Yes, I am surprised this was one major problem why every single operator hated with this wrist mounted device. This was when we started doing the research. This was when I joined the MBA program at Georgia Tech, and there was a business plan competition, so we picked up this project, a venture project, where we come up with an idea, then we work through the plan to determine the product market fit, marketing strategy, pricing strategy, the whole nine yards and then come up with a funding model, the funding need and then finally launch the venture, it culminates with a presentation to real venture funders, which included former startup CEOs, Angel investors, Startup mentors etc. So we chose this project, decided to do a wearable scanner for warehouse operator.
During my consulting days, I had seen either Maria or Jose all the time, where they would be trying to pull a box from the seventh level of the warehouse racks, wearing this wrist mounted device, they will pull the box carefully and then enter the quantity, all this on the seventh level, in their reach truck, while the truck pillar is dangling, this guy is picking up the box, locating the box on the pallet on the platform of the reach truck, then scan the barcode, enter the quantity with the multi tap keyboard, then come down and then go to the next location to do the same. And these guys spend a lot of time doing this, because operating the device was so painful. Also in the scenario where they had the RF handheld, they constantly have to look for the place to keep the device down, so they can pick the box and then go back and pick the device back up. Sometimes, while they pick the device back up or locate the device, they also drop them, sometimes these devices get dropped from a height of 30 feet and obviously the device breaks.
So that was the problem we set out to solve. With all the advancements in the consumer mobile technology, we thought their life doesn’t have to be that difficult, we could provide a much better device, that is light weight, so can be worn easily, also with the advancements in the UI and UX, we thought the keyboard can be made much more simple, also the operation could be made much more intuitive.
So as part of testing the product market fit exercise we are supposed to meet with as many warehouse pickers that use the wrist mounted devices and learn about the problem with these devices. So we made a list of all the warehouses in the Atlanta area, planned a visit to each one of them. Then we went to the warehouse and talked to the pickers, the supervisors and the end users that liked this device as well as the end users that hated the device. While we were doing our interviews, in one facility the end users absolutely hated the device, when asked why? They said it smells very bad, the people that used it before used it on their bare arms, hence a plenty of sweat got deposited on the device, and started smelling really bad. There was no easy way to clean it to get rid of the smell and also when people tried to used it on their regular sweater or a full sleeve t-shirt the whole thing kept slipping on their arm, which became very annoying. Even when I used this device for the first time in 2001, this was back in my consulting days, I was supporting a deployment in Cincinnati OH, even though my role was technical support, I jumped in help with inventory count, at that time I was given a device with someone else’s sweat on it, I had to wipe it off and do the counting process, I felt a little nasty, but the enthusiasm to perform the count on the warehouse overcame that nastiness.
So when we built our wearable scanner or called the wearable scan gun, we not made sure we gave two sleeves for every single user, but also made our device such that it had the following attributes.
1 – It does not roll, it had very good grip on the sleeve, so when worn, it stayed pretty tight gripping nicely on the sleeve.
2 – It is so light weight, so it does not dangle, like the bulky one did.
3 – The sleeves that we incorporated with the device had the following properties.
a – Every single operator can keep their sleeves with them, wash them & bring back to use them.
b – The sleeves themselves are made of the Drift fabric, so the fabric accelerates evaporation to minimize sweat retention, this is very important especially in warehouses in Georgia, Florida, Texas and any other hot and humid areas.
c – Also the sleeves are very light weight.
d – The sleeves provide a nice padding.
So what is your experience using the wrist mounted devices? What did you do to solve the stinking issue? Would love to hear your thoughts? Did you think they can be made better?