Research shows e-commerce brought in roughly $768 billion in sales back in 2021, with around half of U.S. consumers reporting to have received at least one delivery per week. That translates to over 110 million orders processed per week nationwide. Since e-commerce shoppers show no signs of relenting purchases, warehouses remain in a continuous struggle to accelerate fulfillment rates without compromising order accuracy. Zebra’s Warehousing Vision Study revealed that 73% of participating warehouses expect partial automation to solve this issue; however, automation may take different forms depending on a warehouse’s order volume.

What Can “Partial Automation” Look Like?

Micro-fulfillment warehouses and cold storage facilities clearly have different challenges and needs compared to traditional distribution centers. As a result, partial automation may look different between facilities. Below are a few adaptable automation solutions currently accelerating order picking within challenging and traditional environments alike:

  • Start with digital data capture to eliminate manual recording.

Digitization is the most basic yet scalable way to prevent costly mistakes from entering the supply chain. At its core, an automated data capture solution is composed of a handheld scanner connected to your WMS and legible barcodes, yet Avalon empowers you to take your system a step farther by deploying pre-tested labels that retain barcode legibility in harsh and/or high-demand environments. For example, Zebra’s Certified Consumables can be tailored to integrate waterproof and scratch resistant surfaces for a longer lifespan within cold storage. By removing manual inventory updates, warehouse teams can get real-time insight to stock levels and location, optimizing picking paths and preventing out-of-stocks through one intelligent solution. 

  • Integrate power carts to minimize worker travel time and bottlenecks.

If your warehouse is already leveraging automated data capture, power carts expand functionality by increasing receiving volume by 63% in less travel time. By mobilizing industrial printers, scanning, and inventory visibility, power carts remove bottlenecks around static centralized label printing stations, allowing workers to stay focused and productive at all times. Zebra’s intelligent industrial printers further accelerate processes with faster printing speeds and easier media loading, ultimately resulting in 75% less overtime when paired with Newcastle’s mobile workstations.  

  • Move inventory with AMRs to alleviate workers.

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are currently being used in large-scale high-demand warehouses to lessen the pressures of today’s current labor shortage. Previous studies have shown that AMRs and co-bots can triple picking rates by moving entire pallets to the shipping dock, delivering a noticeable ROI within as little as 3 months. With Zebra’s acquisition of Fetch Robotics, Avalon now brings the latest insights into simplifying AMR integration for future warehouse adaptability and faster order picking. 

Simply put, the definitions of “partial automation” are adaptable to your warehouse’s needs and constraints. That’s why it is recommended that warehouses meet with a modernization team to build a customized plan. Successful solutions can empower warehouses to meet current customer demands while preparing them for eventual challenges ahead.

In a span of a decade, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have reported a 125% increase in food recalls. In 2020, the FSIS recorded a total of 1,394,585 pounds of recalled products, pulled from markets due to pathogens, allergens, presence of extraneous materials, and import violations. Studies show that grievous tracking and traceability gaps have been responsible for:

  • 47% of recalls stemming from microbiological contamination
  • $3.7 billion spent in medical treatments for salmonella 
  • Nearly 8.5 million food units recalled yearly by the FDA
  • 601,969 pounds of recalled chicken in 2020 alone

While these numbers are ominous, one of the primary reasons behind the increase in recalls are traceability technology and new safety regulations. Real-time tracking and labeling systems now provide easier verification of compliance codes in food safety. That means manufacturers can target and catch more mistakes than before with the help of new intelligent tools and better safety parameters set by the FDA, FSIS, and CDC. However, while timely recalls can prevent pathogen outbreaks, they quickly erode consumer trust. An estimated 80% of consumers do not completely trust brands to ensure safety, and over a third report avoiding businesses associated with food-borne illnesses for many months. Therefore, visibility systems must prioritize early detection to keep compromised products from leaving facilities in the first place. 

The key to establish real-time alerts based on actionable data

Less communication gaps empowers teams with a clear overview of how products are handled, packaged, stored, and moved. Labeling systems paired with handheld scanners and mobile computers can help eliminate gaps by transcribing data from each step into a centralized shareable database. On the other hand, new rugged tablets like Zebra’s ET80/85 2-in-1 tablets emphasize the power of agile adaptability in securing food safety by:

  • Providing a lightweight consolidated computer and scanner – Despite having an integrated scanner and higher durability standards, the ET80/85 is 20% lighter and 35% thinner for easy portability. Its larger screen size permits workers to monitor products at-a-glance when operating forklifts or other heavy machinery.
  • Facilitating data entry with a detachable keyboard – Keep workflows standardized with a device that adapts to preferred data entry mechanisms for administrators and production teams alike. Detachable keyboards and universal mounting options allow the ET80/85 to fit into different work environments, simplifying training and accelerating deployment. 
  • Reducing connection drops through flexible connectivity options – Leveraging several connectivity options such as WiFi 6E, 4G/5G, and Bluetooth, the ET80/85 prevents downtime and breakdowns from signal drops within the four walls, keeping your vital data constantly available to your workforce. This also means workers can update WIPs, notifications, and compliance codes in real-time for entire teams to track. 
  • Deploying seamless push-to-talk and secured texting – Lastly, Zebra’s Workforce Connect empowers manufacturers with real-time communication between individual workers and entire groups, all streamlined through one platform. Moreover, connectivity can extend beyond the four walls, allowing transportation teams and retailers to verify shipments are ready for sale. 

