Undisruptive Modernization – It’s possible with these three initiatives.

 

Complex implementation has long been cited as one of the leading obstacles warehouses face when modernizing their workflows. Today’s fast-paced operations leave little room for extensive training times, app alterations, and lulls in productivity; however, failure to properly modernize can also slow down efficiency as workers must navigate through higher demands with outdated devices, bottlenecks, and inaccurate data. In other words, complex modernization is almost as detrimental as no modernization.

 

So, if modernization skills must be intelligent enough to compete in today’s high-demand environments, yet simple enough to maximize uptime, the question remains: How can warehouses bridge the gap between simplicity and adaptability? Several supply chain experts and tech players suggest the answer may be:

 

  • Digitize inventory tracking through mobile devices
    It’s estimated that distribution centers have inventory accuracy rates as low as 60% depending, generating more surprise out-of-stocks for retailers as they must wait for distributors to restock. Poor inventory counting also breaks down business relationships within the supply chain as more pressure is placed on manufacturers to restock items, further fueling shortages. On the other hand, digitized stock tracking and counting enables reports to be shared instantaneously, so teams can operate with a clear view of available inventory. Zebra’s RFD90 is a prime example of efficient mobile digitization since the sled can integrate real-time RFID visibility onto any Zebra handheld to enable faster inventory locationing, trackable work-in-progress, and seamless communication between manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.
  • Prioritize, OS, software, and app updates
    Devices running on Android’s open ecosystem benefit from simplistic app additions since the operating system does not require applications to be rewritten. That means workers can add their preferred apps onto their Android devices to retain some familiarity and lower training times. Moreover, applications like All-Touch Terminal Emulation facilitate app conversion, so your TE apps display flawlessly on a touchscreen interface right out of the box.
  • Secure connectivity channels for reliable communication
    The goal of a successful modernization strategy should be to unify the workforce current customer demands. Therefore, eliminating dead zones and dropped signals from your environment is crucial for optimization efforts. In addition to strengthening wireless infrastructures, consider leveraging push-to-talk features embedded within your mobile computer to erase the need for additional hardware and maintenance costs. For example, Workforce Connect enables group conferencing, secured text messaging, and emergency alerts, so your teams can stay updated of any sudden changes in demand like delayed shipments or shortages as it happens.

 

Knowing where to start

 

Intelligent modernization can take a variety of shapes. Consequently, experts recommend assessing main workflows in order to prioritize struggling operations. After starting your workflow assessment, it’s easier to procure technologies that address your specific goals while reducing the need for a mass device refresh, thus creating an simplistic yet adaptable modernization plan.

As your inventory moves down the supply chain, product identification remains crucial to avoid bottlenecks and delays. Enterprise labels have proven indispensable as they remove the probabilities of errors stemming from manual data entry. However, as consumer demands continue to rise for faster and accurate order fulfillment, printers must process many more labels within a short time frame. Reports indicate that U.S.warehouses are shipping nearly 36 million packages per day. If improper consumables are used to print labels for all +30 million parcels, even the most rugged printers may fall prey to early damage and failure, resulting in costly downtime. Fortunately, the right label will not only protect barcode legibility but also printer performance by:

  1. Mitigating printhead scratches – When labels are made from subpar materials, the label’s surface may become porous and sandpaper-like. While this surface-type may not harm a printer initially, continuous use will eventually scratch the printhead, creating faded gaps on the barcode. For high-volume operations, this could hold up entire workflows and leave room for scanning errors since the altering printhead may change the barcode’s legibility.
  2. Reducing debris build-up – In addition to scratching printheads, porous labels may also leave back small paper particles each time they pass through the printer. Moreover, tightly-wound labels may also leave residual adhesive, which combined with paper particles will create bigger build-up jams that impede the printing process.
  3. Eliminating roll slack – Lastly, when liner rolls are not at an optimized orientation, such as inward facing label rolls, they may create additional label slack within the printing mechanism, disrupting the barcode upon printing as the mechanism may tug on the roll. For a real-life demonstration of this issue, see our video.

