Posts

Currently, the industrial sector is responsible for about 32% of the nation’s total energy consumption. Between compliance fees, utility charges, and labor expenses, manufacturing plants expect high costs when it comes to storing inventory on-site. However, to keep up with surges in demand, manufacturers must keep necessary materials always in hand lest they risk sudden stockouts that lead to delays in production, lost sales, and product shortages. To circumvent these issues, inventory management strategies like just-in-time (JIT) material reordering have become more prominent as a way to alleviate storage expenses, yet while cost-effective, JIT leaves little room for error.

When operating in a JIT inventory management system, facilities strive to keep less inventory on site to avoid stockpiling materials that may not get used. This means that operators must quickly reorder materials as soon as they dip below an established threshold point to avoid shortages. Failure to reorder on time can pause operations since the production line has to wait for incoming materials. When done correctly, JIT enables:

  • Minimized storage costs
  • Greater visibility on products assembled
  • Mitigated depreciation risks
  • Maximized storage space for finished goods
  • Seamless adaptability to sudden increases in demand

Establishing Effective Tracking for Just-in-Time Reordering

To prevent the risks of inefficient JIT inventory management, a viable system should integrate the following three factors.

  1. Real-time data visibility – Preventing out-of-stocks requires fast insight into dwindling inventory. That’s why real-time visibility stemming from technologies such as RFID locationing and digitization have become essential in securing JIT efficiency since they allow workers to target decreasing inventory counts before they fall below the established threshold level. 
  2. Unbroken workforce communication – In addition to timely visibility, workers should be able to communicate with each other immediately to notify of any impending shortages or stockouts. Solutions like Zebra’s Workforce Connect transforms current handheld devices into two-way radios for manufacturer and delivery teams, closing the gaps between delivery and receiving docks, so workers know when and where incoming shipments will arrive.
  3. Scalable automation – One of the perks of JIT reordering is that it facilitates adaptability in the event of sudden surges in demand, yet this flexibility can only be capitalized if the correct data processing tools are in place. Versatile enterprise devices such as Zebra’s rugged tablets provide adaptable functionality with flexible connectivity options, built-in scanning capabilities, longer battery life, and higher data security parameters to streamline data capture, processing, and sharing on one platform. Therefore, workers can simply add an additional layer of functionality to their versatile devices instead of having to deploy an entire new device to keep up with changes.   

While JIT inventory management has gripped the attention of most manufacturers, it is only one of the many ways supply chains are adapting to meet demands and overcome shortages challenges. To get a better idea of how you can optimize your inventory management system, schedule a workflow assessment and explore the modernized solutions reshaping supply chains today

Among the myriad of changes brought on by last year’s health crisis, the increase in e-commerce transactions has continued to reshape supply chains throughout the post-pandemic landscape. Accounting for over a fifth of sales in the grocery industry alone, e-commerce remains as one of the top preferred transactions due to its convenience and speed. However, between workforce shortages and snowballing last-mile costs, supply chains have yet to successfully meet high customer demands continuously. As a matter of fact, researchers from the National Retail Federation show that over 40% of businesses still cite fast fulfillment as their top concern. To meet demands without overspending, businesses are now combining warehouse technologies in the retail landscape through micro fulfillment centers (MFC’s).

Leveraging maximized automation solutions, MFC’s concentrate high-demand inventory within one section of the storefront for quick seamless picking. Leading warehouse devices such as long-range scanners and ultra-rugged handheld computers are then employed to safeguard fulfillment efficiency as orders are received. This ultimately results in:

  • Higher order accuracy – Modernized scanning capabilities similar to Zebra’s intelligent PRZM scanning engines eliminate the need to manually verify orders by ensuring more successful first-time scans. Applications like SimulScan can further enhance this process by capturing multiple barcodes at once in one trigger pull.
  • Lower labor costs – Automated solutions have been proven to diminish operational costs since they streamline vital workflows through one platform. For example, Zebra’s enterprise tablets secure unbroken communication channels, enterprise data capture, and user-friendly visibility into cycle counts and incoming orders all on one touchscreen interface.
  • Faster contactless services – Services like click-and collect, curbside pickup, and buy-online-pickup-in-store are only expected to keep thriving. That means store associates may now share in the same challenges that often plague warehouses struggling to stay ahead of incoming orders without compromising accuracy. To further protect communication channels within the workforce, Zebra’s Workforce Connect transforms handheld devices into 2-way radios, thus eliminating the need for additional devices while adding a dependable layer of teamwork and workflow visibility.     