To efficiently start securing real-time workflow visibility, begin with a comprehensive operational assessment to target recurring points of communication breakdowns. Contact Avalon to start your assessment today and learn more about the next generation of technologies devoted to dependable food safety.

The new year brings with it both the excitement of new possibilities and hidden challenges yet to surface. Navigating through several pandemic-induced challenges, last year’s warehouse technologies showcased agile adaptability to accelerate order picking with less touchpoints and manual data capture. Faster and safer picking mechanisms continued to affirm customer demands for quick and accurate order fulfilment, now in less time and with the option of free/easy returns. However, current supply chain and labor shortages are certain to keep challenging businesses, which is why the following trends are expected to reshape modernized warehouses this year:

  1. Continual push for verifiable sustainable warehousing practices – A large percentage of today’s consumers are growing more eco-conscious due to several environmental changes. To meet both customer demands and protect the environment, sustainable warehousing practices allow businesses to meet accuracy and speed demands with a smaller carbon impact. For example, Zebra’s Certified Consumables can be made of eco-friendly materials for easier decomposition and removal while still containing strong adhesives and surfaces for uncompromised barcode legibility. Other noteworthy mentions include next-generation mobile computers and tablets since they eliminate the need for additional hardware and can last beyond the standard 3-year lifecycle of a mobile device. This reduced eventual e-waste and electricity consumption.  
  2. Securing T&L drivers and ELD compliance – Delivery drivers have reported turnover rates of about 92%, causing serious delays in shipments. As order volumes increase, so does the demand for more capable drivers. Consequently, new technologies must be simple and intelligent enough to minimize stress and maximize safety. Devices like rugged tablets have proven useful in connecting drivers with real-time communication with administrators, most efficient driving routes, and voice messaging all through one large dashboard to keep drivers’ eyes on the road. Next-evolution models are even more advantageous as ELD systems running on 3G are soon to be terminated in 2022, creating a new demand for flexible connectivity options installed on newer devices.  
  3. Growing need for micro-fulfillment centers in urban areas – Same-day shipping demands have grown by 36% within the past year, especially for urban areas. This has posed a problem since large-scale warehouses simply can’t fit within bustling cities. Consequently, micro-fulfillment centers have grown within cities to cut down shipping and labor costs while preventing delays. To keep micro-fulfillment centers running smoothly, workers often depend on versatile handheld devices that can streamline multiple workflows through one digital platform. Zebra’s wearable WT6300 continues to illustrate this by replacing both scanners and 2-way communicators with an adaptable mobile computer that leverages natural muscle movement for faster integration. 
  4. Next-level automation with robotics – Order fulfillment leaders such as Amazon and Walmart have already set the standard for faster shipping rates. They are also among the first warehouses to begin deploying co-bots and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), once again raising the standards for efficient order picking.  Current labor shortages have also increased the demands for AMRs since they increase productivity by 85% when deployed alongside a human team, removing additional stress from your current teams. 
  5. Real-time communication with long-distance manufacturers – Supply chain shortages have resulted in a 250% increase in out-of-stocks nationwide. Breakdowns in communication between distributors and manufacturers further increase out-of-stocks as inventory is vulnerable to shrinkage and/or inaccurate counting while transitioning down the supply chain. Digitized data sharing through mobile devices and applications like Workforce Connect empower teams to notify facilities of quantities shipped and their location, preventing replenishment errors and additional out-of-stocks.

The key to leveraging any of these trends in the coming year is proactive preparation. Before deploying large-scale changes within your warehouse, consider meeting up with a modernization expert to explore optimization opportunities in your crucial workflows and get a closer look into the new technologies reshaping supply chains.

PRESS RELEASE

DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sole Source Capital LLC, an industrial-focused private equity firm, today announced that its portfolio company, Peak Technologies, a leading full life-cycle system integrator and provider of digital supply chain, retail and mobile workforce solutions, acquired Avalon Integration Inc (“Avalon”). Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The acquisition of Avalon marks Sole Source’s 12th investment in the Automatic Identification & Data Capture (AIDC) industry. Sole Source has supported Peak Technologies in four prior add-on acquisitions including Optical Phusion, Inovity, Bar Code Direct and DBK Concepts.

