How AR and AI can transform logistics

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Industry 4.0 technology and its rapid adoption during the pandemic has helped many companies address labor and productivity challenges by streamlining plant and process workflows. Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and IoT continue to make their way into supply chain operations and logistics, driving new levels of efficiency with increased reduction costs.

Kartik Kinhal

How AR can transform logistics

Optimizing warehouse workflow is a critical component to the success of any logistics-related business. Companies save millions of dollars by efficiently organizing their processes and workflows. Typically, logistical issues arise because of the human tendency to make mistakes. In this case, technology and its integration with existing systems come first in problem solving. Many companies are exploring or have adopted augmented reality warehouse management software to improve a variety of business processes. Using augmented reality for warehouse management activities such as warehouse planning, inventory control management, order picking, and material handling can simplify and improve complex warehouse operations, enhancing supply chain process.

Automation is essential for companies looking to improve warehouse operations. Using AR in a warehouse is a great way to improve agility, engage employees, and save money.

Take the example of one of the most expensive tasks in warehousing: order picking. This process aims to get the right product as requested by customers at the right time and in the right quantities without damaging the product. Customers expect all products and services to be delivered quickly in today’s technologically advanced world.

As a result, logistics companies are under constant pressure to streamline the picking process at the lowest possible cost to protect their revenue generation. The traditional approach to order picking is a tedious and tedious process where associates navigate the warehouse to locate items that meet the customer’s needs. This manual method is extremely error-prone and very cumbersome.

Augmented reality can help streamline the overall order picking process. When an operator is notified of a scheduled pickup, an associate will enter a facility wearing an augmented reality-based smart glass. The smart glass detects barcodes from items in the cart when the associate moves their head. The operator is guided by algorithms enabled by machine learning that help him visually and verbally. When the collection is complete, the information is saved in the system for future use.

This integration of business processes, workflows, warehouse management systems, AR devices and ultimately AI optimizes the user journey through the warehouse. It replaces visual searching and manual text comparison with barcode scanning and automated visual cues. The AR hardware form factor allows pickers to use both hands throughout the process. It also simplifies the information needed by the operator at each stage of the process.

Warehouse optimization

Augmented reality and robotics, when properly integrated, solve today’s critical logistics challenges. In warehouse management, it is essential to consider things such as efficient use of space, restructuring of warehouses in case of unforeseen crises, and safe storage of high-selling or seasonal products in the plan.

Bottom-up integration model that requires business processes and workflows to be standardized and streamlined to allow system, equipment and AI to work in sync

Augmented reality can be a huge benefit for warehouse managers and employees when it comes to the overall design of the warehouse layout. AR provides the ability to experiment with modifications to the existing warehouse design due to its ability to generate digital and interactive 3D warehouse layouts. Warehouse managers and employees can determine if the plan matches the warehouse layout correctly by performing several trials and experiments with different work patterns.

Inventory management

Inventory management is one of the most important and challenging parts of warehouse operations. Human involvement increases the likelihood of errors and wrong ordering/choices. Therefore, we cannot assume that the task is always repeatable without fail. Some large logistics organizations have used barcode scanning systems for inventory tracking and management after realizing the need to speed up this process. The inventory inspection and control process has seen a new wave of innovation with the introduction of barcode scanners.

However, warehouse managers and staff will be able to manage raw materials completely hands-free using augmented reality. AR smart glasses guide workers in a certain task. The order number, bin information and aisle number can all be seen by a worker on the screen.

Authorization for worker training

We can use augmented reality to provide virtual training to new employees. It will provide an engaging environment for rapid onboarding and effective collaboration with experienced staff. The interactive teaching style engages employees in their work and allows them to practice at their leisure.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles.

Author: Kartik Kinhal

Kartik Kinhal

Kartik Kinhal is Senior Director of Engineering, Intelligent Automation and Continuous Improvement at Applied Materials Inc. He is responsible for leadership, management and direction of supply chain operations in the field automation and technology research, as well as exploring AI options in the market and educating the company on these opportunities. Kinhal manages complex, large-scale projects and programs that impact Applied’s product operations and organizations and develops, implements and deploys machine learning, analytics, robotic process automation and AI systems across the organization. It also designs, builds and improves processes and systems that contribute to operational excellence and scalability. Kinhal has acted as a consultant to global teams for operational initiatives such as smart manufacturing, planner deployment, wasted time reduction and capacity planning process.