Are your operations suitable for micro fulfillment?

This is the question many large-scale businesses have begun to ask themselves, and while the answer may be different for everyone, one thing is sure: automation continues to hold the key to business success in the modern market. Start the modernization journey by assessing workflows with a specialized optimization team to see how you can leverage purpose-built technologies to establish greater customer satisfaction without overburdening the workforce.

Counterfeit medications have been responsible for at least 290,000 deaths annually worldwide. Material shortages, tariff changes, and labor shortages have all contributed to recurring drug shortages across the world, costing drug companies over 8.6 million hours to remediate, risking the lives of millions, and creating space for counterfeits to enter the market. Unfortunately, minimizing counterfeits remains a challenge, especially during the transportation process.

New regulations under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) aim at minimizing counterfeits by requiring serialized identification numbers for individual products; however, distributors would then have to scan individual barcodes to verify medications, increasing delays and costs on an already-strained system. To stay ahead of shortages, hospitals and pharmacies tend to overstock medications, holding an average of 180 days’ worth of finished goods that may not get used, ultimately resulting in wasted storage space, costs, and medication – further contributing to shortages that feed the vicious cycle of medical counterfeits.

How are pharmaceutical supply chains reacting?

By 2023, the FDA will require all medical products to contain a second 2-D barcode specifying a unique serialized identification number. While warehouses can disassemble pallets to individually scan medications, RFID technology is currently being enhanced to simplify the process. Although traditional RFID applications are incompatible with metals and liquids– both normally present in pharmaceutical supply chains – Zebra’s adaptable RFID solutions tackle the challenges of medication tracking by integrating…

  • Custom-built lags and RFID labels – Every operation is unique, which is why RFID labels should be tailored to meet the obstacles of your facility such as poor lack of air space inside containers, metal shelves, etc. In doing so, businesses can better track in-transit products.
  • On-demand RFID printing and encoding – Modern Zebra printers like the ZT411 are equipped with optional RFID encoding, allowing operations to streamline enterprise printing from one all-encompassing system. 
  • Highly secured mobile computers – Lastly, to ward off counterfeit behavior and stock tampering, mobile computers should be equipped with security-focused tools, recurring security patches, and higher encryption levels. Android handhelds like the MC3330xR maximize data security with varying authentication levels to enable safe data sharing, so T&L teams, distributors, and hospitals/pharmacies know when and where to expect shipments as well as how many products they will be receiving.

From metal-compatibility to challenging small sizes, protect pharmaceutical tracking with an RFID solution dedicated to expanding visibility no matter the costs. Reach out to Avalon to carefully assess your workflows and bottlenecks alongside an RFID specialist and see how you can enhance track and trace to protect your bottom line, and most importantly, your customers.

When operating in today’s fast-paced supply chains, one hour of inefficiency can result in incalculable losses such as missed sales, shipment delays, data breaches, and maintenance costs. As warehouses continue to automate repetitive tasks such as data entry and order verification, a new issue arises: where do legacy systems fit in modernized warehouse operations? Legacy devices may seem more comfortable at face value due to their familiarity; however, their complex workflows may enable costly downtime.   

In the transportation and logistics industry, where over 40% of businesses still rely on paper-and-pencil manual data entry, legacy systems have been directly linked to as much as 14 hours of downtime per worker, per month, worldwide. Unable to support remote device management or real-time connectivity, incapacitated legacy systems can bring operations to a grinding halt. To undo these issues, modern mobility and visibility systems like the ones built with Zebra’s next-generation technologies can harness competitive benefits such as: 

