Posts

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failure to properly modernize can also slow down efficiency as workers must navigate through higher demands with outdated devices, bottlenecks, and inaccurate data.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.

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.

Shaping modern warehousing from the inside out, demands for sustainable practices have skyrocketed, with a 71% increase in searches for sustainably sourced and packaged products. To retain customer loyalty, warehouses and distribution centers can no longer afford to overlook operational sustainability. Moreover, as supply chain issues continue, eco-friendly practices can also help minimize costs and downtime since versatile technologies aim at reducing e-waste, thus streamlining several vital workflows through one rugged device for less future decommissioned devices. In addition to a smaller carbon footprint, sustainable warehousing promotes:

  • Consolidated workflows for less deployed devices and reduced management costs
  • Future-proof operating systems to prevent early decommissioning
  • Durable printheads and smooth surface labels that mitigate premature printhead failure
  • Less paper-based data tracking thanks to automated scanning capabilities

Explore your sustainable modernization options

To further facilitate your sustainable plan, next-generation technologies strive to support the qualities discussed above. For example, Zebra’s Rugged Tablets hold EPEAT certifications, thus complying with multiple stringent standards while automating data capture. Whether through rugged tablets or mobile computers, sustainable warehousing can be achieved through…

  1. Eco-friendly upgrades that guarantee proper recycling – As businesses move toautomate repetitive tasks, concerns for improper e-waste disposal grow. To prevent outdated devices from hitting landfills, Avalon continues in its partnership with the GO Zebra Program, assisting businesses in trading legacy devices from any manufacturer for Zebra’s next-evolution devices along with cash rebates up to $650 per device.
  2. Minimum operational lifespan of five to ten years for mobile devices – Unlike consumer-grade devices which typically last between one to two years, enterprise-devices running on Android’s OS can last up to 10 years with uncompromised data security thanks to silent yet recurring updates and security patches.
  3. Durable external design to withstand rough use – Optimize reliable operations with durability that is built to handle drops to concrete, rain, snow, dust, extreme heat, subzero temperatures, and liquids. Zebra’s Rugged Tablets are waterproof, dustproof, and drop-proof, so your workers get the ultimate in usability. When devices are built to survive harsher conditions, businesses can also avoid wasteful downtime and breakdowns, decreasing operational costs, IT visits, and eventual device disposal.
  4. Reliable battery management – Lastly, to reduce risks of improper battery disposal and sudden device malfunction, applications similar to Zebra’s PowerPrecision can pinpoint a battery’s lifespan and performance. This enables workflows to preempt problems before they impact productivity while tracking retired batteries to prevent improper disposal.

With the correct technologies, even the smallest changes can greatly improve sustainable warehousing. For more small-scale changes and implementations, contact Avalon’s modernization experts to learn more.

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

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.

Avalon cold storage RFID technology image

RFID technology has long been at the forefront of modernized locationing systems given its ability to track in-motion products and assets. However, while still adaptable to most applications, RFID tags are not always the best option for every environment, particularly cold storage, where a combination of metal, ice, and condensation, can impact label and reader performance. With cold chain operations expected to grow by 7.24% in the coming year, supply chains must find a way to combine durability and adaptability in their tracking system. Today’s ideal cold storage tracking system should integrate:

  • Minimized touchpoints – To mitigate germ spread and accelerate throughput, warehouses should minimize points of contact either through long-range scanning or wireless connectivity.
  • Scalable growth opportunities – Resource shortages such as the current microchip shortage can increase demands, thus putting more strain on your devices. Consequently, deployment should be easy to accommodate changing numbers of inventory and personnel as needed.
  • Durability that extends beyond the freezer – Because field teams now travel much farther than before, tracking technologies should be packed with long-lasting batteries or flexible charging options to keep workers connected during longer routes.

Zebra’s electric temperature sensors deliver it all.