 

Skip on your next printer jam with Zebra Certified Consumables

It’s widely established that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all labeling solution.Environmental differences and varying compliances may require different sorts of labels to maintain efficiency. Regardless of the requirement, Zebra’s wide portfolio of certified consumables offers multiple and customizable labels that…

  • Undergo rigorous testing for consistent quality
  • Meet ISO and additional compliance requirements
  • Employ pre-tested materials that minimize adhesive and debris build-up

 

Empower your operations through high demands with a labeling solution that supports more uptime and less worker stress. Contact Avalon to learn how you can take the first step towards intelligent modernized printing

Zebra’s newest wearable computer has gained much attention for being the world’s smallest wrist-mounted computer. Lightweight and fully ergonomic, the device replicates many functions currently conducted by larger handheld computers, yet it brings unique benefits to specific applications. To best harness its features, businesses seeking to implement the WS50 should consider its top use cases. Developed to simplify data capture and sharing, the WS50 has seen the most proficiency in:

  • Retail markdowns – Shifts in demands can cause rapid price changes over shorter periods of time. Team members equipped with unbreakable data accessibility through wearable devices can quickly scan and verify inventory information without extra bulky devices or paper stock counts.
  • Task management – Operating with smaller workforces under constant labor turnover, warehouse teams require real-time task management that can prioritize in-need operations in real-time based on current workforce size. The WS50’s flexible connectivity features allows teams to update task assignments on the go for less unbroken productivity.
  • Warehouse order fulfillment – Encompassing over 50% of labor efforts, order fulfillment is the foundation of successful distribution. With customers demanding consistent accuracy rates within smaller delivery timeframes, automated picking, sorting, and loading hastens the fulfillment process while increasing throughput without overburdening your workforce. Mobile computing also curbs unnecessary travel since workers no longer need to check in with a centralized desktop to update reports.
  • Accuracy verification – Lastly, whether in the warehouse, in a storefront, or even in non-traditional settings such as food service and hospitality, the WS50’s intelligent scan engine provides higher accuracy rates by verifying product data without paper-based systems.

 

How is this different from a traditional handheld computer?

While the WS50 shares many similarities with leading mobile devices, its small size and wearable capabilities increase responsiveness since workers can be expected to be wearing their devices. Wearable technologies have consistently shown to be easier to adopt since they leverage natural human movement, ultimately empowering teams to…

  1. Cut down device management costs since the device already fulfills the role of a ring scanner
  2. Further connect teams through embedded push-to-talk features on a wearable band
  3. Customize mounting and applications to create a tailored wearable solution that’s easy to grasp by new hires.

 

The road to effective modernization can take many forms. While a hardware upgrade can be essential, sustainable efficiency is developed with tested expertise and solution support. To translate the benefits of the WS50 into your workflows, consider meeting up with one of our automation experts to pinpoint bottlenecks and optimization opportunities in your workflows.

Warehouse robotics has long been pinpointed as a disruptive force to reshape the face of modernized warehousing. Now seen as an indispensable support for the changing workforce, robotics investments have surpassed $22 million worldwide, illustrating the digital transformation in today’s supply chains. While e-commerce and shortages have been responsible for most supply chain shifts, AMR adoption can be traced back to a few common factors such as:

  1. Rise in SKU numbers – As more e-commerce stores open, more products flood supply chains, increasing order throughput rates within smaller workforce pools.
  2. Steady increase in labor expenses – Studies show that labor expenses account for over 60% of total operating costs, surpassing rent, utility, and technology expenses. As labor shortages continue to affect industries, these expenses are only set to continue.
  3. Higher likelihood of worker injuries – Around five in a hundred workers are expected to get injured while on the job per year per warehouse. While that may seem like a small probability, one injury can cost companies up to $38,000 in direct costs alone.
  4. Higher likelihood of mixed pallets – With warehouse spaces also increasing in rental price, facilities are more likely to store mixed pallets and split cases to ensure greater product variety. This may create future complications as workers must travel farther throughout the facility to assemble orders.
How do AMRs fit into new warehouse challenges

As customer expectations continue to shift over time, new challenges are only expected to rise. Consequently, intelligent AMR fleets such as the ones built by Zebra’s Fetch Robotics improve modernization strategies by working alongside other future-forward technologies to…