  • Simplified enterprise-grade interfaces – Legacy systems tend to be preferred solely on their familiarity. Employee training and long adoption rates can be costly. That’s why Android’s enterprise-ready operating systems retain the ease-of-use of a consumer-grade touchscreen interface on a purpose-built device to lower onboarding time. Furthermore, Zebra’s All-Touch Terminal Emulation app can convert TE green screens into a touchscreen interface right out of the box to further minimize training times.  
  • Minimized additional hardware – Newer devices such as Zebra’s MC9300 streamline several crucial workflows within one platform, enabling workers to scan and process data while updating databases and teams in real-time without any manual data entry. Mobile devices with embedded push-to-talk capabilities can further simplify workflows by eliminating the need for extra bulky two-way radios.  
  • Expanded device functionality – Lastly, Android’s open application ecosystem facilitates new application deployment to expand your device’s functionality without too many backend modifications. For example, Zebra’s MobilityDNA apps enable remote battery management, device tracking, simultaneous barcode data capture, and independent troubleshooting for maximized uptime all through one device.   

And, with the GO Zebra Trade-In Program, you can add cash back rebates to the list. 

Further amplify modernization benefits when you upgrade legacy systems through the GO Zebra Trade-In Program. Between now and December 31st, your upgrades qualify for cash back rebates up to $650 per device when you follow these three steps: 

  1. Purchase your eligible device 
  1. Submit a claim form within 90 days of your invoice date 
  1. Trade in devices from any manufacturer for cash rebates 

In our commitment to innovative efficiency, we strive to eliminate all unnecessary complexities from your modernization strategy. Contact an Avalon automation expert to explore a customized optimization plan that matches your needs and preserves familiarity for minimal disruptions.  

With so many technological breakthroughs now available in various devices, businesses may struggle in selecting a mobility solution that best suits their unique needs. For example, while newer mobile computers can easily integrate RFID data capture and freezer-ready touchscreens, these benefits are not always necessary for workflows like order verification and storefront management. When devices don’t appropriately match business needs, the results often include:

  • Increased adoption rates since technologies may be too complicated
  • Workflow delays and bottlenecks
  • Lower ROI than expected due to wasteful labor
  • Complex maintenance schedules and increased IT involvement
  • More worker stress that hinders productive engagement

To prevent these issues from harming workflows, the following questions should be considered when selecting modernized hardware.

  1. Will it be scalable to accommodate eventual change? – Changes in demand and labor availability mean new devices should be easy to grasp and scalable to different workforce sizes. That’s why Android’s enterprise-ready OS has overtaken most modernization strategies since its open app ecosystem allows for seamless integration of new applications without too many backend changes.
  2. Does it prioritize easy user adoption? – Touchscreen devices straying away from traditional TE interfaces can facilitate onboarding for a younger workforce that may be unfamiliar with green-screen applications. Moreover, simplistic ergonomics may also ease adoption since usage can be tailored to the employee’s preference and workflow requirements.
  3. Has it been tested for non-stop performance in environments like your workflow? – To truly earn the “enterprise-grade” title, devices should be thoroughly crafted to sustain drops, tumbles, extreme temperatures, and condensation since these aspects often mark most supply chain operations. In addition to higher durability standards, devices should also contain longer battery life cycles compared to consumer-grade devices. For example, Datalogic’s Skorpio mobile computers decrease maintenance times with hot swappable batteries and wireless charging, thus protecting unbroken productivity.
  4. Does it protect effective data sharing? – Lastly, as cyberattacks become ever more prevalent, effective data security backed by recurrent OS updates and patches can prevent damaging breaches and data leaks. Moreover, when devices are easy to use, there are less risks of accidental leaks from improper device usage. 

With these questions in mind, businesses can best narrow down hardware options that support a mobility solution centered on your needs. For workflows that are ever changing, such as e-commerce order fulfillment and food storage, adaptable devices like Datalogic’s Skorpio handheld computers offer maximized flexibility and ease-of-use for fast deployment.