Headquartered in Lebanon, NJ and founded in 2002, Avalon is a regionally focused system integrator and provider of digital supply chain, retail and mobile workforce solutions. Avalon sells primarily to enterprise-level customers in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, grocery, and consumer channels.

Peak Technologies provides industry-leading digital supply chain, retail and mobile workforce solutions to Fortune 500 customers, along with mid-market businesses, that enable them to become more efficient and responsive to their customers. The acquisition of Avalon provides Peak Technologies with significant cross-selling opportunities to blue-chip enterprise customers, strong exposure to attractive healthcare, pharmaceutical and grocery end markets, and additional geographic reach into the Northeast.

“We are excited to welcome the Avalon team. Avalon’s extensive technical capabilities drive a differentiated solutions offering to its customers, which is a perfect fit within the Peak Technologies portfolio,” said Tony Rivers, CEO, Peak Technologies.

“We are thrilled to be joining one of the strongest teams in the digital supply chain, retail, and mobile workforce solutions industry and are excited to bring the capabilities of Peak Technologies to our client base,” said Dan McCabe, CTO, Avalon Integration.

About Sole Source Capital

Founded in 2016 by David Fredston, Sole Source Capital is a private equity firm that thematically invests in fragmented, high-growth industrial subsectors. Sole Source seeks founder-owned businesses or corporate carve-outs that will benefit from the team’s operating and M&A capabilities. The Firm has a strong operating heritage that enables it to execute a buy and build strategy with significant downside protection. The Firm is headquartered in Dallas, Texas with offices in Santa Monica, California. For more information, please visit www.solesourcecapital.com or contact investor.relations@solesourcecapital.com.

About Peak Technologies

Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, Peak Technologies is a leading full life-cycle system integrator of digital supply chain, retail and mobile workforce solutions. With over 35 years of supply chain, field mobility and retail services expertise, Peak Technologies has an insider’s perspective of the market; its origins, participants, and dynamic forces of change. With extensive application experience across industry segments, Peak Technologies is able to provide objective consultancy on business processes, software, hardware, as well as turn-key solutions for equipment repair, life cycle support, technology, vertical/application and business services. For more information, please visit www.peaktech.com.

About Avalon Integration Inc.

Headquartered in Lebanon, NJ and founded in 2002, Avalon is a regionally focused system integrator and provider of digital supply chain, retail and mobile workforce solutions. For more information, please visit www.avalonintegration.com.

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Current supply chain challenges have solidified the consistent need for intelligent automation. However, solution integration can increase operational expenses beyond hardware purchases. Between software integration, employee training, and eventual maintenance and tech support, warehouses expecting to deploy automated solutions expect to pay thousands of dollars in deployment alone. Consequently, there remains a fourth of warehouses uncommitted to enhanced automation for a myriad of reasons including:

  • Lack of time to deploy
  • Lack of affordable options
  • Employee turnover rates being faster than training times
  • Older devices still functioning well 

Nevertheless, automation continues to enable faster picking rates, higher accuracy rates, and greater inventory control. As a result, Avalon’s labeling experts have decided to partner with several enterprise leaders in simplifying scalable barcoding automation through the new Barcode Printing Program

One access-point to countless automation opportunities. 

By streamlining the solution design process, warehouses can expect a smoother deployment process to reduce costs and get workers more accustomed to new barcoding systems for faster ROI. This is accomplished with the following components:

  1. Adaptable printing hardware – Drawing from a partnership with several enterprise-ready brands, printers are selected according to your printing volume, projected goals, and budget requirements. Furthermore, adaptable devices such as Zebra’s line of thermal printers secure high printing speeds and resolutions within user-friendly units for simplistic deployment and scalability. 
  2. Intelligent printing software and applications – White hardware is obviously crucial, printing software, operating systems, and applications work hand in hand to expand the printer’s capabilities, protect passing data, and facilitate remote management. For example, PrintDNA applications enable seamless PDF printing from ERP systems, access levels to previously printed data, and remote battery management to prevent battery failure in the middle of a shift. Different applications and software can be added to your existing printing solution, eliminating the need for a complete system upgrade. 
  3. Durable labels that match application environments – Comprising less than 10% of total operational expenses, labels still play a vital role in supply chain efficiency. As a result, it is recommended labels be thoroughly tested to survive application and storage environments. Working with leading label developers, our specialists work with you in tailoring label size, color, surface, adhesive strength, and more to ensure its dependability.

In addition to careful solution design and deployment, the Barcode Printing Program also provides recurrent technical support for any update and repairs that arise. Close relationships with brands also provide insights and first glances at new technologies and solutions, giving you the competitive advantage. 

Take the first step towards scalable efficiency and enroll today into Avalon’s Barcode Printing Program to start exploring technologies that match your operational goals and needs.