Intuitive Wearables + TOUGHBOOK Devices Equal Ultimate Warehouse Efficiency

Running a busy warehouse or distribution center in a tight labor market where such positions have experienced high turnover is no easy task, but that’s the current case for many warehouse managers. These employees are responsible for their worker’s safety in an environment that’s becoming increasingly automated, while trying to stay ahead of the growing surge of online orders.   

Individually, these challenges can significantly influence a warehouse’s productivity, efficiency, and performance levels. Collectively, these roadblocks are impacting how warehouses and distribution centers retain workers, embrace automation, fulfill their commitments, and maintain high levels of customer service. 

Managing the Ecommerce Surge  

The COVID-19 pandemic had a considerable impact on the growth of ecommerce sales, driving online purchases up by 32.4% over the prior year. This increase was reported as the highest annual growth reported for ecommerce sales. Concurrently, warehouses grappled with new social distancing rules, health concerns, and employment woes in workplaces that aren’t natural fits for remote work.  

Along with the ecommerce surge came changes to typical order characteristics, with pallets and cases heading out to retail locations displaced by single item units that are shipped to the homes of individual customers. This created new challenges for warehouses that may have been built to manage pallet, case, and box picking, and that now had to shift over to single item units or “eaches.” 

For help, many companies turned to technology, knowing that both hardware and applications had advanced significantly over the last few years. In fact, today’s warehouse operators have adopted a wide range of options for equipping team members with the mobile devices and applications they need to be able to stay productive and safe when receiving, fulfilling, and shipping orders. 

For example, wearables—“mini computers” that employees can wear on their wrists, heads, or as glasses—can be used to automate a wide variety of processes, improve workflows, facilitate new employee training, and improve safety on the warehouse floor. 

By pairing these intuitive wearable devices with Panasonic TOUGHBOOK® tablet and handheld devices, companies can feed real-time information and reports to and from employees and managers, thus eliminating the need for manual data entry. Knowing this, Panasonic recently partnered with ProGlove, a technology partner that manufactures the lightest, smallest, and toughest wearable barcode scanners in the world. 

With customers from more than 500 manufacturing, production, logistics, and retail operations, ProGlove integrates directly with TOUGHBOOK devices to connect workers to the actionable information and shop floor process data they need to increase warehouse uptime. Able to complete 300+ scans per worker, per shift, ProGlove enables a hands-free work environment that’s safe, efficient, and ergonomic. These durable handheld devices integrate with software systems to spot analytical insights related to picking, staging, sequencing, sorting, packaging, and/or tracking. 

Creating a Complete Ecosystem 

Realizing that warehouse and distribution center operators needed a complete technology ecosystem that would help them maximize opportunities and minimize their challenges, Panasonic identified ProGlove as its missing piece of the puzzle. It formed a global relationship with the vendor, and has since begun offering the combined solution in the UK, the U.S., and Canada.

When assessing the options on the market, Panasonic valued how the ProGlove scanner was both extremely lightweight and able to be strapped to the back of the user’s hand. Several of the wearable scanners on the market sit out on the user’s fingers and stick out a bit, They’re also heavier and can easily get caught on racking or banged around during use.”  

The ProGlove scanner is also ergonomic and easy to wear, and it allows users on fast-paced picking lines to do their jobs with less wear and tear. Users have their hands and eyes free as they go about their work, with the scanner assisting with catchweights (for food items), product serial number capture, and any other data that needs to be captured.    

Improving Efficiencies, Reducing Manual Processes 

By building out a complete technology ecosystem for warehouses and distribution centers, Panasonic is helping companies make their employees as efficient as possible. A large e-tailer that’s processing millions of transactions daily, for example, and that uses scanners and TOUGHBOOKS to cut the time it takes to pick an order by a half-a-second, will see a major overall productivity lift from its investment.  

Material handling equipment is another area that’s ripe for efficiency improvements in the warehouse, where a lift truck driver may have to leave his or her vehicle to scan an item before loading it and moving it. In many fulfillment centers, companies are equipping their lift trucks, carts, and/or trolleys with Bluetooth scanners that are then attached to a host such as a TOUGHBOOK device.  

By partnering with ProGlove, Panasonic delivers an end-to-end solution for these facilities.  With a range of up to six feet, depending on barcode size, the ProGlove scanner allows the driver to stay in place while scanning and then quickly resume loading and repositioning of the goods.  

Paired with a TOUGHBOOK device, the scanner allows the driver to quickly and easily capture information and have it sent in real-time to the warehouse management system (WMS), which reviews the information, confirms the picks, detects any errors, and provides all of the related data in real-time to the warehouse manager.  

Future-Proofing their Operations 

Improving workplace safety and worker satisfaction have become core missions for companies operating in the current labor market, where employees are hard to find and even harder to keep onboard for the long term. Warehouses and distribution centers have a particularly high hill to climb in this respect, and even employers like Amazon report that 150% worker turnover is common in its own facilities. 

To offset these challenges, companies are implementing lightweight, ergonomic mobile technology that allows employees to work hands-free, and that pairs with TOUGHBOOK devices, Panasonic voice-picking headsets, tablets, and other equipment to create a complete warehouse management ecosystem. Once in place, these ecosystems help companies tackle their current fulfillment challenges while also helping to prepare them for future success. 

To learn more about Panasonic and ProGlove wearable scanning solutions, view the complete brochure.