Modernized mobility can take many forms. Discover one that best fits your operations when you schedule a preliminary assessment with Avalon to investigate optimization opportunities in your workflows.


employment retention blog image

The first half of 2021 has been marked by an ever-dwindling workforce across multiple industries. From foodservice to warehousing, businesses have struggled to attract and retain skilled employees due to growing issues such as greater job options, requests for higher wages, and limited childcare opportunities. While warehouses are slowly regaining numbers, transportation and logistics firms may still face greater demands with the end-of-year e-commerce boom brought on by the holiday season. With delivery timeframes expected to shrink even more and high turnover rates, T&L businesses find themselves with the challenge of accelerating order processing without overwhelming current employees. To do so, field teams have adopted the following strategies:

  1. Streamline operations through one consolidated workflow – Individual devices incur individual costs such as maintenance, software, and replacement fees. Moreover, new employees must then learn to operate several devices quickly to maintain productivity levels, further increasing training costs. Newer mobile computers such as Zebra’s TC72/77 reduce costs by streamlining computing, data capture, and communication channels into one device. This reduces training times and operational costs as employees only need to grow accustomed to one device.  
  2. Track worker safety to prevent more understaffing issues – Worker safety both in and outside the four walls continues to be a deciding factor when it comes to employment retention. That’s why exposure awareness systems have become increasingly more popular as they allow transparent traceability of possible germ exposure. Moreover, on the field, secured connectivity systems like Zebra Workforce Connect enable hands-free communication with warehouses in real-time, preventing accidents and facilitating precise driver locationing and delivery status through one interface.
  3. Remove paper-based reporting for zero-wait data sharing – Unlike pen-and-paper inventory management, modernized data capture preserves team connections by facilitating instant data sharing through one centralized database. In doing so, warehouses can update delivery teams of order volume, changes in ETA, and routing changes without delay.
  4. Minimize touchpoints between loading and shipping – Contactless transactions have gained popularity across the supply chain due to their speed and safety. RFID technology has led the forefront in minimizing extra touchpoints by capturing multiple barcodes in one scan and tracking in-motion inventory for maximized visibility. 

Optimizing scalable efficiency can take many shapes depending on your operation’s current struggles. Get a clearer picture on how to start safeguarding productivity in your workflows when you schedule an in-depth assessment and stay a step ahead of change with a modernization solution that adjusts to your needs.

Ensuring seamless inventory movement down the supply chain, your enterprise printing solution works hard to deliver crisp, legible, and durable labels and tags carrying vital stock information. Needless to say, your printer is the foundation of an effective printing solution, which is why careful consideration of the following four factors must be taken when upgrading your enterprise printer:

  1. Workspace type – While highly durable, large industrial-grade printers take up a lot of space. On the other hand, small desktop printers lack the needed portability mobile printers bring. Assessing where your printing stations will be located helps narrow down choices.
  2. Connectivity type – All printers must possess a way to communicate with your database to produce labels. Modernized printers can connect via Bluetooth, allowing workers to print from anywhere through their handheld devices.
  3. Future applications – Understanding the differences between direct thermal and thermal transfer printing allows you to select a printer with the durability standards needed to handle high continuous heat.
  4. Ease-of-use – Lastly, as supply chains strive to meet smaller timeframes with an ever-changing workforce, ease-of-use has also become a prioritizing factor since a simplistic printer may enable faster deployment and maximized productivity when compared to a complex model.

Integrate an adaptable printing solution with Zebra’s ZD621 Desktop Printer

Changes in supply chain demands and labor availability can make it difficult to estimate how much printing power your operations will need in the future. To circumvent disruptions, Zebra’s newest desktop printer aggregates key features to boost adaptability in smaller workspaces. Unlike previous models, the ZD621 enables:

  • Increased printing power that’s 30% higher than previous models and 300% than legacy devices.
  • Backwards compatibility with your current label formats.
  • Application adaptability as you can choose between direct thermal, thermal transfer, and RFID models.
  • Streamlined troubleshooting and update deployments through Zebra’s Printer Profile Manager Enterprise app.

Click here to see the full list of the ZD621 printer’s benefits.

From longer printing performance to faster label production, discover the ease of modernized label printing with the next evolution of warehouse technology. Contact us to take a closer look into the newest edge of durable printing.

Zebra’s newest DS3600-KD is expected to set a new standard in ease-of-use, yet at face-value, one might wonder how an additional keypad is more beneficial to a scanner, and how it differs from previous touch-computers. While similar to enterprise computers, the keypad-scanner merger lowers adoption rates since it is familiar to employees already using handheld scanners, particularly the frontline workforce. An additional keypad harnesses small-scale benefits that work together to speed up data entry for faster service. In doing so, distribution centers can meet higher customer expectations surrounding faster and same-day shipping – all without additional strain and costs to an already busy workforce.

