted by Honeywell and YouGov, 87 percent of U.S. respondents said that they anticipate transitioning to voice solutions by 2020.