AR continues to demonstrate value in both consumer and enterprise contexts. For the latter, businesses continue to discover ways AR can help them boost efficiency and drive better decision-making across various workflows. Inventory management is one of these areas because it’s an ongoing pain point for many.

It’s hard to keep track of everything in a warehouse, leading to dead inventory, spoilage, surpluses, and shortages. Difficulty finding items to fulfill online orders adds to the chaos. Here’s a look at how AR can help overcome these challenges.

1. Boosting Picking Efficiency

Few inventory processes are as ripe for disruption as picking. This is the process of finding and pulling the right item off a shelf for an order, and as you might imagine, it’s highly time-consuming. On average, employees pick around 71 items an hour — fine for a small business but a big bottleneck for large enterprises with more orders.

AR glasses can improve these rates by guiding workers to the necessary items. Arrows could show them exactly where to go — just as a GPS in a car directs drivers — to eliminate time spent trying to find something manually. Seeing these directions without having to look at a handheld device saves time, too.

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2. Improving Picking Accuracy

Similarly, AR can make processes more accurate. As with many manual workflows, conventional picking is prone to mistakes. Error rates hover around 1% to 2%, which may not seem like much until you consider how mis-picks cost $50 to $75 per incident. That leads to significant losses in a large enough warehouse.

The same technology that makes AR-guided picking more efficient also addresses these issues. AR eliminates human error by highlighting exactly which item staff members must pick in each case. Because these guides appear in their field of vision, they’re even more reliable than the same data on a phone or other handheld. It’s hard to grab the wrong box when you see an arrow pointing at the exact one you need.

3. Providing Real-Time Stock Visibility

Employees can also use AR to get real-time information about stock levels. Many companies already use Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to gather data on inventory availability and AR glasses can show this data when employees scan a barcode.

This data lets staff immediately pull up any information about the item, including when it came to the warehouse, when they must ship it by or how much is in stock. That way, workers know when to restock items to prevent shortages and can avoid complications like spoilage for products with limited shelf lives.

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4. Enabling Data-Driven Decision-Making

Managers can use the same technology for bigger inventory management decisions. Warehouse technology as a whole can reduce storage costs by letting enterprises respond to changes in demand. AR’s real-time data visualization makes that kind of decision-making easier.

As managers walk through their warehouses, AR glasses can pull up data on the items they look at, like recent buying trends, turnover ratios, pending orders, or predicted restocking dates. Being able to see this information quickly lets managers react to changing trends earlier. They can then avoid shortages and surpluses to reduce inventory costs and drive efficiency.

5. Streamlining Training

Enterprises can also use AR to streamline the onboarding process. Larger brands spend 48 hours of training — longer than an entire workweek — per employee to get new hires up to speed. It can take even longer before these workers reach their full potential. AR can streamline those timelines by making key information more readily available.

AR glasses can bring up helpful tips or training reminders as new hires work. That way, they can work confidently without stopping to ask a more experienced co-worker for help. Doing so helps recruits learn the job faster and minimizes the impact new hires may have on existing efficiency.

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AR Is a Potential Game-Changer in Inventory Management

AR may still be in its early stages in industrial markets, but that will change. As more businesses recognize the potential of these five use cases, AR could redefine inventory management.

Conventional inventory management is slow and error-prone, but bringing AR into the equation addresses both issues. When organizations accomplish that, they can avoid shipping delays and mistakes for greater operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

April Miller is a senior writer at ReHack Magazine and editorial contributor at AR Insider. She specializes in VR/AR, IoT, and business technology. See her work here and follow her @rehackmagazine.

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