4 Ways Zebra’s Additional Keypad Elevates Operations

When workers can key in crucial data such as location and quantity directly on the spot, they no longer have to waste time interacting with additional host devices or rescanning the same object for more data. Moreover, the DS3600-KD is equipped with pre-built applications to further elevate operations through:

  1. Eliminating additional trigger pulls – A keypad boosts ergonomics by decreasing instances of finger fatigue as workers can adjust quantity data with one hand.
  2. Adding location data to individual products – Quickly update locationing information by entering aisle and shelf number to your scanned data. This further accelerates order picking as following shifts can use previously captured data to find products in the warehouse.
  3. Image documentation – Capture images of the assembled order and share it with your host for a recorded verification track of orders and possible damages.
  4. Quick matching scans – Scan the container’s outer label and then each individual item inside an order with the help of the screen’s visible confirmation to make sure the container has an accurate completed order before shipment.
  5. Sustainable inventory cycle counting – To ensure 99.99% inventory accuracy across the warehouse, the DS3600-KD has been developed to retain connectivity even when away from the cradle, so your data is always transmitted to the host as your workers navigate around the workspace.

Get a closer look into how the DS3600-KD is setting a new standard in intelligent durability with our application brief, available here.

The limits of innovative efficiency are constantly expanding to embrace a new generation of fast, accurate, and customer-centric technologies. Reach out to an Avalon modernization expert to explore a new way to optimize data capture with Zebra’s newest ultra-rugged scanner.

Start gearing up your warehouse with 5 inventory management initiatives set to skyrocket in 2022

Technology advancements have facilitated faster order fulfillment and warehousing tasks by consolidating mainstream workflows onto user-friendly platforms. However, with advancements came a deeper interconnectedness amongst the different parts of the supply chain. One change in the production line affects the checkout lane. This has been consistently noted with issues like the global pandemic, escalating import tariffs, and material shortages. To thrive in the dynamic supply chain, warehouses have begun adopting new inventory management initiatives dedicated to expanding communication channels and protecting end-to-end visibility.

It started with automation, but the applications are now limitless

The 2020 pandemic served as a catalyst in accelerating advancements to meet an outburst of new and old demands. Researchers now believe the following trends will become mainstream best practices in modernized warehousing within the coming years:

  1. Multi-warehousing – Last-mile costs paired demands for same-day shipping has led companies to consider relocating closer to urban areas, yet city-based warehouses have higher operational costs and may incur zoning issues. As a result, mass warehouses have split into smaller localized segments that are monitored by a main central location. Efficient multi-warehousing depends on real-time connectivity to ensure visibility across sites. This is where intelligent devices like enterprise tablets help expand visibility while providing a scalable mobility solution for newer sites. By breaking apart warehouses, operations can provide faster shipping at a smaller cost. Multi-warehousing also amplifies flexibility since you can keep operations running even if one site is affected by a sudden change.
  2. The return of Internet of Things (IoT) – Studies suggest COVID-19 was also responsible for a halt in IoT adoption as warehouses scrambled to meet current demands. Now, as businesses are readjusting to new demands such as transparent traceability and worker safety codes, IoT can provide the key connectivity between digital assets. When mobile devices are all connected on a shared platform, warehouses can manage stock levels in real time as well as inbound and outbound operations linked manufacturing plants and retailers.
  3. Push for sustainability – It’s estimated nearly a third of today’s young consumers (ages 18 to 30) prefer brands committed to sustainable, eco-friendly warehousing. RFID tracking technologies have been gained maximum traction to both reduce paper labels and closely monitor inventory movement. Automated data verification helps minimize the unnecessary use of paper systems while preventing stock from getting lost and exacerbating expenses.
  4. Inventory forecasting – Intelligent visibility between supply chain steps is only the start to guaranteeing smoother workflows. That’s why operators are now investing in forecasting systems that synthesize purchase patterns from collected data to create possible response plans in the event of disruptions. Zebra’s MotionWorks takes it step farther by ensuring simplistic ease-of-use so your workforce doesn’t have to rely on an IT team to transform collected data into actionable insight.
  5. Real-time communication across the supply chain – Last, but certainly not least, unbreakable communication systems between manufacturers, field teams, warehouses, retailers, and even end-customers has become a centerpiece of effective modernization. This allows businesses to quickly alert team-members of changes and updates from anywhere in the supply chain, minimizing lost time and expenses. 

