Smart logistics: Boost your warehouse IQ with AR

Vision picking uses augmented reality (AR) to make warehouse workers' lives easier and their routines faster. It significantly cuts costs and ensures a quick payoff (ROI) for logistics enterprises.

  • Empower frontline workers
  • Industrial processes are deeply rooted in the real, analog world. This makes them harder to digitalize. As a result, many businesses have not really explored the possibilities of digitalization. Mei Dent, Chief Product and Technology Officer at TeamViewer, explained this in detail in a recent keynote in Berlin.

    However, more and more industrial sectors are waking up to the enormous potential of digitalization. Soon, AR will empower frontline workers across all industries. This includes those in logistics, assembly, remote support, and maintenance.

    “A lot of the potential of digitalization has already become a reality for the logistics sector,” says Lisa Gruber, a Senior Product Marketing Manager for industrial AR solutions at TeamViewer. “The warehousing sector is ahead at digitalizing processes. Warehouse operators in many warehouses already use smart glasses every day and experience the benefits like the fully hands-free operation.”

    Other industries, like mechanical engineering, sometimes struggle with digitalization. And smart glasses still haven’t had their real breakthrough in the consumer space. However, the technology itself has been around for some time. Let’s look back for a moment.

    The advent of vision picking

    The idea of augmented or virtual reality has been discussed since at least 1968. Around that time, MIT scientist Ivan Sutherland presented the “Sword of Damocles.” A head-mounted three-dimensional display that is the ancestor of the devices we see today.

    It took until 2012 for smart glasses to transcend the realm of science and fiction. This was when the first Google Glass got mainstream attention. Consumers haven’t seen a real use case for them yet. But smart glasses were set to become a cornerstone of the digitalization of industrial processes. 

    Few know about the Kopin Golden-i smart glasses. Motorola made them in 2009. They were already aimed at enterprise users but didn’t get much attention.

    Smart glasses for an enterprise environment were piloted at DHL Supply Chain in early 2015, quite some time before becoming standard in many of today’s warehouses. The glasses featured vision-picking software and provided visual cues directly in the workers’ field of view during the picking process.

    Since 2017, DHL Supply Chain has used TeamViewer Frontline xPick to help increase productivity and reduce error rates. About 1,500 operators at DHL’s US sites use smart glasses for order fulfillment at warehouses in the tech, retail, consumer, and auto industries.

    The benefits of vision picking

    By now, many companies use vision picking. And the results speak for themselves. Five benefits stand out when we look at the success of some of TeamViewer’s customers:

    #1: Improve efficiency with visual step-by-step guidance

    Take DHL again. Before, its technologies had complex user interfaces with various menus and information. This resulted in more resources spent on quality assurance procedures. By implementing the hands-free xPick solution, the company's productivity in order picking increased by 15%.

    Also, the old solutions required days or weeks of training. New employees needed the help of experienced staff. TeamViewer reduced training to hours and made it more self-sufficient. xPick's easy scalability also allowed large rollouts to different DHL warehouse locations.

    You can look at different KPIs — among them, fulfillment, inventory accuracy, and throughput — to see what vision picking would mean for your warehouse’s return on investment (ROI).  However, investing in our vision-picking solution usually pays off in less than 12 months.

    #2: Get error rates close to zero

    Paper lists and the confusing interfaces of standard hand scanners are prone to error. So, if your teams still use them, you can expect the biggest change when moving to vision picking. But even if your setup uses pick-by-voice systems, you'll probably see a big improvement in your KPIs.

    Look at Coca-Cola HBC. They wanted to improve their picking accuracy. With the high volumes they ship, even a 0.1% error rate can lead to 1,000 wrong deliveries, resulting in 1,000 customer complaints. 

    And wrong deliveries mean a lot more than unhappy customers. They also cost a lot. Rejected orders have to be returned to the warehouse, and a new order shipped, resulting in a spike in logistics-handling costs. 

    But after only two months of using vision picking, Coca-Cola HBC's picking accuracy reached 99.9%. Meaning increased productivity, accuracy, and reduced handling costs. 

    #3: Make quality control a breeze 

    Vision picking also provides big savings potential when it comes to quality control. With them, workers can report to the company database directly through their smart glasses. The reports document each step of a quality check. 

    The reports can also include voice comments or images taken with a worker's smart glasses. This information can then be used to further minimize errors and costs. While all this happens, workers’ hands remain free for the actual task.

    Take the Wolfsburg plant of the German logistics company Schnellecke. It focuses on module assembly and line feed for the automotive industry. With xPick,  they made their processes 20% faster and cut errors to almost zero.

    #4: Cut thousands of printouts to reduce environmental impact   

    Switching to an AR-powered process is also good for the environment. You use a lot less paper . 

    A great example is the semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries. They needed to improve the picking process in their Dresden-based warehouse. Mostly analog and paper-based, it lacked efficiency and error correction. 

    By introducing vision picking with TeamViewer xPick, GlobalFoundries eliminated about 100,000 printouts annually. They also saved 25% of the picking time after only one month.

    #5: Retain your frontline staff with better working conditions

    GlobalFoundries also received a lot of positive feedback from its staff after implementing vision picking. Working conditions had improved for them, and they could reduce the time spent searching, sorting, and prioritizing. This is due to the hands-free, voice-controlled nature of vision picking on smart glasses. 

    In a warehouse, every move counts. People are constantly handling heavy, bulky items. Among other things, smart glasses reduce the need for workers to bend down. Information appears directly in the worker's line of sight rather than on a clipboard that has to be constantly picked up and reviewed.


    We’ve seen how the logistics industry has led the way in digitizing the frontline workforce. But it doesn’t always look this bright for the rest of the industry. About 80% of jobs are not tied to a desk, meaning approximately 2.7 billion frontline workers worldwide. Many of these have yet to be digitalized.

    As we've outlined here, vision picking provides tangible benefits to workers. Smart glasses offer visual cues in their field of view while both hands remain free. This makes work easier, safer, and smarter. At the same time, it increases efficiency in operations and drives down costs for enterprises. The investment pays off very quickly. 

    Still skeptical? In a blog post, Mei Dent, CPTO of TeamViewer, discusses claims about the industrial metaverse and why they are unfounded. Change is already underway.

    Sandro Cocca

    Senior Content Marketing Manager  at TeamViewer


    Sandro Cocca is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at TeamViewer. With a background in journalism, PR, and content marketing, he is passionate about new technologies like AI and how they impact the way we communicate. Based in the Black Forest, in his spare time you'll find him practicing martial arts, reading the classics of philosophy and literature, or playing with his son.

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