DHL Supply Chain riding digital wave with ‘smart glasses’ pilot

The digital wave continues to wash over the global economy, and it’s making a big splash at a Center for Operational Excellence member company.

dhl supply chainMember DHL Supply Chain this month announced that it has completed a pilot of a new augmented reality addition to its warehouse picking operations, equipping employees with “smart glasses.” By wearing these glasses, employees have instant access to visual displays that give picking instructions, along with details on where the item is located and where it should be placed on carts.

DHL Supply Chain in a press release said it’s seen boosts of productivity of up to 15 percent during pilot tests in the U.S. and in Europe, CIO and COO Markus Voss calling the digitalization “not just a vision or a program” but “a reality for us and our customers.”

DHL Supply Chain is one of many companies grappling and experimenting with the role of digital technology in legacy business models that, in some industries, haven’t seen radical disruption in generations. The challenge of digitization was the subject of an event just this week at The Ohio State Univeristy, where COE partnered with three other Fisher centers to address challenges and opportunities in this area.

In the opening keynote, Cisco executive Jeremy Aston shared research from the company’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation showing that in just two years, companies’ perspectives on digitization have shifted drastically. In 2015, only 15 percent of surveyed companies told Cisco and its partners that digital disruption was already occurring in their industry. That number jumped to 49 percent this year. At the same time, roughly one in three of the executives surveyed told Cisco that digitization would have a transformative impact on their industry. Just two years ago, that perspective was shared by one in 250 surveyed executives.

DHL Supply Chain hinted that the “smart glasses” picking pilot is just the start, with plans to look at leveraging this technology in training and maintenance functions, among others.

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