As new trends continue to emerge, Avalon remains committed to simplifying modernization through effective innovation. Discover new approaches to refining your competitive edge when you reach out to Avalon to learn more.

How Rugged Should Your Handheld Scanners Be?

Automated data capture is a business’ ticket to maximized accuracy and labor efficiency; however, to deliver realized benefits, your scanning device must be appropriately paired with your workflow. Under-performing scanners halt productivity with lower battery lifecycles and short-range scanning, but misused ultra-rugged scanners can be too complicated and bulky for mobile workers to use. Therefore, it is important for operations to first assess the ruggedness features in your desired scanner to enable:

  • Accurate asset tracking
  • Real-time inventory updates
  • Seamless order verification
  • Minimized data errors in your WMS
  • Connected field services

“What should I be looking for in my scanner upgrade?”

Coming from a long legacy of tested durability, Zebra’s enterprise-grade scanners have been constantly redefining the standards of modernized data capture. Whether you are looking for a general-purpose imager or a high-performing rugged scanner, consider the following:

  1. Data capture mechanism – Scanners can be categorized by whether they use a laser or imager to read barcodes. A laser scanner like Zebra’s L14278 is generally more cost-effective since it utilizes a red laser to read 1D black-and-white barcodes. Omnidirectional laser scanners eliminate the need for precise aiming, speeding up the scanning process. On the other hand, imaging technologies can capture the entire barcode in a digital image and decipher the information from both 1D and 2D barcodes. Intelligent PRZM scanners such as the DS4600 are more suitable for 2-D barcode applications in frontline operations.
  2.  IP rating and other durability measures – Outdoor and unique applications such as cold storage will require more than a higher IP rating. For example, Zebra’s DS3600 is equipped with an 8ft. drop spec, waterproof and dust-proof design, and 23% more durability than competing devices. For a more lightweight option that still survives in tougher industrial environments, the DS8100 is a viable option as it provides similar benefits in a more simplistic design.
  3. Connectivity options (hand-free or fixed-mount) – Hands-free scanners have overtaken the modern warehouse due to their ability to leverage natural muscle movement in the workflow to faster employee onboarding and data capture. Easy tap-and-pair in devices like the RS6000 facilitate total wearable solutions for increased productivity and picking accuracy. As for corded/fixed-mount images similar to Zebra’s DS457, these eliminate Bluetooth interference and possible battery depletion issues.
  4. Scanning speeds and distances – Fast-paced operations such as fulfilment for e-commerce count on quicker scanning speeds to avoid shipment delays. That’s where intelligent scanning applications such as SimulScan come handy with multiple barcode capture. As for scanning range, standard-range devices successfully grab information nearby without confusing devices. In contrast, intelligent long-range readers are designed to target barcodes up to 70ft, enabling safe scanning of products located on high racks and shelves.
  5. Battery performance – Lastly, enterprise-ready scanners should last beyond the standard 8-hour shift to prevent downtime from uncharged batteries. While individual scanners may come equipped with long-lasting batteries, Zebra’s PowerPrecision mitigates surprise downtime by enabling clear battery management for all deployed devices. That means your workers can verify devices were properly charged and are fit for a full shift before the day begins. 

To explore Zebra’s entire scanner portfolio, click here.

Make the upgrade with the GO Zebra Trade-In Program

Avalon facilitates your upgrade with the GO Zebra Trade-In Program. Simply purchase your upgraded scanner and submit your claim form within 90 days of the invoice date to trade-in devices from any manufacturer for cash rebates towards your upgrade.

No two mobility solutions are the same. That’s why we encourage meeting up with a modernization specialist to better pinpoint the data capture needs of your operations to best select a scanner fit for your goals.