Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are being employed with increasing frequency by e-commerce firms to drive efficiencies in the area of logistics. While the set-up costs associated with AR and VR are relatively high, many firms are reporting significant cost-savings and operational improvements after implementing systems to manage logistics processes.
While these emerging technologies are similar, there are some key differences. Augmented reality uses the real world as a backdrop for providing useful information and services. Virtual reality, however, involves the creation of an alternative world. But make no mistake: both technologies can be beneficial to e-commerce companies in a number of ways — here are four of the most striking.
Smoother Freight Handling
Particularly if you’re shipping goods to different countries or jurisdictions, freight handling can be laborious and time-consuming. But a worker using AR technology is able to verify that the shipment complies with all of the relevant regulations in a matter of seconds — simply by scanning it. In addition, an AR system is capable of providing information regarding the contents, addressee and handling requirements. All the worker needs to do to access this information is to look at shipment through a handheld tablet or a set of AR glasses.
One specific problem that affects international shipments is the language barrier. The latest AR systems automatically convert foreign text to the native language, which speeds up the administrative process and reduces errors.
More Effective Warehouse Planning
Both AR and VR systems can now be employed to design warehouse layouts in advance — ensuring processes are efficient and practical before changes are made. For example, management and key warehouse staff would be able to “walk” around the premises in its virtual form, looking for bottlenecks and operational issues along the way.
An AR device could make the maximum use of the available warehouse space by overlaying tentative design plans over the actual warehouse. This could become a crucial part of planning — ensuring e-commerce businesses aren’t paying more than they need to for warehouse space.
More Efficient Freight Loading
Freight loading is fraught with unpredictable variables and potential for waste. Workers have to take a range of factors into consideration when packing shipments and loading vehicles. The wrong process or a slight miscalculation can lead to under-utilised vans, lorries and cargo vehicles — resulting in inflated shipping costs. But an AR device would scan each item before the loading process begins. Based on issues such as weight, dimensions and destination, the system would tell workers which vehicle or shipping service to use. And when company vehicles are being used, an AR system could even tell workers where on each vehicle a shipment should be positioned.
More Effective Employee Training
All employees working in e-commerce logistics need comprehensive and accurate training — otherwise costly mistakes can end up damaging the company’s bottom line. But training new employees using abstract concepts or fictional scenarios isn’t always ideal. AR and VR can now both be used to train workers using real-world scenarios
For example, a virtual warehouse could guide a worker through every step of the order picking process. The user would be asked to complete a number of tasks in the virtual world. Tasks performed incorrectly would be restarted, following a demonstration of the correct method. This takes training out of the textbook, and into a working environment where mistakes don’t really matter.
Both of these exciting technologies are helping e-commerce businesses to slash costs, improve customer satisfaction levels and grow sales. And in such a competitive trading environment, missing out on these benefits could give your competitors a commercial advantage.