Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DHL tests augmented realty in Dutch warehouse

Steve Rogerson
February 5, 2015
DHL has carried out a pilot project testing smart glasses and augmented reality in a warehouse in the Netherlands. In cooperation with DHL customer Ricoh, headquartered in Tokyo, and German wearable computing company Ubimax, the technology was used to implement vision picking in warehousing operations.
Employees were guided through the warehouse by graphics displayed on the smart glass to speed up the picking process and reduce errors. The pilot proved augmented reality provides added value to logistics and resulted in a 25 per cent efficiency increase during the picking process.
“Vision picking enables hands free order picking and greatly increases productivity,” said Jan-Willem De Jong, business unit director of technology at DHL Supply Chain Benelux. “The technology significantly supports our staff and brings exciting value to our customers. However, this is just the first step in our innovation journey as we believe augmented reality will become relevant for even more supply chain areas.”
The pilot’s objective was to gain insights on the technology’s benefits and limitations. For three weeks, warehouse workers in Bergen op Zoom were equipped with Google Glass and Vuzix M100 head mounted displays. The displays showed the respective task information during the picking process, including aisle, product location and quantity. Overall, ten order pickers used the equipment and picked more than 20,000 items, fulfilling 9000 orders within the given time frame. As a result, staff was able to operate much faster and error free. Currently, DHL and Ricoh are jointly evaluating the roll-out of the technology.
“We are always looking to further improve our processes with new technologies and we were happy to have DHL as our innovation partner for the pilot project,” said Pieter-Jelle van Dijk, director of operations for Ricoh in EMEA.
Last year, DHL’s research team issued a report called “Augmented Reality in Logistics”, which describes best practices and promising use cases. In addition to vision picking in warehousing operations, the report also illustrates how operations during transportation, last kilometre delivery and value-added services could be improved by augmented reality applications. For the near future, DHL is looking to explore the economic feasibility of augmented reality in additional areas and is open for collaboration with more partners.