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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.

 

 

For about nine years straight, industry researchers have cited labor retention as the top struggle in the modern warehouses. Between demands for same-day shipping and cyclical peak seasons, distribution centers have shared the struggle to transition seasonal workers into permanent positions. However, according to the 2022 MHI Annual Industry Report, this challenge has been overtaken by a new struggle: supply chain shortages and disruptions.

 

From batteries, to raw materials, to microchips, to skilled labor, shortages have impacted 57% of surveyed warehouses, increasing the prevalence of out-of-stocks, shipping delays, inaccurate forecasting, and overworked employees. As a result, businesses are attempting to enhance order fulfillment speed by reducing manual tasks and overstocking. For example, carrier giant, UPS, has recently stated it plans to deploy RFID tracking in at least 100 facilities by the end of 2022. The move is followed by many distributors seeking to stay a step ahead of shortages before they impact customer satisfaction.

 

As warehouses brace for even more shortages and inflation costs, many have taken the following pathways:

 

  1. Partner with vendors to understand software and application options – Supply chain shortages have impacted fulfillment expectations for modernizing warehouses since they can’t always get the technologies they need as fast as they need them. Consequently, businesses are also searching for vendors able to conduct software and application updates to expand the functionality of their current devices. This is where Android once again takes the centerstage as one of the most suitable operating systems for enterprise since it facilitates app integration through its open yet secured ecosystem. Moreover, productivity apps like Zebra’s Mobility DNA apps can also enhance handheld functionality through various features such as simultaneous scanning of multiple barcodes, remote battery management, device tracking, and easy troubleshooting.
  2. Increase investment plans for innovative technologies – A variety of repondants cites lack of clear justifiable reason as the number one obstacle preventing modernization. However, next-generation technologies have been crafted with current challenges in mind, providing decision-makers with a more concrete estimate of expected results that relate to their challenges. For example, mobile devices with embedded push-to-talk capabilities serve as a cost-effective replacement to bulky two-way radios, thus increasing worker ergonomics while diminishing MDM costs.
  3. Pilot new technologies that automate repetitive tasks –  While cloud computing and storage continues to lead adoption rates in the modern warehouse, newer technologies like automatic identification and sensors have also risen to popularity as a way to both reduce labor efforts while preventing the wrong products from leaving the warehouse. Integrated RFID portals combine these two efforts by capturing tags and tracking inventory movement through wall-mounted and transitional RFID portals, linking real-time data to your WMS. Providing teams with greater inventory control and automatic updates, solutions like integrated RFID portals are expected to play vital roles in tomorrow’s warehouses, with adoption rates well exceeding 80% in the next five years.

 

The 2020 health crisis has forever altered supply chains, and experts agree that there is no turning back. Customers expect fast, error-free, cost-effective service in a world full of shortages, communication breakdowns, and skyrocketing prices. Whether via a handheld reader or an intelligent inventory software, automation is sent to be the leading solution to today -and tomorrow’s- supply chain challenges. To continue exploring more responses to supply chain shortages, reach out to our modernization teams.

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.