  • Automatically differentiate similar products with RFID scanning during the pick process. Because tags store multiple codes at once, RFID data capture empowers teams by directing AMRs fleets to the correct location based on captured and shared data via the WMS.
  • Reduce employee travel time around the warehouse with roller-top AMRs that meet picking teams in designated locations. In doing so, teams no longer need to move between aisles since AMRs can just bring the order to them for picking and then move the pallet to the next step of the order fulfillment process.
  • Prevent worker injuries that stem from carrying heavy loads or traveling down the same routes as forklifts and other heavy machinery. Next-generation AMRs are equipped with sensitive motion sensors to spot workers and avoid collisions.
  • Track split cases for streamlined picking via your preferred handheld device. Since AMRs can carry up to 600 pounds per device, multiple orders can be transported at once, increasing order throughput while navigating through different pallets with less errors.

An efficient robotics solution is often accompanied by several supporting technologies to simplify deployment and streamline workflows for less bottlenecks. The first step to modernization is a careful in-depth workflow assessment to outline needed technologies and goals within your solution. To learn more about how to get started, contact Avalon’s modernization experts.

E-commerce alone has been responsible for over 4 trillion in revenue within the past years, accounting for a much larger significant part of global retail sales compared to five years ago. Combined with current labor shortages and breakdowns in international logistics systems, warehouses must navigate through a series of challenges to keep up with demands and growth. Studies conducted by leading automation experts have highlighted the following challenges affecting today’s warehouses and distribution centers:

  • Labor shortages and low retention rates
  • Low warehouse capacity compared to higher product demand
  • Rising number of dynamic e-commerce transactions (BOPIS, rentals, direct-to-customer, etc.)
  • Employee safety, particularly at the loading dock, where 25% of worker accidents happen
  • Adaptable cyberthreats targeting digital devices, including peripheral hardware like printers

It’s important to remember that these issues come alongside challenges unique to individual warehouses such as location, cold storage management, peak seasons, and other possible impacts. To minimize downtime and complications, Avalon partners with Zebra Technologies to highlight four solutions developed to secure productive uptime amidst today’s challenges. 

  1. Consolidated data capture and processing – Manual data entry is both time-consuming and complex, making it difficult for new hires to adopt. Moreover, inefficient reporting can create problems later down the road if data isn’t readily available for audits and compliance verification. As warehouse management systems are selected, supporting devices should streamline automated data capture and computing for real-time inventory and workflow visibility. Zebra’s newest WS50 wearable computer exemplifies this by integrating an intelligent scanner within a lightweight touchscreen device that mounts to the worker’s wrist and connects with the WMS. 
  2. Automatic Mobile Robots (AMRs) – To address both labor shortages and employee safety concerns, AMRs come alongside the human workforce to empower faster picking with less travel time since they can move pallets and orders between loading docks. Although many warehouse workers may fear robots will displace their jobs, studies show that at least 73% of decision makers are actually looking to support human labor with robotics in partial automation plans. This means employees would be empowered to work smarter with less physical strain while robotics do the literal heavy lifting. 
  3. Touch-free validation scanningOne in five online shoppers will return an order because the wrong item was shipped. As a result, order validation has become crucial to securing long-lasting customer loyalty. Because workers face shorter delivery timeframes and increased thoughts, touchless order validation through systems like Zebra’s SLS portals have proven beneficial to check order accuracy without pausing productivity. As orders are validated at the loading dock, warehouses can notify customers of accurate orders, thus also satisfying demands for real-time tracking. 
  4. Adaptable RFID data capture – Because of its 99.9% accuracy rate, it’s no surprise that at least 35% of warehouses are choosing to deploy RFID. However, not every RFID system accommodates varying device types. Adaptable devices like the RFD90 can adjust to iOS, Windows, and Android devices to enable RFID scanning with your preferred device, consequently lowering training times since workers don’t need to upgrade entire handheld systems.  

Small steps can take you far.

