Warehousing pressures are driving substantial investment in augmented reality, voice technology, and people tracking. Spending on AR in warehousing alone will reach over US$23 billion by 2025.
Demand for warehousing facilities has been steadily increasing thanks to the strength of international trade and the continual growth of e-commerce. With customer expectations for rapid delivery rising, warehouses are struggling to process the increased volumes of goods passing through facilities in time. The problem is compounded by labour shortages and staffing challenges. The need to adopt technology to alleviate these issues is driving significant investment in augmented reality (AR), voice-directed picking, and real-time location systems (RTLS) for workforce analytics.
By 2025, global spending on AR in warehousing will reach over US$23 billion, US$3.3 billion will be spent on voice solutions, and RTLS will grow to 500,000 implementations for people-tracking across all verticals, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.
“Fulfilling higher order volumes is difficult when warehouses are struggling to hire and maintain staff, and automation is cost-prohibitive for many distributors,” said senior analyst at ABI Research Nick Finill. “Warehouses are therefore increasingly using digital tools that can empower the human worker, deliver efficiency gains, and also reduce the time it takes to induct new or temporary staff.”
Augmented reality is finally starting to gain mass appeal in industrial sectors, thanks to maturing technologies and demonstrable ROI from early adopters. Voice-directed technology represents a considerably older technology but is also undergoing a technological revolution thanks to deep learning-based voice recognition that vastly improves ease-of-use and reliability. Voice is being leveraged to assist the warehouse workforce by providing operational instructions in a clear and hands-free way.
The drive for digitally-enabled workforce productivity in the warehouse is incorporating the human worker into the Internet of Things at a rapid pace. The increased use of RTLS technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi tracking and RFID, are allowing warehouse operators to analyse productivity of the workforce as well as the movement of physical assets. Workers can be monitored in a way that respects privacy while generating valuable operational data that can drive workforce efficiency over time.
Companies such as RealWare, Kontakt.io, Panasonic, Lucas Systems and TopSystem are providing warehouses with a wide range of technology products that can provide incremental advantages. Driving productivity in this way can be an attractive alternative to more expensive automation projects, which is a concurrent trend in warehousing with the potential to transform operations in the longer term.
“The combination of multiple devices and technology can have a positive compound effect on workforce productivity,” concluded Mr Finill. “However, companies must be smart about how they integrate multiple technologies within the same stack to ensure they remain complementary and ROI is maximised.”
These findings are from ABI Research’s ‘Devices and Solutions for Workforce Productivity in Warehouse Logistics’ technology analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Intelligent Supply Chain service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Technology Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific technology.