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AR/VR in the Supply Chain – the Way of the Future

    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.
    AR/VR in supply chain - investments from 2017 to 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.

    iGlasses. While today Apple is infamous for their use of “i” in their products, they weren’t the first ones to come up with the idea. In the 1990s, a company known as Virtual I/O came up with a headset that was capable of color 3D stereoscopic vision, as well as head tracking. Known as iGlasses, the device had a price tag of just under $1000. While the glasses were fully capable of delivering an immersive experience, they didn’t truly ignite the consumer market.

    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.

    The Virtuality Group Arcade Machine Experiences. The 1990s saw huge developments in virtual reality. With the rise of the arcades and arcade games, it was only a matter of time, before developers started coming up with new and exciting concepts and ideas. A company known as The Virtuality Group was at the cutting edge of virtual reality, launching a wide range of arcade games and machines that let either one or a couple of players immerse themselves into amazing 3D visual experiences. This happened in 1991, a year before the movie The Lawnmower Man further introduced the Virtual Reality concept to a wider audience of people.

    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.

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    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.

    Its not just about the fun and games. Other than providing action-packed, fun-filled entertainment for the entire family, VR plays a big role to help humanity as developers use it to help those in need in ways that were unimaginable 20 years ago. Some use it to cure phantom pain among amputee victims, while others rely on VR to provide therapy for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. VR has also been proven to help children with autism by teaching them social cues and real world lessons. It is being used as a practice board for surgical students before they make the first cut. There is even a VR content targeted at young adults that simulates their physical condition when they get to their 60s, and thus encourages them to save for the future.

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