Faster Picking Through Wearable Scanners

If you want to squeeze a few extra seconds out of your picking application, swapping your traditional handheld barcode scanner for a wireless, wearable barcode scanner may be an ideal solution for helping your distribution center workers improve productivity and accuracy.

Wearable barcode scanners are helping DC workers connect to the next era of efficiency in data capture and order fulfillment. Right now, in a typical picking application involving a handheld barcode scanner (not to be confused with a mobile terminal):

  • The picker is instructed by an application running through a host computer (for this example, a vehicle mounted computer) to go to a location and pick a certain number of items from that location.
  • When the picker arrives at the proper location, he/she scans the location code to confirm they are in the correct spot.
  • The picker then scans an item to confirm they are picking the correct product.
  • They put the scanner under their arm, in a holster, lay it down somewhere or worse – tie up one hand by having to hold the device.
  • They then start picking the specific number of items they need to fulfill the order.

The extra step of managing the scanner while picking can cost a worker three to five seconds per pick– that’s more than 20 minutes of lost time per shift, or 4% of a picker’s total shift time. This is a lot of time wasted and orders not picked.

Let’s go through the same example with an operator using a wireless wearable barcode scanner on his or her hand:

  • The picker is told to go to a location and pick a certain number of items.
  • The picker scans the location code.
  • The picker then scans an item with their wireless wearable scanner
  • He/she then immediately starts picking the specific number of items–using both hands–eliminating the hassle of managing the scanner.

Improved efficiency in picking applications is the main driver of wearable scanner adoption. As these benefits continue to be realized, expect to see widespread adoption of wearable devices throughout the distribution center and elsewhere in the supply chain. From stocking to receiving to packing—companies will be able to increase productivity by replacing their handheld scanner with a wearable device.

Honeywell has helped many DCs leverage this technology evolution in real-world applications. We often couple wearable scanners with a voice-based connection to the warehouse management system, to provide major advantages for businesses looking to expand overall worker stamina, accuracy and productivity.

If a facility already uses voice-directed picking, nearly one in five voice customers integrate wireless wearable scanners into their voice application. Sometimes it is quicker and more accurate to scan a barcode (like a serial number) than to speak it.

There are three types of wireless wearable scanning devices available for warehouses and distribution centers to choose from, giving operators multiple solutions depending on use and need.

  • A one-piece ring scanner solution is one where the scanner, Bluetooth radio and battery are all together in one module. The operator typically wears the scanner as a two-finger ring. An advantage to this solution is a simple one-piece design, eliminating the need for extra parts.
  • A two-piece ring scanner solution is worn as a ring typically on the index finger tethered to a module that includes the battery and the Bluetooth radio which sits behind the hand. This solution provides comfort, as most of the weight is moved from the fingers to the back of the hand where it is less pronounced.
  • A hybrid solution where the scanner, Bluetooth radio and battery are combined into one module like the one-piece option, yet the scanner is worn on the back of the hand attached to a glove. An advantage to this solution is the simplicity of a one-piece design coupled with the comfort of shifting the scanner’s weight further back on the hand. It offers the best features of the one- and two-piece solutions.

Ergonomics are very important when it comes to wearable devices. Wearable barcode scanners must be small enough to not get in the way yet sturdy enough to handle the tough conditions found in a typical DC.

One other benefit of wearables is safety. Risks are reduced as workers have the freedom and flexibility to have both hands available while fulfilling heavier items during the order picking process.

What’s the right solution for a specific DC environment? It depends on the operator, the operations manager and the specific application. Do pickers tend to have smaller or larger hands? It could be that multiple types of wearable scanners are needed.

If you’re considering driving efficiencies in your DC workers, consider using wearable barcode scanners as a method to do so. That increased efficiency and productivity can have a positive effect on your bottom line. WMHS