Wearable computers boost parcel throughput

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NYK is using wearable computers to enable it to train staff and get them operational more quickly on its contract with La Poste, the The French national post office.

NYK Logistics France handles some two million parcels a year for La Poste with peaks of up to 100,000 per day at year-end or when sorting equipment is out of service.

To cope with these additional volumes, NYK Logistics employs additional temporary employees during peak periods. However, getting them quickly trained and operational on sorting procedures can be a slow process.

NYK previously used a manual sorting system which relied on arranging parcels by geographic zones that required employees to memorise the 30 different bins used to separate parcels according to their destination. This system could take new employees several days to master.

Marc Richard, IT manager at NYK, says: “We tend to take on a lot of seasonal employees during the Christmas period, and training them up to an acceptably high level of sorting accuracy can take several days.

Late delivery

“We would occasionally run the risk of building up a backlog and not processing the parcels in time, which could potentially result in late delivery.  we needed a new system which could help employees accurately sort out the parcels and process information faster

NYK selected Motorola’s WT4000 wearable mobile computer which comprises a 320g arm-mounted computer with keyboard, a 2.8-inch display, and a ring-mounted scanner, worn on the finger, allowing employees to scan goods and still keep use of both of their hands.

Workers can now scan the bar codes on parcels and the wearable mobile computer will then display the relevant postcode and bin number which the parcel should be deposited in, eliminating any risk of employee error in selecting the bin. The WT4000 stores the barcode information and transmits it regularly to a central server.

As a result of implementing the new wearable mobile computers, NYK has improved its overall parcel sorting speed. The new system of sorting is faster and more reliable than manual methods, and parcels are guaranteed to be directed accurately because the bin number is displayed on the mobile computer display.

Employees can be trained to use the wearable mobile computers very quickly, as they are easy to use and workers only need to scan parcels once to display the correct bin number. If the parcel is not barcoded, employees can also type postcodes into the wearable mobile computer.

“The learning curve for new employees is much faster,” says Richard. “We can now ensure that our temporary workers are at a comparable level of productivity and accuracy within hours, rather than days of starting work. Overall, our speed of processing parcels has increased and the new devices have meant that on an average day, we can process an extra thousand parcels, with finer sortation levels.”

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