Inbound Logistics | January 2022

Advances in technology and increasing adoption mean wearables in the warehouse are here to stay. See how logistics providers and customers put these technologies to work to revolutionize their warehouses. By Amy Roach

ake a walk through a busy distribution center today and you might nd workers decked out in futuristic- looking “accessories” such as exoskeleton suits and head-mounted smart glasses, while ashing Spider Man-

associated with implementing them are subsiding.” “There’s a huge opportunity for many more companies to move toward using wearables in the warehouse,” Hartwell adds. As far as current use goes, 30% to 45% of respondents to the Material Handling Industry’s 2021 MHI Annual Industry Report , conducted with Deloitte, are investing in wearable and mobile technologies for the warehouse, while 25% are currently using such technologies and another 36% plan to use them within the next ve years. More than 90% of respondents to a 2019 study by industrial technology provider Zebra expected to adopt wearable mobile computers by 2028, while 44% of respondents were already using wearable computers. And, a Technavio forecast released in July 2020 suggests the global industrial wearable devices market will grow by $3.4 billion during 2020-2024.

like wrist and ring scanners and taking directions from an automated voice-control headset. No, they are not extras from a sci- or superhero movie set but rather your average warehouse worker, taking advantage of the wide range of wearable technologies that are available today for industrial use.

Wearables are not new to warehouses—the devices and technologies that power them have been in use for years—but they have been increasing in popularity. They also have expanded rapidly in scope and scale, with a number of new offerings hitting the market in recent years. Though complicated technology powers the devices and systems, the idea behind the functionality of wearables is pretty simple. “These devices have got to do three things: rst, direct workers to go and do something. They are powered by a warehouse management system that directs workers to a task, location, or SKU,” says Ashley Hartwell, managing consultant of UK-based Supply Chain Consulting Group. “Second, wearables have to be able to conrm what that ‘something’ is either by scanning it, by voicing it, or by seeing what it is,” she adds. “Third, these devices have to be able to identify what that something is.” There is some debate over just how much penetration has occurred and is forthcoming for wearables in the logistics and supply chain space. Mobile and wearable technologies are in between the Takeoff and Maturity stages on the S-Curve of Innovation, according to

Hector Sunol, co-founder and CEO of Cyzerg Warehouse Technology in Miami. “This position indicates that the technologies have overcome a signicant obstacle and have been adopted by the early majority of adopters,” he writes in Ready for Mobility Solutions & Wearable Warehouse Technology? “ Additionally, this position suggests that they are soon to be adopted by the general public, which is an indication that the risks

A warehouse worker wearing Verve Motion’s exosuit.

January 2022 • Inbound Logistics 183

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