Our Partner, Zebra Technologies analysed the state of the warehousing marketplace and published the 2016 Zebra Warehouse Vision Report. 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.
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, READ TIME WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
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.