While these new technologies represent the latest edge in modernized warehousing, effective adaptability can start with smaller implementations such as automating data capture and reporting or migrating to Android. Programs such as the GO Zebra Trade-In provide a cost-effective start to upgraded modernization. By swapping out legacy devices to newer Zebra hardware, operations can integrate:

  • Automated data capture 
  • Secured data protection
  • Greater device durability
  • Faster printing speeds 
  • Mobile printing 
  • Push-to-talk connectivity
  • Adaptable WiFi support 
  • High-volume printing 

Because every business is inherently unique, Avalon recommends starting an operational assessment before selecting possible modernization strategies. By meeting with a technology expert, businesses can prioritize optimization areas to decide between large-scale implementations or smaller changes. By ensuring scalability, warehouses can best prepare to address new future obstacles that are sure to come.

Past studies have showcased the concerning lack of trust consumers have in food & beverage companies regarding product safety. A mere 22% of shoppers have stated that they fully trust companies to accurately verify product integrity. However, as consumer expectations shift throughout time, effective traceability is no longer the only driving force behind RFID adoption.

Dynamic supply chains involving a variety of similar SKU units in a wide geographical range must not only verify product quality, but also ensure ETAs are met, order accuracy, and seamless data transmission, all with a smaller carbon footprint. For example, current research shows that 77% of shoppers now use a mobile device to initiate a purchase. This means distribution centers must be able to aggregate data coming in from multiple terminals and distribute tasks proactively across the workforce. In other words, real-time RFID visibility could assist with:

  • Reducing inaccurate handling and storage risks
  • Verifying in-stock materials as orders come in
  • Tracing manufacturing workflows to prevent recalls
  • Simplifying real-time order tracking for customers
  • Connecting order picking teams with real-time demands
  • Consolidating several data points onto a digitized form for easier auditing

When “high-speed” meets “high-volume”, only the toughest solutions will do.

Distribution centers now require flexible and durable technologies to satisfy multiple demands at once. That’s where next-generation devices like Zebra’s new RFD90 Ultra-Rugged RFID Sled come in handy. Tailored to adapt to leading operating systems and mobile devices, the sled exemplifies RFID’s strides when it comes to evolving inventory management through:

  • Ergonomic design that favors worker comfort and durability
  • Enhancing scanning performance for large workspaces
  • Flexible connectivity options to pair with Android, Windows, and iOS devices
  • Tap-to-pair setup for faster solution deployment
  • Remote device management via pre-installed WiFi 6
  • A variety of charging options to ensure around-the-clock device performance

Learn more about Zebra’s new RFD90 Sled in our fact sheet.

As consumer demands continue to grow, technology can expect to mature alongside them. Reach out to an Avalon expert to learn how you can keep optimizing your warehouse with locationing and visibility technologies designed to thrive in today’s order fulfillment challenges.

Studies show that today’s consumers are far more conscious of a brand’s environmental impact, placing a demand for complete traceability, especially in the food and beverage industry. A mere 20% of consumers truly trust brands to ensure food safety, fueling further skepticism regarding sustainable practices in food distribution. With Earth Day (April 22, 2022), being a few weeks away, companies are encouraged to revisit sustainability plans and ensure proper tracking visibility. As a matter of fact, around 96% of supply chain decision-makers agree that operational visibility provides a clear advantage. Therefore, optimizing sustainable tracking proves to be both beneficial to your brand and your customers. 

How to get started:

While there are several tools available today for sustainable distribution, very few systems prioritize ease-of-use in and out of the four walls. Though indispensable in any automation solution, hardware alone cannot carry to sole weight in securing sustainable traceability. When adding an eco-friendly layer to your visibility solution, consider the following…

1. How are GS1 standards being tracked?

Developed with the sole purpose of facilitating system communication and visibility, GSI standards help ensure products are ready for purchase by aggregating identifiers in a common language. From organic meat to processed candy, products are expected to be identified by markers readable through any system. GS1’s simplicity and compatibility have led nearly 90% of small and growing businesses to adopt its system, also confirming its cost-effectiveness. 

To best leverage GS1 standards, companies are encouraged to verify raw materials, completed products, and shipments display unique GS1 identifiers and any other necessary variable information. Production status should also be easily identifiable, so field teams and retailers know when to expect shipments. These identifiers can be recorded digitally with the help of barcoding or RFID technologies for reduced manual errors. 

