Zebra Study: Building the Smarter Warehouse

Optiscan would like to draw your attention to the future of the warehousing. Our premium partner, Zebra Technologies analyzed the state of the warehousing marketplace and conducted a study on “Building the Smarter Warehouse: Warehousing 2020”. The online survey asked IT and operations personnel in the manufacturing, retail, transportation and wholesale market segments to share their insights and business plans over the next five years, in light of a rapidly changing industry.

State of the industry

The exponential growth of omnichannel shopping and ever-burgeoning demand for faster merchandise deliveries is redefining the supply chain’s distribution of consumer products goods. A seminal shift in how shoppers increasingly buy via multiple touch points — online from desktop computers, mobile devices and in-store — has created the need for the “smarter” warehouse to serve today’s connected consumer. As retailers look to merge their brick-and-mortar and online operations to cut costs and boost efficiency, warehouse management systems must keep pace.

The retail, wholesale, transportation and logistics sectors are transitioning to “best-of-breed” warehouse management systems that take automization to new heights — from equipping workers with mobile devices that increase the speed and accuracy of order picking to the rollout of radio frequency identification technology (RFID) for real-time inventory visibility.

Investing for the future

As warehouse executives prepare to increase the volume of items shipped in the coming years, they rank outfitting staff with new technology, as well as increasing the use of barcode scanning, tablets and the Internet of Things, as their top initiatives and lead investments for an optimized supply chain.

Moving to best-of-breed, real time warehouse management systems

Succeeding in the new supply chain paradigm calls for shortening merchandise delivery times and slashing transportation costs, which were cited by executives surveyed as the core reasons driving the move to the smart warehouse. To automate cycle counts, warehouse executives plan to replace pen and paper spreadsheets with mobile handheld computers and tablets that provide real-time access to warehouse management systems. The idea is to boost inventory accuracy, reduce out-of-stocks, and enhance customer service.

Making visibility a reality

RFID technology is another big push. The Internet of Things, objects enhanced with electronics, sensors and network connectivity that enable them to collect and exchange data, has sparked a big buzz around “smart’ consumer products, such as fitness wearables that track a user’s activity level. But the warehouse industry is also banking on the IoT to streamline and link up the many moving parts of a supply chain by allowing for real-time, sharable and actionable data insights across a variety of processes, from inventory tracking and order picking to maximizing fleet routes.

Iot and RFID

When it comes to the application of IoT technology, RFID, once cost prohibitive and now significantly more affordable, will play a critical role in modernizing warehouses for the era of digital commerce. RFID offers the promise of heightened inventory visibility —the ability to know precisely where any pallet, case or SKU is in the warehouse at any given moment. For this reason, retailers, manufacturers, distribution and logistics providers are planning to more than double their usage of RFID for cycle counts and inventory validation by 2020.

Ushering a new era of worker productivity

Warehouse executives are also turning to technology enhancements to ratchet up worker productivity when it comes to order picking and fulfillment, which eats up 70 percent of a facility’s operating costs. Today, it takes an estimated 49.5 hours of training for new staff to reach full productivity. In a bid to cut that time to 36.2 hours, the industry is moving from voice-only directed picking to voice and screen directed inventory picking and replenishment over the next five years.

Going green

Over the next few years, warehouses will become increasingly eco-friendly. Key eco-conscious initiatives include reducing and recycling the packaging materials used during shipping, and cutting down on energy consumption by purchasing high-efficiency equipment.

The Zebra study on Warehousing 2020 can be downloaded here.




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