We are witnessing the evolution of AR/VR in the supply chain. What started out as a hi-tech trend for a select few, has grown into a best practice for large enterprises and smaller companies in the global supply chain. Warehouses, production facilities, shipping companies, and retail stores are relying on immersive technologies to work faster, safer, and more efficiently.
The Current State of AR/VR in the Supply Chain
Right now, there is a clear growing trend among companies operating in the logistics and supply chain industry. A survey published by Statista indicates a significant growth in the investments these companies make in AR/VR technologies: 8% in 2017, 23% in 2018, and 34% in 2019.
The main fields of applications for AR/VR in the supply chain according to Forbes are:
- Order picking in warehousing;
- Predictive modeling for the internal supply chain loop;
- Secure and efficient delivery.
However, the outlook on the future indicates that AR/VR is penetrating every layer and operational structure of the supply chain.
What Is the Outlook of AR/VR in the Supply Chain?
From industry forecasts to current projects being implemented across various supply chains, a picture emerges. It shows that AR/VR in the supply chain is one of the key factors for progress. It is especially valuable in the current period when so many employees work remotely.
With data at their fingertips and the possibility to join their colleagues in a virtual environment, work does not have to stop, even though office buildings are closed. After analyzing various ways in which immersive technologies are being adopted in logistics and supply chain, we have came up with the following current and future developments:
1. Inventory Management
Using augmented reality to manage and count stocks is saving time and improving accuracy. This is one of the findings of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. After running a pilot plan in 2018, the NHS has implemented an AR solution across several hospitals to track both inventories and patient data.
The result: 95% improvement both in cost and in time efficiency. This is more than encouraging for other industries managing stocks, especially warehouses, production facilities and distribution companies.
2. Remote Collaboration in Data Visualization
Virtual reality helps transform abstract data into visible and interactive objects. They help production managers make strategic decisions and logistics supervisors distribute stocks to various warehouses according to necessities.
Thus, AR/VR in the supply chain is one of the most efficient ways of getting the most of big data, such as inventory movement, customer demand and market trends.
3. VR Training for Employees
A case study shared by Deloitte shows how VR has helped a large logistics organization train the relevant employees for working with a new piece of equipment. A VR app ensured that:
- All employees took the training;
- They worked with a highly detailed interactive 3D model of the equipment;
- The management could trace the progress of each employee.
The VR training app not only offered better results compared to traditional instruction methods, but also helped the company cut travel and accommodation costs for employees working in different locations.
4. Real-Time Information for Merchandize in Transit
When merchandise is in transit, there are risks concerning loss, theft and product tampering. With AR markers placed on containers and packages, companies can monitor their merchandise from checkpoint to checkpoint, until they arrive at the destination.
Thus, AR/VR in supply chain helps reduce loss and ensure product safety even after a long-distance journey. This is of crucial importance for many product categories, such as food, pharmaceuticals, and critical components for automobiles.
5. Product Traceability
Customers are more aware than ever of the importance to buy safe products, sourced ethically. They want to know the precise origin of ingredients, where the product was processed or manufactured and when.
With AR markers placed on primary packages, each customer can use their smartphone to find all the information they need, as well as the brand story. Thus, AR/VR in the supply chain also benefits other business areas, such as sales and marketing.