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The last two years have drastically altered supply chain efficiency. The effects of nationwide lockdowns, global shortages, and international tensions have deepened a shared reliance on automated systems to stay ahead of mounting consumer demands and fulfillment challenges. However, amid recurrent and new obstacles, many businesses have shared positive workplace changes such as:

  • Improved worker conditions – Automated systems and enterprise robotics alleviate the stress placed on human workers while also requiring less muscle effort to meet demands.
  • Implemented easy technology – To truly be considered successful, a modernization solution should value user-friendliness to diminish training expenses.
  • Increased wages and bonuses – Around 45% of workers noted an increase in wages as warehouses and distribution centers sought to retain long-term employees.

Changes such as these can help foster more seamless workflows and satisfied employees. As new technologies are developed and integrated into the fast-moving supply chain, it is imperative to maintain realistic yet optimistic goals in the warehouse to correctly track KPIs overtime. Zebra’s newest 2027 Warehouse Vision Study showcases four of the most common goals today’s warehouse managers:

  1. Improving individual worker productivity – It has been estimated that nearly a quarter of warehouse operations were managed through paper-based systems. This means that workers had to spend a bulk of time updating reports, verifying stock counts, and imputing updates manually at the risk of entering the wrong data.
  2. Streamlining workflows in a standardized fashion – As fulfillment tasks became more complex with same-day shipping, higher return rates, and direct-to-customer transactions, businesses needed a way to ensure workflows were accurately tracked from door to dock. Consequently, 41% of companies began to optimize mobility in 2022 to ensure new and permanent workers stay organized through one trackable workflow managed through their handheld device.
  3. Maximizing asset visibility – From mobile devices to centralized printing stations, your warehouse assets play an intricate role in sustaining productivity across the warehouse. Consequently, maintaining device availability through real-time asset tracking systems has become a goal of nearly 70% of warehouses worldwide. Clear operational visibility further empowers warehouses to prepare for challenging demands since decision-makers have a better picture of the resources available to them at a moment’s notice.
  4. Collecting and leveraging data via intelligent automation – The prevalence of sudden changes has created a need for multiple data capturing systems to ensure nothing is ever missed. Therefore, systems featuring technologies like autonomous robots, fixed industrial scanners, and even RFID portals have proven beneficial to drive automated decision making based on real-time insights. This means warehouses can ensure the correct orders and reaching the correct customers, stock quantities are current, and workers receive the assistance they need when and where they need it.

How to make sure these goals are met

E-commerce transactions continues to be one of the largest forces behind modernization, impacting nine out of 10 warehouses by increasing shipping volume. To meet expectations within a dynamic omnichannel ecosystem, experts recommend…

  • Assessing warehouse space to target challenges in the RFID implementation process such as high ceilings, dense walls, etc.
  • Supporting migration plans to adaptable operating systems like Android to make sure new updates and patches are accommodated into current workflows
  • Consolidating workflows into wearable devices to alleviate weight and pressures from your workers while cutting back on management plans for multiple devices.

Navigating through several modernization challenges becomes simpler with a team at your side. To get a closer look into how supply challenges are continuing to affect modernizing warehouses, reach out to our modernization specialists and approach optimization with a confident yet adaptable strategy.

Automation currently leads most modernization efforts, coming in the form of Android handheld devices, versatile rugged tablets, tap-and-pair mobile printers. In conjunction with these efforts, automated mobile robots (AMRs) have seized public interest. Current labor shortages and spikes in demand for faster and more accurate service have further fueled the need for flexible automation and digitization. Recent studies have shown that more than half of warehouses have cited hiring and retaining long-term workers among one of the biggest obstacles faced today, with 85% currently prioritizing labor optimization. Replacing the need for extraneous labor efforts, AMRs are able to empower workers by automating pallet movement, diminish travel time by 60%, and eliminate repetitive tasks without burdening the human workforce.

 

As decision-makers move towards integrating AMRs into their operations, experts recommend considering the following questions:

     1. How will you measure ROI?

Most specialists estimate AMRs should yield measurable results within 2 years at max, with order fulfillment speed being the first change to be recorded. While there are many ways to calculate ROI, a few indicators to look for include…

  • Increasing fulfillment speed – Since travel time is diminished, there should be less replenishment delays and bottlenecks impacting throughput rates.
  • Improved worker safety – AMRs are made to carry heavier loads and may sport a sensitive motion scanner to prevent collisions. This spares workers from straining themselves or running into machinery.
  • Lowered operating costs – As delivery timeframes are met and stock is quickly moved to the appropriate space, there should be less costs associated with inaccurate orders, mis-shipments, and sudden out-of-stocks.

      2. Do you have sufficient space?

While AMRs may not require a complete warehouse redesign, some solutions may require dedicated space within your operations for…

  • Navigation – Tight spaces and sharp corners can limit the AMRs’ ability to move freely around the warehouse.
  • Battery charging – Appropriate space may be required for charging different fleets when they’re not in use.
  • Maintenance – While enterprise devices are designed to withstand harsh environments, AMRs still need to be updated and serviced.

      3. Are other methods of automation already in place?

In addition to AMRs, support systems such as automated data capture and mobile computing further eliminate errors and speed up processes by enabling workers to accomplish more in less time. Before implementing robotics, set a digitized foundation with:

  • Android’s enterprise OS – Familiar and adaptable, Android enables you to add your preferred applications within its open ecosystem for easy adaptability. Its recurrent OS updates and security patches also further protect your operations from cyberattacks.
  • Real-time stock updates – By streamlining data capture and computing through one handheld terminal like Zebra’s handheld computers, your workers can update counts and communicate with each other digitally.
  • Push-to-talk capabilities – Speaking of communication, team communication goes a long way in keeping the workforce updated of any changes and emergencies across the facility.

      4. What fleet control system will you use?

Selecting hardware is only half the battle when it comes to modernization. To maintain complete efficiency, your fleet management system should be able to connect to your WMS system to receive directions and real-time inventory updates.

      5. Is your solution scalable?

The propensity for change in the supply chain is the only constant warehouses can continue to expect in the years to come. As material shortages challenge efficiency alongside labor shortages, it’s crucial to maintain integration and update simplicity to facilitate solution growth. If AMRs are unable to connect with the rest of your mobile devices, they may not be the most suitable option for your business.

 

Once these questions are answered, businesses can create a more realistic and proactive solution plan to minimize implementation hurdles. This can also help narrow down which kinds of AMRs to integrate. To explore your options or for more assistance on how to evaluate your warehouse, talk to one of our modernization experts and explore a broad portfolio of technologies to create customized and scalable solutions.

 

 

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.