Augmented Reality in Action at Flex with Atheer Labs
Recently Flex started working with customer Atheer Labs, one of the premier makers of Augmented Reality headsets, to look at how we could improve the process of picking and packing products at Flex’s warehouse in Milpitas, CA. Flex’s Information Technology department worked with Global Services & Solutions to create a smart glass application targeting warehouse fulfillment.
Traditionally, when an order comes in, a warehouse operator will get a printout of the order, scan it with a hand scanner, review the order, get on a forklift, find the item location, scan the location, scan the items to be picked up, load the forklift, drive to the destination, unload the items and scan them again.
Now with this proof of concept, warehouse pickers can see the order on their Atheer AiR glasses, drive to the product location, the operator wearing the glasses scans the location, the operator looks at the boxes to scan them in, then goes to the destination, and scans the destination pallet with a Bluetooth finger scanner as they drop off the items. This process is hands-free, paperless, and potentially provides real-time awareness of every item in the warehouse at any moment in time. This can save hundreds of dollars daily in employee time to pick and pack items, and the Atheer smart glasses even eliminate the need to print hundreds of pages of product orders each day.
Flex IT Director Kriba Narasimhan is spearheading this effort with a range of operations staff across Flex. Narasimhan says that companies such as DHL have estimated a 20% increase in efficiency using smart glasses. “This program is designed to make measurable progress to a truly paperless warehouse,” said Narasimhan, “We started with the goal of replacing the paper pick list and handheld scanner, and quickly realized that factory operation and logistics were one of the first areas to unlock the full productivity and power of smart glasses. The next generation of computing is going to be hands-free.”
Flex is developing the software to drive this system utilizing the Atheer AiR Suite software, which should allow for cross-platform compatibility across a wide range of AR smart headsets, while also integrating Red Prairie/JDA Software scanning capabilities.
As a next step, Global Services and Solutions Head of Supply Chain Jerry Kuna is focusing on deploying the solution for Atheer warehouse fulfillment, and looking at expanding the program to other distribution centers in Europe and Asia. Kuna also believes that this technology can be utilized in Pick to Light Warehousing functions.