2. Can the number of deployed devices be minimized?

More deployed devices per worker maximizes the risks of increased electronic waste. Although several next-generation devices have been optimized to consolidate workflows, food distribution provides additional challenges as devices must be rugged enough to survive drastic temperature changes within one facility. When it comes to field delivery teams, solutions must factor in long distances to verify connectivity is maintained. 

In addition to consolidating workflows through one rugged device, a push-to-talk communication solution may also be beneficial to eliminate two-way radios while connecting field teams and distribution centers without more devices. For example, Zebra’s Workforce Connect app provides instant communication and secured text messaging independent of cellular connectivity, so transportation teams can update ETAs and optimize routes for less wasted fuel.  

3. Are legacy/outdated devices being properly recycled?

Although e-waste composes only 2% of American landfills, it’s responsible for 70% of overall toxic waste. Every effort to minimize toxic waste empowers future generations to live on a cleaner planet. That’s why companies are encouraged to verify decommissioned devices are properly recycled according to local and federal compliance standards. Currently, 25 states are actively targeting electronic waste through mandated recycling initiatives.

As a Zebra Premier Solution’s Partner, Avalon strives to pair proper recycling with enterprise-ready upgrades through the GO-Zebra Trade-In Program. Outdated devices from any manufacturer may be traded in for cash rebates to be used on newer Zebra upgrades. Outdated devices are properly disposed of without compromising the environment or data security through our trusted recyclers. 

If you are unsure on how to answer any of the questions above, it may be time to rethink your tracking system to ensure it meets compliance standards and consumer expectations. Reach out to Avalon’s optimization experts to get step-by-step assistance in assessing your tracking system to best target optimization opportunities. 

Technology developers are constantly raising the bar in intelligent automation, which is why it’s no surprise that Zebra Technologies has once again revolutionized mobile computing with the world’s smallest enterprise computer – the WS50 Android Wearable Computer

Developed with worker connectivity in mind, the new WS50 gathers several tools such as push-to-talk capabilities, intelligent scanning, and swappable batteries all within a 2-inch touchscreen frame that can be adjusted for either wrist, back of hand, or two-finger mounting. Combined with Zebra’s Mobility DNA apps and Android’s versatile interface, the device ultimately empowers…

  1. Lightweight streamlined inventory updates since data can be scanned and stored in real-time through one device.
  2. Flexible usage across the supply chain from the production line to the loading dock to the retail storefront.
  3. Around-the-clock task management via a low-power-consumption touchscreen.
  4. Dependable data security delivered through Mobility Extensions and LifeGuard for Android.
  5. Instant detailed documentation realized through one 13MP embedded camera.

With so many similar and new benefits integrated in one device, the question still stands: why would operations need a smaller computer?

Why pick a smaller device in place of a standard mobile computer?

Traditional handheld and touch computers still play a vital role in connecting workers and digitizing inventory management. However, as workspaces adapt, future-forward technologies must also evolve to maintain these functionalities in new challenging spaces. For example, the increase in micro-fulfillment centers has fueled a need for accurate real-time connectivity between customers and delivery teams simultaneously. Labor shortages have created a demand for simplistic technologies that are easily adoptable by younger generations seeking employment. With all these considerations in mind, the WS50 may be a more beneficial option for companies seeking to…

  • Simplify battery management for lower TCO since the wearable device consolidates several tasks onto one terminal. 
  • Unify teams without deploying and tracking two-way radios through embedded push-to-talk and dependable WiFi connectivity.  
  • Lower onboarding and training costs with Android’s future-proof and familiar operating system.

New challenges empower innovation. As customer demands and shortages continue to reshape supply chains, solution providers can keep counting on new and improved tools to enhance workflow efficiency. Explore the latest technology optimizations and see how they can fit in your operations when you contact Avalon for more information.

