DHL Supply Chain rolls out global augmented reality program

DHL Supply Chain, part of Deutsche Post DHL Group, announced it is rolling out the next phase of its Vision Picking Program following a successful trial of the augmented reality technology in the Netherlands. Since the trial, DHL Supply Chain and partners Google, Vuzix and Ubimax have refined the vision picking solution and DHL Supply Chain is now expanding the program across different industry sectors on a global scale, forging another step forward for augmented reality solutions in logistics. Currently, the first U.S. vision picking pilot is underway at a retail warehouse in Columbus where the technology is being used for cluster picking, single picking and retail store order picking. 

“We are excited to further test and develop vision picking as a solution that can be readily available to our customers. More importantly, this technology is not just one step towards digitalizing manual processes on the shop floor, it also takes us one step closer towards Industry 4.0. Testing technologies like augmented reality, robotics and Internet of Things will continue to be a big part of our DNA,” said John Gilbert, CEO Supply Chain. 

Pickers are equipped with advanced smart glasses which visually display where each picked item needs to be placed on the trolley. Vision picking enables hands free order picking at a faster pace, along with reduced error rates. Throughout 2016, the smart glasses will be piloted across various industries such as technology, retail, consumer and automotive industries. The data available from these pilots will further determine the technology’s potential for broader implementation. The pilot sites are spread across the United States, Mainland Europe and the United Kingdom, with the Ricoh facility in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, where the solution was first tested, being the launch site for this new exploration phase. A second U.S. pilot is being planned for an electronics customer in the coming months.

“Not only does DHL Supply Chain’s Vision Picking Program improve the picking process, but the solution also reduces training time for new and seasonal warehouse staff. Training is a big part of the value proposition of this technology because it’s easy for employees to learn and is language-independent with a voice interface that accepts multiple languages. We are seeing great results from our first U.S. pilot and are looking forward to tapping into this technology’s future uses such as equipment maintenance and additional value-added services for our customers,” said Greg Cain, Vice President of IT Americas, DHL Supply Chain. 

Augmented reality market with exceptional potential growth
The augmented reality and virtual reality market is said to be the next big thing after smartphones, although estimates vary significantly. Goldman Sachs estimate in their base case $80 billion for both virtual and augmented reality by 2025, while M&A advisory firm Digi-Capital predicts a total volume of $150 billion by 2020. Regardless of the actual size, exceptional growth seems to be certain if the current success of mobile app Pokémon Go is anything to go by. Investors are also convinced of the technology’s prospects, having made 225 venture capital investments worth $3.5 billion in the last two years.

DHL Supply Chain will be one of the first companies to widely implement the technology into their operations. The initial 2014 test in the Netherlands showed a significant increase in productivity, reduced error rates and overall rise in employee satisfaction, proving that augmented reality can make an impactful difference in reality.