Improving Warehouse Productivity with Wearable Computers
If you’re in the warehousing industry, you’re probably dealing with two challenges that seem to get tougher every year: keeping up with productivity demands and filling open positions.
E-commerce and customer expectations are driving so much growth and demand for productivity that they’re projected to create a need for 452,000 new warehousing and distribution workers in 2018-19.
But the industry is struggling to meet this new demand, particularly when US unemployment is at historical lows and only 20% of the labor force possesses the required skills.
Exploring the Alternatives
According to CRBE, an international industrial real estate firm, this leaves the warehousing industry with three potential tactics to deal with the labor crunch and still achieve productivity requirements.
One is to recruit more workers from other industries. However, government data shows that, despite a 66% increase in workers moving into the transportation and warehouse sector from other industries, the inflow isn’t enough to meet new demand.
Another option is to expand warehousing operations into labor markets that can deliver the required workforce. But those markets may be few and far between, and they may not be located in areas that make sense logistically. Also, not every company has the budget, financing, or desire to expand into new locations.
That leaves one option that’s available and affordable for virtually everyone in the industry. It’s an investment in automation and technology to enhance labor efficiency.
Wearable Computers Change How We Work
A good case in point is transitioning to wearable mobile computers and technology to further automate picking and shipping processes. For example, mobility experts at Strategic Systems have worked with a number of warehousing operations of all sizes to implement this technology strategy.
Instead of having to carry and use a handheld mobile computer while trying to pick, handle, pack, and ship products, or instead of having to walk back-and-forth between warehouse aisles and a computer workstation, wearable technologies keep workers’ hands free and streamline the entire process.
Wearable Computer Technology
Using Zebra’s WT6000 wearable computer, we give workers a lightweight, hands-free device they can wear on their wrist and forearm. This allows them to access warehousing software, orders, pick lists, and labeling with the touch of a screen. And it keeps their hands free to pick, handle, or pack items as needed.
The device can be paired with a Zebra RS6000 wireless Bluetooth or RS5000 corded ring scanner to scan barcodes. A small, lightweight, and perfectly balanced 1D/2D barcode scanner is worn on a single finger, providing seamless barcode scanning while leaving both hands free to operate the WT6000 wearable computer and handle materials.
A wireless headset, such as Zebra’s HS3100 or HS 2100, gives workers complete voice and audio capabilities on the go, which also means you can make the switch to voice-directed picking software. Voice-directed applications use audio and visual cues to direct workers to the precise warehouse location for each pick and guide them along the most efficient pathway. They even include support for multiple languages.
In addition to improving picking efficiency with intelligent voice direction and hands-free mobility, a complete system also increases picking accuracy by automating the entire process and using barcode scans to verify correct picks.
You can even add a wearable mobile printer, such as any of Zebra’s ZQ or QLn Series printers, to print barcode labels on the go.
Adopting this wearable technology strategy changes how we work, allowing warehouses to streamline workflows and help their existing workforce fulfill far more orders on every shift.
To learn more about improving warehouse productivity and addressing labor shortages with wearable computer technology, contact us now for a free consultation.