For large-scale warehouses, managing inventory is often inefficient and inaccurate — with many companies identifying order picking and reporting as pain points. Most operations cite fulfillment time as a KPI, so speed and accuracy are crucial to profitability.
Infor is committed to providing comprehensive, scalable solutions that help global wholesale distributors streamline costs, increase revenue, and exceed customer expectations. Hook&Loop Digital partners with Infor Industry Councils to identify today’s most pressing business challenges and solve them with customized, industry-specific solutions. We met with 20 Infor distribution customers to gain insight into their challenges and priorities as inputs for the direction of our product.
Our solution for better order picking? Merge virtual images and real-time data with a warehouse operator’s real-life environment. Using a mobile phone or tablet, employees can find, select, and document inventory quickly and accurately with AR-generated indicator arrows that guide them along the way.
Listening to Infor customers
At our 2019 Distribution Council Summit, Infor asked some of our most engaged distribution customers to identify their top industry challenges. Here’s what they said:
- Fulfilling orders from a paper-pick list is inefficient.
- Distributor showrooms don’t have enough product details.
- On-site customer service and inspection techniques are too old.
Hook&Loop Digital started to map out ways to integrate Infor CloudSuite™ Distribution and Ming.le™, Infor’s business collaboration platform, with 21st-century distribution technology. Using the persona of a warehouse employee, we challenged ourselves to develop a product experience that could improve the fulfillment process.
Streamlining warehouse operations with emerging technology
After some exploration, we decided to use two open-source frameworks to build the web application: AR.js to add AR content to the web application and A-Frame to render a 3D augmented reality experience. To pull data from Infor systems, we built a middleware REST API so that the front end could pull data from two routes:
- Orders — order and item data from CloudSuite Distribution
- Alerts — post to Infor Ming.le endpoint to trigger a notification
We made sure that our middleware service used a cascading data calling model. This is so the front end can process most data with a single call and make secondary API calls only when necessary — handling ION authentication and token renewal in the background for further speed and convenience.
The new fulfillment experience
When employees receive a sales order, they can use their device’s camera to scan a QR code that launches their web browser. Within the browser, they’ll see all the items in a given order. Based on their location, they’ll see the most efficient route for picking for faster order fulfillment.
The employee taps an item on the list, and AR-generated arrows will display along the floor, guiding them to an item’s location in the warehouse. Once it’s located, they’ll see the quantity available and can pick the item or report issues such as insufficient quantity, damage, or incorrect location. After the item is selected or reported, they can proceed to the next one until the order is complete.
What we learned and what’s next
The prototype was functional in the controlled environment but needs further testing and refinement. Future explorations of the experience would perform better as a native application with RFID or Bluetooth beacons for item location.
The prototype is currently running in Infor’s Innovation Garage, where we have the opportunity to showcase Infor’s latest innovations with customers across many industries. While this digital solution stemmed from a problem surfaced in the Distribution Council, we’ve collected feedback from other customers on how this technology could benefit their micro-vertical as well.
As a next step, we intend to work closely with our business and development teams to enhance Infor CloudSuite Distribution and Ming.le to be compatible with AR warehouse solutions and evaluate which other industries could benefit from this solution.
James Toomey is VP of Digital Strategy at Hook&Loop. Learn more about our work at hldigital.com.