Book-wrangling at Wordery with a Raspberry Pi

While we mostly deal in pretty technologically advanced stuff here at Pi Towers, we are huge fans of the printed word too. It’s great to hear, then, that the Raspberry Pi has been helping booksellers to keep bibliophiles like us supplied with all the reading matter they could wish for. Jeff Podolski, IT and network technician at Wordery, recently got in touch to tell us just how his company has been using the Pi in their warehouse.

At work in the Wordery warehouse.

Wordery is an online bookshop which offers over 10 million books, including a wide range of Raspberry Pi titles. Jeff tells us that the company has been working on improving their productivity and customer service over the past few years, with a recent drive towards greater automation in our sorting and distribution operation. “We needed to get PCs on the desks used for packing and mailing, so we could track packed items and provide interactive feedback for our staff,” says Jeff. A PC with a screen and barcode scanner on a desk takes up considerable space and power, so the IT team came up with the idea of using Raspberry Pis instead.

After some initial tests using a Pi and a standard PC screen, Jeff and his team streamlined the setup using the official 7” screen and case, along with a USB barcode scanner. This allowed them to have a unit on the desk which took up one fifth of the space a PC would have needed, while using dramatically less power.

The Pi and touchscreen assembly

Jeff’s next challenge was to keep the Raspberry Pi safe from being knocked and bumped by all the items being packed, lest an unsecured Pi become a Pi smashed on the warehouse floor. “We found an excellent tablet mounting arm designed for wheelchairs: we simply clamped that to the table and attached a back-board to the tablet bracket,” Jeff explains. “We were then able to attach the Pi using the rear mounting screw holes”. After a little tidying of cables, Jeff and the team had created a small, low-power, easily movable interactive terminal which can be used by all the staff in the warehouse.

A mobile terminal, thanks to a hacked tablet holder

The project was such a success that over 40 of these terminals have now been installed, and the benefits are already clear to see. “This year we have been able to process record volumes through our warehouse, up 11% on the previous year,” notes Jeff. “The Pis were key to us handling this additional volume, enabling us to increase packing productivity by 30%. The beauty of a project like this is we’re now advocating using these Raspberry Pi terminals elsewhere in the building, further reducing our power consumption and equipment costs”.

We’re really happy to see the success of a project like this: it shows how the Raspberry Pi can make automation much cheaper and more accessible, as well as much more flexible. Jeff’s team did a great job of hacking the tablet arm to make it fit another purpose, too. It also really speaks volumes of the helpfulness and engagement of the Raspberry Pi community. The team at ModMyPi helped with sourcing large amounts of kit and cables, as well as the cases themselves. The Raspberry Pi Thin Client Project worked on making a simple, configurable thin client for Jeff’s team to use. Finally, Martin Kirst, the lead programmer on the open-source project TN525j, helped Jeff and his team to make the terminal emulator screens easily readable and to add new functionality to the units.

Using the Pi enabled Wordery to work more efficiently

Thank you for sharing your work with us, Jeff: it shows what great work you can do with the Raspberry Pi in an industrial setting.

In celebration of the success of this Pi-powered automation project, the nice folks at Wordery are offering a discount on Raspberry Pi titles on until the end of January: use the code “HAPPYREADING” and receive 10% off your second book. Wordery offer free delivery on all orders too.