Augmented Reality in Procurement, a new way to visualise data

Bringing Augmented Reality into the world of Procurement

Bringing Augmented Reality into the world of Procurement

Why, in 2016, are we still using paper documents and PowerPoint presentations when discussing products and services and their associated costs?

This is the question that I proposed to the team last week.

At Acquire, we have a favourite quote being “The future is out there, it just not evenly distributed” and with that in mind, we took on a challenge to see how we could use new technology to visualise and interact with contract and spend data.

What’s wrong with the current way of doing things?

The procurement professional’s typical toolkit is Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and the objective of the profession is to engage the business and suppliers. Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend towards creating mountains of paperwork to articulate the ins-and-outs of an arrangement, only to end up having to explain it in person to ensure everyone is on the “same page”.

To improve communication, these documents seem to get longer and longer and procurement professionals spend hours, days, and even weeks to include extra information so that their own business and suppliers can completely understand what has been agreed and why.

In addition, Procurement still face an ongoing challenge to engage and demonstrate value to the business beyond just a sourcing process.

What other Solutions already exist?

Using a Sankey Diagram to visualise data

Using an Acquire Sankey Diagram to visualise data

Over the last year, the team at Acquire introduced Sankey Diagrams to the procurement profession to visualise costs and then followed on with the inclusion of isometric drawings to help illustrate the key components for major services contracts.

Alternatively, when monitoring supply arrangements, we can use dashboards to interact with contract data to assess the performance of the commercial agreement.

However, at Acquire, we believe in giving things a go and thought it was time to start bringing the latest technology into our Procurement toolkit. While the first couple of prototypes may not do anything amazing, it expands our minds and resets our thoughts on what we think is achievable.

So, what else is out there?

Like almost a tenth of the world, earlier this year we tried Pokémon Go which got people to start talking about Augmented Reality (AR). In addition to this, the personal gaming community is pressing ahead with Virtual Reality for a fully immersive experience with the Playstation VR sure to be a hit this Christmas. Machine based learning, automation and robotics are hot topics in the Financial Services industry and we know that the large ERP software vendors are racing to build this technology into their latest offerings.

We are seeing Augmented Reality being used by some architectural and engineering firms to help illustrate buildings and structures to their clients. In a supply chain context, DHL have recently trialled the technology to assist in increasing the speed of pickers in their warehouses.

Our prototype, AR in Procurement:

After trialling some new software call Vuforia and a gaming engine called Unity, the team decided to start playing around with Augmented Reality. For those who don’t know, Augmented Reality is a live view of a real-world environment where elements are augmented by computer-generated input.

The best way to explain the technology is through a demonstration, below is a quick introduction into our augmented reality prototype:

Demonstrating the mining fleet using augmented reality

Demonstrating the mining fleet using augmented reality

So what!…. How can we use this in Business?

We know that the relationship needs to change between Procurement, Operations, and Finance in the way they interact with each other to discuss the value and cost drivers of their business. Our prototype demonstrates one way that we can leverage technology to improve this discussion.

Imagine setting up a meeting between these teams in your own business context. Each attendee could bring along their phones or wear some AR glasses (e.g. google glass) and by looking directly at the asset (e.g. train line, pipeline, truck, dam etc.), each person could see the cost and contract data relevant to that item or service.

Instead of a discussion about a product or service with no context, Procurement, Finance, and Operations will finally all be speaking the same language and engaged in a discussion about how they can add value to the business together.

Let’s help to improve the discussion in your organisation

If you are interested in how we can bring this technology into your business, or would like to see a demonstration in person, we are more than happy to share what we know. For more information, please contact Simon Thompson.


Update!  Want to play with it yourself?

We have published the application to the Google Play Store so if you have an Android phone or tablet, it should work.  In order to try it, follow these steps:

1) Download the app from the Google Play Store:

2) Print out this image:
    (Note: you can print it in black and white or colour. Either should work).

3) Open up the app on your phone / tablet and point it at the printed image.

4) Send us a photo / video of you playing with it

5) Let us know what you think.

Disclaimer: This App is currently in testing phase.