Hands-free Retail: The Disadvantages of Handheld Devices

The rise of buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), microfulfillment centers, and eCommerce has many companies rethinking their fulfillment strategies to ensure they remain competitive. Speed, accuracy, and efficiency issues compound as order increase, making it more essential than ever for companies wanting to increase business to adapt.

Order picking alone accounts for over $30 billion in annual warehousing expenditures in the United States. It’s easy to see how when 80% of order picking is performed by employees using paper-based pick lists, which are less efficient and accurate than heads-up AR-based smart glass solutions.

With more employees fulfilling an ever-rising number of orders, if you’re not optimizing for efficiency and speed, your problems are likely going from bad to worse.

Let’s dive into how pick-by-paper and handhelds are costing your business money and customers.

Pick-by-Paper & Handheld Devices are Slower

First and foremost, handheld devices are slower than hands-free, heads-up alternatives. A recent study found that heads-up order picking technology can help pickers be as much as 88% faster. But why?

Handheld devices and pick-by-paper require the picker to go between their clipboard and product, which slows down picking time dramatically and increases the likelihood of mistakes - which we’ll talk more about in a minute.

Heads-up order picking technology can help pickers be as much as 88% faster.

When dealing with oversized or heavy items, pickers might even have to have put down their handheld scanner to grab the product - making them even slower still.

In addition, without visual cues and directions (like the ones used in ar-based smart glasses), your employees are likely doing a lot of backtracking and back-and-forth down the aisles collecting the items they need to fulfill orders - making your fulfillment speed suffer.


They’re prone to miss-picks & miss-ships

Any time you make someone look back-and-forth between clipboard and products you’re going to decrease efficiency. But on top of that, you’re associates are going to make more mistakes.

It’s really easy - and common - for a picker to arrive at a picking location, scan the location or item, then look down to fiddle with their clipboard or scanner - or even put it away to free up their hands, and then reach back up only to grab the wrong item. Additionally, pick-by-paper solutions don’t provide real-time feedback - making it incredibly easy for associates to grab the wrong item without a way to verify or correct it.

If this is the case for your warehouse or retail location, you’re not only costing yourself money and efficiency on the front-end, you’re likely also losing customer trust and repeat business to other chains.

Pick-by-Paper & Handheld Devices are Dangerous

With the presence of COVID-19 it’s more important than ever for retailers to follow recommended COVID guidelines and take every precaution possible to keep employees and customers safe.

So if your employees are using handheld scanners, they’re putting themselves in unnecessary risk. Shared surfaces are difficult to keep clean - especially if hand washing stations and hand sanitizer aren’t readily available. Heads-up, hands-free solutions can help decrease the spread of dangerous germs throughout your store.

Employee Training Takes Longer 

Employee training is expensive. It can take quite a bit of time before pickers are up-to-speed, and, in the meantime, they’re slower, taking up the time of more experienced employees, and probably making costly mistakes.

Heads-up, augmented reality technology decreases onboarding time dramatically - as much as 37% faster - by using simple-to-understand prompts to guide pickers where they need to go. Imagine what that would mean for your peak season productivity.

Pick-by-Paper & Handhelds are Less Efficient

Handheld devices and pick-by-paper aren’t providing your associates with optimized routes, which means they’re probably wasting a lot of time on their pick walks. This issue becomes more pressing and time-consuming if your associates are fulfilling multiple orders at once.

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When it comes to picking orders, time is money. If you're not optimizing the efficiency of your order picking strategy, you're likely wasting a lot of time and money.

They don’t Integrate with Existing Processes & Systems

The ability to integrate with existing systems like your website, order management system (OMS), warehouse management system (WMS), and/or inventory management system (IMS) is critical for optimizing your supply chain. Without it, you’re not getting realtime data or visibility into your warehouse efficiency.

Using systems that can integrate with your existing systems means you can get real-time feedback and reporting - taking the guesswork out of managing a warehouse or grocery store.

They don’t Provide Smart Substitutions

If your handheld devices aren’t integrated with your inventory management tools, they definitely aren’t providing you with real-time inventory - meaning your pickers will likely experience out-of-stock items.

Instead of leaving money on the table, you could be using an order picking solution that can provide smart substitutions. Your customers are happy and you still get to make a sale.

What’s the Best Picking Solution?

Pick-by-paper and handheld devices are slower, less accurate, and simply less helpful to your warehouse. The most common heads-up, hands-free order picking technologies alternatives are pick-by-vision and pick-by-voice - both of which are guaranteed to make your company more efficient and accurate. 

Take a look at this chart to see how they stack up:

Voice vs Vision Picking

Ox is an AR-based heads-up solution that combines both of these technologies to give your company the competitive edge it needs to meet rising demand in speed and customer satisfaction. We can help you utilize machine learning to provide your management staff with the platform they need to maximize productivity, automate work assignments, gain visibility over orders and picks, and measure performance. 

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Vision Picking vs Voice Picking Technology