The folks at Tecsys, a supply chain execution software vendor, sent me a whitepaper called Visual Logistics. The concept is simple: information displayed to warehouse workers on RF terminals should be more visual. Here is how picking information is typically displayed on a text-based RF terminal:
With the traditional text-based approach, the operator scans a product-specific UPC bar code to validate that the right product is being picked. A small percentage of the time, however, warehouse workers scan the correct slot but pick from an adjacent slot accidently.
Compare that to a visual display:
On a visual display you get visual information about the stock keeping unit (SKU), which is more memorable than text-based information. Pick errors would virtually disappear if the cartons to be picked contained visual logos.
Tecsys claims that workers are more productive with visual presentations. Without further research, I’m not sure I believe this claim when it comes to experienced warehouse workers. However, employee turnover is high in warehouses (over 10 percent a year on average). I have no doubt that visual cues would improve the productivity of new employees or that workers would prefer these types of displays.
Here are some other applications where visual cues could be used:
- Upon request, the RF device screen could provide an operator with a warehouse location map on where to go for the next pick.
- In multi-order pick-to-cart, the handheld device could provide an order selector with visual information on how to sort product into the correct carton.
- Packages may have multiple barcodes (e.g, SKU number, lot number, serial number, catch weight, expiration date). Visual cues can help ensure that the correct barcode to support a particular process (receiving, quality control, etc.) is scanned.
- Visual cues could support pack operations. Packaging requirements can be different based on the customer or the SKU. For example, a hazardous product might require a special insert and a temperature-sensitive product might need to be packaged in a special container.
Over the past couple years, ARC has heard several supply chain software vendors talk about their investments in making their products easier to use. These screenshots from Tecsys are a great example of what’s been developed and the direction the market is heading towards.