Gone are the days where single-use products are the norm. Standing amongst several customer demands, sustainability has been an initiative driving changes across the supply chain. While there are many reasons behind this, a few notable factors fueling change in warehouses are:

  • Shared belief among decision-makers – Recent studies show that over 90% of chief executives see sustainability as a top priority to ensure future success.
  • Warehouse packaging contributes to a great deal of waste in landfills – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that container and packaging have continued to as much as 82.2 million tons in solid waste, of which 37% was landfilled.  
  • Customers believe brands should take corporate responsibility – Over 75% of today’s consumers are seeking brands that focus on taking better care of the planet in addition to more personalized and meaningful experiences.
  • Material shortages leave little room for unnecessary waste – Supply shortages for raw materials have impacted manufacturers by lowering production rates, making reverse logistics crucial to expand product availability since returned items could be resold to help prevent out-of-stocks. 

3 Ways to Prioritize Sustainable Warehousing 

As technology continues to advance, more sustainable solutions continue to develop. While there are many large-scale changes available, Avalon continues to push small-scale changes alongside bigger implementations for greater savings in a smaller carbon footprint. A few of these changes involve:

  1. Maximizing the use of reusable containers – To reduce the number of disposed packaging and pallets, distribution centers have turned to reusable containers and removable labels such as the 8000D Dissolvable Labels to properly identify products without slowing operations as containers need to be re-identified. 
  2. Streamlining inventory control through a shareable WMS – Studies show that a properly functioning WMS can increase inventory by upwards to 30%, minimizing risks of out-of-stocks and overstocking. Moreover, a digitized WMS removes the need for paper-based reporting, further reducing waste while maximizing data accuracy and accelerating easy data sharing across the supply chain.   
  3. Choosing an upgrade path that integrates recycling – When outlining a modernization strategy, the fate of your legacy and decommissioned devices should be a crucial factor to avoid contributing to more e-waste.  As a Zebra Premier Solution Partner, Avalon works alongside businesses to facilitate eco-friendly modernization with the GO Zebra Trade-In Program. By accepting devices from any manufacturer, Zebra upgrades ensure traded devices are properly recycled and destroyed without adding to landfills.  

Sustainable modernization is not a contradiction. Reach out to our team to explore further steps your warehouse can take in creating an eco-friendly optimization strategy that still embraces the latest edge in innovation.

Mobile devices have become the foundation of effective modernization since they keep crucial data and connectivity right at your fingertips. They also successfully bridge the gap between teams within a supply chain, automating data capture and sharing through a digital interface. Consequently, handheld devices have become popular across multiple industries, from high-demand manufacturing plants to family-owned storefronts. As customer demands for faster and more accurate fulfillment increased, mobile devices have been enhanced to provide flexible connectivity options, consolidate disparate workflows, and last beyond the standard 8-hour shift. 

Despite these enhancements, traditional handheld computers and scanners may still be bulky for workers traveling between different locations. For more on-the-go teams, handheld devices must prioritize automated intelligence alongside ease-of-use and ergonomics. 

That’s where touch computers come in.

Today’s cellphones have shaped the expectations for easy-to-use technologies. In as little as zero clicks –thanks to voice commands– users can access files, navigate the web, and send messages. Similarly, Zebra’s touch-computers combine the intuitiveness of consumer-grade touchscreens with the enterprise functionality of traditional rugged handhelds. The result looks a little like this:

Zebra’s latest TC52AX touch-computer is a prime example of user-friendly handheld mobility; however, it is not the only option available. Because different workloads may require different levels of functionality, experts recommend assessing your options with the following three considerations:

  1. Will scanning capabilities be needed? – While some touch-computers can capture data up to 50ft away, not every workflow requires this. For example, while the TC20/26 may not offer the widest scanning range, it makes up for the difference in long-lasting battery power that surpasses double shifts. 
  2. How far will workers travel? – When it comes to communication outside of the four walls, devices like Zebra’s TC7x offer greater connectivity flexibility, providing secured communication through cellular, 5G, LTE, WiFi, and more. 
  3. Will you be adding additional devices? – From wearable devices like ring scanners and headsets to mobile printers, additional devices will impact worker mobility and comfort. Lightweight devices streamlining multiple workflows benefit workers by minimizing strain and connecting workflows simultaneously. 

To help you answer these questions, Avalon recommends scheduling a workflow assessment to select a device that best adapts to your operation. Once a device is selected, automation experts can also assist in procuring and preparing devices for integration through the GO Zebra Trade-In Program for cost-effective and intelligent modernization.