The opening keynote at the annual Google I/O developers conference in 2018 had 12 interesting announcements for the future of the AI-enabled world. The one that hit the most responsive chord to me was the emerging high-quality virtual reality (VR) experience for mobile devices. The organization announced it would shift from GPS to VPS (visual positioning system), which will enable next-generation augmented reality (AR) experiences. Everyone who uses Google Maps has missed a turn when the application advises us too late to take the next left in 200m. The game has completely changed now; we can now live a Pokémon-Go experience, where we see the entire street view just in front of us with a near-zero chance of missing any turn. This is re-imagined navigation.

The value of these technologies is immediately recognized, appreciated, and valued in the B2C (business-to-consumer) world. In the B2B (business-to-business) world, what kind of impact can immersive technologies like AR/VR have on organizations’ supply chain? Can we generate immediate value and instant gratification in the B2B segment (like we can in B2C) with the use of additive and innovative technologies?

“Gartner estimates that Virtual Reality (VR) will reach mainstream adoption in the next two to five years, with Augmented Reality (AR) going mainstream in the next five to 10 years, but these technologies are already in use in a variety of industries” – Gartner Supply Chain Trends for 2018

Let’s look at a few AR/ VR use cases that can clearly create a significant advantage for supply chain organizations:

  1. Hands-free picking with augmented reality – Think about smart glass applications helping warehouse workers do their job more efficiently. All relevant information is in the user’s field of sight exactly when it’s needed. Barcode scanning happens effortlessly as warehouse workers look at the codes, leaving their hands free to perform picking tasks.
  1. Predictive maintenance meets augmented reality – Wearable technology and AR solutions will enable hands-free and virtual maintenance. They provide real-time enterprise data, safety, intuitive instructions, indoor navigation, and other features in a visual context.
  1. AR-assisted training – Smart glasses, simulators, or shop-floor displays can be used to train and assist manufacturing workers. AR can also be used to communicate and verify manufacturing steps and recommend improvements to manufacturing work instruction

Like these immersive/additive technologies, the future of supply chain promises a host of new and innovative concepts. To learn more and start a discussion with your team about the current and desired state of supply chain processes, review the SAP Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Asset Management, and R&D white papers.