zebra logo

The Visible Value Blog

Tilt! What Pinball Can Teach Us About Warehouse Productivity

Posted by Amanda Honig

Find me on:

April 18, 2016 at 7:00 AM


Have you seen the television show “American Pickers?” It features a couple of guys who travel around the country looking for cool stuff— ranging from old advertising signs to 1930’s toys to Indian motorcycle parts—in old barns, stores and collectors’ lairs. Some of the most prized “finds” are old arcade pinball machines, like a 1946 Fastball Wood Rail Pinball Baseball Game or a 1954 Williams Spitfire Wood Rail Machine. But whether it’s an old classic or a newer model like Surfin’ Safari, there’s one thing you never want to see while you’re playing any of them. You want to avoid seeing “Tilt!” at all costs. Because “Tilt!” means game over. 

Tilt and verify

Want to know where else “tilt” isn’t such a good thing? In the warehouse. Everyone who works in a warehouse is familiar with the action of having to “tilt and verify.” It’s something that’s done hundreds of times every day by virtually every worker. Because of the way today’s popular gun-style handheld computers are designed, workers are forced to first scan the item, then tilt the computer up so they can see the screen and verify that the task is completed correctly. Tests showed an average of three “tilt and verify” actions per item, none of which add value to warehouse productivity. It’s so commonplace, and done so often, most workers may never even think about it. But management should.

Hidden drain on productivity

Because as workers pick and put away items in today’s omnichannel warehouses, the “tilt and verify” action has become one of the biggest drains on productivity.  How do we know? Zebra’s Innovation and Design team conducted studies to uncover challenges in today’s everyday warehouse practices. The results of these studies are highlighted in the new Zebra white paper Addressing Productivity Barriers in the Warehouse. Among the issues studied were:

  • Task flow
  • Productivity
  • User comfort

All of which are crucial to more efficient warehouse operations. And all of which are significantly affected by the need to “tilt and verify” every item.

The Zebra research studies showed that this non-value added wrist motion interrupted workflow and increased cycle time and motion overhead. The result was reduced worker productivity and efficiency, and increased worker fatigue. 

Dual-plane vs. single-plane

What’s the solution? At Zebra, our design team examined ways of eliminating the “tilt and verify” problem. The culmination of a series of brainstorming sessions was a confirmation that the “tilt” motions were caused by the dual-plane user interface of gun-style handheld computers. Workers had to hold the device in one plane to scan the item, then move it to a second plane to view the screen for scan verification. It became quite clear: the dual planes were the major cause of the problem.

A revolutionary design concept

Zebra designers and engineers immediately set out to create a new handheld computer designed to do away with the dual plane drain on productivity. The result is a revolutionary new handheld computer design that replaces the dual plane interface with a single plane “line of sight” interface for the next generation of workers. Our new handheld is called the TC8000 mobile computer and with it, the concept of “tilt”—and the productivity drain it causes in the warehouse—are eliminated once and for all.

Now the only time you’ll have to worry about “tilt” is when you’re playing that Star Trek StarFleet Pro Pinball Machine.

To find out how the TC8000 can help you increase warehouse productivity, read the white paper Addressing Productivity Barriers in the Warehouse. 

Amanda Honig is the Americas Product Marketing Manager for Handheld Enterprise Mobile Computers at Zebra Technologies. Amanda works closely with Zebra’s product development and global marketing teams to introduce new mobile computing solutions to customers across all industries.

Topics: North America, Warehouse Management, TC8000, Warehouse, Productivity