Seamless temperature tracking is only half the battle. To create a competitive tracking system, sensors should be paired with enterprise-grade and freezer-ready mobile devices that withstand constant temperature swings and long-distance shipping routes. In combining mobile computers and electric sensors, modern tracking systems can:

  • Certify the correct products are packed correctly for timely shipping
  • Prevent early spoilage after products leave the loading dock
  • Scan frozen barcodes at a distance without label repositioning
  • Update receiving stores on ETAs, delays, and product condition in real time
  • Facilitate audits since traceability records are all digitally available

To see how Zebra’s electric sensors interact seamlessly with your device of choice, download our fact sheet.

Whether through Bluetooth locationing or RFID technology, clear workflow visibility has become indispensable for the modern-day warehouse. Reach out to our modernization experts today to see how you can start amplifying operational visibility in your facility with technology that grows alongside your goals.

Way before the COVID-19 outbreak shook operations worldwide, modern supply chains were already on their way to becoming increasingly more dynamic. Constant technological advances and customer demands have created an unprecedented competitive landscape. Moreover, rising cyberattack risks have further driven up the need for secured connectivity amongst a growing complex supply chain to keep teams connected and operations moving smoothly. Now, as new obstacles emerge, such as overloaded networks and dwindling workforces, Avalon Integration works alongside leading manufacturers such as Zebra Technologies to leverage three purpose-built connectivity solutions that give you a competitive advantage at the face of adversity.

Improve your Supply Chain for your field services workers with the L10 Tablet

Field Services Worker Carrying L10 Tablet

  1. Integrate trackable inventory visibility – From the production floor to the checkout lane, your inventory passes down multiple touchpoints, each holding their potential for human error. Facilitating real-time verification, novel tracking technologies such as RFID solutions and blockchain connectivity break down obstacles by keeping inventory information accessible to your whole team. Other tracking tools such as Zebra Certified Printing Supplies can also boost efficiency and protect identification barcodes to facilitate locationing even in extreme environments.    
  2. Choose a fortified operating system – Without crucial security patches and OS updates, devices running on outdated operating systems are a gateway to cyberattacks. As the leading OS of choice, Android for Enterprise facilitates ease of use with its familiar interface while also delivering higher security measures, backed by government-grade encryption and adaptive authentication. The result is a protected future-proof communication channel that can be shared amongst your entire supply chain with minimal security risks. 
  3. Streamline connectivity and productivity – Chances are, your field teams are traveling farther today than ten years ago. When facing harsh environments and extreme temperatures, Avalon turns to Zebra’s ultra-rugged mobile devices, such as the L10 Rugged Tablet, to streamline multiple functionalities, such as connectivity and data-capture, into one high-performing interface. 

As leaders in intelligent efficiency, Avalon continuously approaches change as opportunities to adapt and surpass new expectations. Contact us today to how these solutions can fit into your operations, and keep your team connected with dependable systems built for enterprise success.

Working with supply chain optimization since 1994, I can safely say that there is no such thing as a problem “too new” that can’t be addressed. However, I also understand where this concern comes from.

In the past two decades or so, technology has taken enormous leaps previously unimaginable. Phones became smart. Cars can be driverless, and the list goes on, yet most people would agree that not every technological innovation is necessary, which is why businesses may be uneasy at first to jump on board with new technology. Indeed, even in warehousing, most decision-makers don’t see automation replacing human efforts. It’s all about finding a balance. While seemingly new issues such as complex e-commerce transactions, drop shipping, and high labor turnover rates may seem unsolvable at face-value, there are generally deeper issues at the root of your main concerns which can be resolved by a combination of intelligent technology and human expertise. A few common supply chain issues include:

  • Reduced Productivity – From bulky devices that weigh down your workers to costly bottlenecks that halt workflows, reduced productivity is always costly and affects the whole supply chain. Sometimes it comes in the shape of a broken printer or lost connectivity across state lines.
  • Inefficient Inventory Management – Dynamic supply chains have increased the complexity of inventory/asset movement. From production to shipping, to receiving, to packing, and so forth, your inventory passes through a lot of hands before reaching its final destination, which means there is a lot of room for costly errors if done inadequately. Also, repetitive tasks such as labeling parcels or manual data entry can lead to employee disengagement which exacerbates error risks and contributes to labor turnover as employees may feel undervalued. 
  • Traceability Issues – Evolving safety standards have increased the need for better traceability. From the food industry to auto production, batch numbers must be tracked and traced accurately even beyond the point-of-sale. Cradle-to-crate traceability can be the differentiator between a chaotic polemic recall and safe, government-compliant operations.

