Attendees at SAP TechEd && d-code (#SAPtd) in Berlin were eager to hear about Bosch’s experience with smart glasses and SAP AR Warehouse Picker, a mobile app that frees warehouse workers from handheld scanners and other devices.
Sascha Markus, Mobile Architect at Bosch, presented the results of a mobile co-innovation project with SAP. “First, we did a Design Thinking workshop to find use cases where mobile creates value”, says Markus. “We only had one day, so we integrated different user groups, and at the end identified 33 use cases. ‘Smart glasses in logistics’ was one of the most promising and exciting ones.”
Currently, Bosch’s work centers are equipped with scanners. “The workers need to go to computers, check scanners or paper documents to get their picking orders. This is not efficient,” says Markus. “The goal is to replace these solutions in our warehouses with smart glasses. With glasses, the workers just have to look at barcodes, they can work hands-free.”
How Does Hands-Free Picking Work?
With SAP AR Warehouse Picker, the user’s smart glass is authenticated on the back end via a temporary QR code. Once authenticated, the pickers get their first task of the day beamed to their glasses. The SAP Extended Warehouse Management system (EWM) confirms the picker’s activities and the picker must answer “yes” or “no” via voice recognition before getting their next task. (see demo video)
Marcus says, feedback from users has been very positive. They find the glasses helpful, and easy-to-use.
According to Markus, a key success factor for the project was that Bosch had already SAP’s mobile infrastructure in place. SAP Mobile Platform enables integration of the smart glasses into SAP Extended Warehouse Management which supports the Augmented Reality solution.
Google Glass Not Fit for Warehouse
Bosch uses smart glasses hardware from Vuzix. “From our perspective, this is the best smart glass for logistics. Google glasses are made for consumers,” Markus said. “Vuzix glasses are more stable, made for industry use, which is important in a warehouse.”
Bosch also has an Epson smart glass in use to compare the pros and cons of the different glasses, and decide which one will be used for the pilot plant.
Markus sees the following benefits of smart glasses for Bosch:
- Error rates went down.
- Desktop PCs are no longer needed, workers gethands-free working in the warehouse is made possible for 12 processes (before 3).
- There were no time savings so far, but Markus thinks this could be improved when the hardware evolves.
These are Bosch’s lessons learned:
- Batteries built into glasses only last up to two hours, Bosch added a battery pack connected to the glasses which works for eight hours.
- Workers with prescription glasses had problems reading orders with Vuzix glasses. Epson’s through-see glasses worked better for them.
- Cameras are always on, allowing video recording of workers. For German companies this is an issue, as German laws to protect worker’s privacy are very strict. Bosch is working on a solution. This also means that tracking of routes is out of the question.
- To make the login easier – at the moment users have to log in once a day via a QR code created in the backend – Bosch works with SAP to create an app for login.
Next Steps for Bosch
Markus said Bosch’s focus will be on automation, use glasses in combination with RFID, have predictive logistics integrated into Bosch’s Inter of Things (IoT) platform. “Our target is to equip all goods with RFID sensors. Since Bosch ships fragile goods, it is important that sensors can detect if goods were shaken during transport. Markus’ judgment about the technology’s evolution: “It depends on the evolution of hardware. We are happy with the software from SAP, and look forward to working with SAP on improving processes.” If the warehouse pilot is successful, Bosch will look into implementing smart glasses into production as well.
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This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.