What are my options?

QLN420 Supply Chain Warehouse

When it comes to optimizing your supply chain there is a lot of options.

  • Highly ergonomic devices – These devices can boost productivity while preserving worker comfort. Instead of choosing between bulky industrial devices or breakable consumer-grade technology, you can streamline productivity with rugged yet lightweight enterprise hardware, built for strain and success.
  • Automated data entry – Even a 1% error rate can impact your workflow. Luckily, mobile computers can help increase data entry accuracy by eliminating human error. This also frees up your workforce to concentrate on other more crucial tasks instead of repetitive labeling.
  • RFID and Real-Time Locationing – From better inventory management to visible traceability, RFID technology gathers the intelligent insight you need to optimize your operations. Scalable to grow alongside your company, real-time locationing solutions can track inventory, assets, and resources in practically any industry.  

How difficult are these technologies to deploy?

MT2090 Scanning in a Warehouse

Deploying warehouse optimizations is easy with Avalon Integration

With the correct technology provider, implementing durable enterprise-grade solutions is simple. Working with leading manufacturers (like Zebra Technologies, Newcastle Systems, etc.), we closely assist you in planning, piloting, deploying, maintaining, and upgrading your technology for streamlined supply chain management.

Message Mike Kula today to see how you can start optimizing your operations with the best tools available. 

Watch Mike Kula on the Summer of 50 PGH Tech Stories Podcast.

Listen to Mike Kula on the Summer of 50 PGH Tech Stories Podcast.

New dynamic supply chains can increase the probability of errors and inefficient labor as orders have become increasingly more complex and customers more demanding. Although online shopping is set to contribute trillions of dollars into the global economy, it has also contributed to a vast array of operational concerns such as:

  • Data security 
  • Lack of transparency in inventory and asset management
  • Undervalued and/or unskilled workforces 
  • Adaptability for future market shifts
  • Shipping speeds

Coupled with today’s high employee turnover, dynamic supply chains are redefining operational efficiency. As always, Avalon Integration is ready to help you in navigating through this new industrial landscape with enterprise-grade resources built to maximize ROI while addressing operational concerns. 

MC9300 can improve your Dynamic Supply Chains and Maximize ROI

The MC9300 from Zebra can improve your Dynamic Supply Chains and Maximize ROI

Where to Begin?

Since they occupy virtually every aspect of your warehouse operations, your handheld devices are an ideal place to begin enhancing worker productivity. Aware of today’s concerns, leading manufacturers like Zebra Technologies have developed a versatile portfolio of goal-focused technologies that enrich:

  • Supply Chain Connectivity – From manufacturers to distribution centers to delivery drivers, it takes a large team to properly handle inventory. However, the need for secured communication channels remains as vital as ever. Dependable devices such as the TC7X provide reliable connectivity even in the most remote areas thanks to several networking options (WiFi, Bluetooth locationing, GPS, Cellular LTE), so your entire team can stay updated of any changes before they hinder the workflow.
  • Inventory Management – While the two may seem far removed, proper inventory management can boost customer satisfaction since orders are processed and delivered more quickly. Happy customers become loyal customers, adding to your overall profitability. Minimizing surprise out-of-stocks, new RFID locationing technology such as Zebra’s readers, antennas, and rugged tags can verify received/shipped inventory to ensure it reaches the correct destination in time. Moreover, RFID tags further increase investment returns by eliminating the need for several barcodes.
  • Labor Productivity – With the current national unemployment rate and all-time low at 3.6%, warehouses have faced more challenges in hiring and retaining skilled laborers. By automating repetitive tasks such as data capture with user-friendly devices like the MC9300, your workforce can apply their skills into crucial tasks, maximizing productivity, and employee satisfaction.

Efficiency in Action

To see these solutions in action, catch live demonstrations, in-depth assessments, and unprecedented unveilings at the 2020 Modex Tradeshow, or skip the wait and contact us today for a free assessment of your current workflow.