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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.

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. 

When it comes to food and beverage and pharmaceutical safety, traceability is the baseline for future and sustainable success. Without it, vital products risk spoilage, impacting not only just the bottom line but also consumer safety. Ingestible and medicinal goods tend to be more prioritized since nearly 80% of consumers do not trust manufacturers to properly enforce safety measures around product quality. Moreover, drug recalls have increased steadily for the past two years, with 195 kinds of drugs pulled from shelves since 2017 – mostly due to poor quality control. Improper track and trace systems have often produced one or more of the following consequences:

  • Extensive fees and expenses stemming from downtime while production lines determine points of error. Recurrent issues may also lead businesses to sever ties with questionable companies, ultimately breaking down supply chains.
  • Damaged brand image still remains as one of the top deterrents of businesses since consumers are less likely to choose businesses known for even one safety issue.
  • Legal action may be taken on the part of affected consumers, resulting in broken consumer trust and even changes in laws and regulations.

It’s safe to assume food, beverages, and medicine will always be in demand for the years to come, which means effective traceability will also be highly sought to ensure perishable items are safe for consumers. As a result, automation continues to lead the modernization wave within manufacturing and distribution plants since it facilitates real-time track and trace for easier quality checks. However, complex training and long implementation times can stifle modernization’s benefits when it comes to effective traceability. That’s why simplicity and scalability have become foundational in accelerating deployment for faster efficiency. Whether it be through RFID scanning or mobile label printing, a user-friendly traceability system should be able to…

  1. Reduce illegible manual data entry – Pencil and paper reporting done in haste can result in illegible documentation, complicating future audits. Moreover, files may not be properly sorted and filed, taking time away from productive workflows as workers must spend time looking for vital information. On the other hand, automated data capture through purpose-built devices like Zebra’s DS3600 scanners connect data directly to your centralized database with nothing but a trigger pull, protecting data legibility while empowering workers to process products more quickly.
  2. Close communication gaps between manufacturers and distributors – As seen in recent news, supply chain changes can strike at any given moment, creating challenges for operations using just-in-time inventory management systems. Mobile computers integrating push-to-talk features and cellular connectivity and apps can bridge communication gaps by making sure teams and businesses are notified of any changes as soon as they happen.
  3. Incorporate touch-screen usability for younger workers – As younger workers ages 18-35 enter the workforce, legacy green screen apps may pose a higher learning curve even though they’re familiar to seasoned warehouse workers. That’s why applications like Zebra’s All-Touch Terminal Emulation have been developed to migrate TE screens onto a touchscreen interface for easier usability.
  4. Facilitate data sharing without compromising security – As data is shared digitally, it becomes a target for today’s cybercriminals. To combat threats, Zebra strengthens Android for Enterprise with mobility Extensions and LifeGuard, providing 90-day security patches, two-factor authentication, government-grade encryption, and many other tiered security parameters for uncorrupted data.

Learn how food and beverage businesses are enhancing operational visibility with Zebra in our vision study, available here.

As supply chains grow more complex, operational visibility will remain essential to ensure competitive product quality and consumer trust for every industry. Schedule a preliminary consultation with Avalon’s visibility experts to see how you can expand transparent tracking in your operations with simplistic and intuitive technologies.

Just in the last decade, food giant Chipotle made history when it agreed to pay the largest fine in history – a whopping $25 million in response to its part in a sickness outbreak that would affect over 1,000 customers in a span of 3 years. Unfortunately, compromised food safety is a widely shared issue amongst manufacturers and distributors within food service. The costs of one communication gap may end up being incalculable when you factor in:

  • Lost hours of productivity as teams search for operational blind spots
  • Recall execution expenses such as setting up automated phone calls and postage for returned items
  • Severed distribution relationships as partner businesses must also adjust to recalls
  • Missed compliance fees and audits that come up after mistakes are noticed
  • Reverse logistics and storage as brands must process returned items while keeping them separated from uncompromised products.
  • Broken consumer trust as shoppers will avoid brands with a history of recalls even if it’s just from one event.

Even if spoiled products are identified before leaving facilities, businesses still take a heavy blow financially as products must be discarded.  Experts estimate food manufacturers and distributors can lose as much as $750 billion per year due to poor handling procedures, improper cold storage, and inaccurate data processing. Consequently, targeting blind spots within food distribution has become an undisputable priority.

Three technologies enhancing food safety visibility

Several next-generation devices are now built to simplify tracking and tracing workflows; however, because food service often runs into the challenges of cold storage, technology solutions must also be durable enough to protect real-time visibility. In our partnership with Zebra Technologies, we’ve seen the following technologies thrive in the challenges of maximizing food visibility:

  1. Bluetooth-enabled temperature sensors – Battery-operated Bluetooth sensors mitigate interference issues to protect undisrupted temperature tracking even after products leave the dock. Sensors can be read through any Bluetooth-compatible device for real-time storage verification as products travel down the supply chain. This trackable visibility allows businesses to quickly pinpoint and remediate inadequate temperatures before they harm products.
  2. Customized labels for crisp barcodes – As stated many times by many experts, identification labels are a lifeline for your products since they display vital information such as storage notes, handling instructions, and compliance codes. Constant movement throughout the distribution process can contribute to early label damage such as scratches, fading barcodes, and peeling. Therefore, to protect inventory identification, labels should be tailored for food handling, able to survive extreme temperature changes and long transportation. Zebra’s Certified Consumables fulfill these requirements in drawing strength from several pre-tested materials to ensure consistent performance anywhere they go.
  3. Fixed industrial scanners and machine vision – Multiple purchasing options, new markets, and updated compliance standards have created a more dynamic supply chain with multiple possibilities for blind spots. Consequently, automated fixed scanning and machine vision have taken center stage in seamlessly verifying product quality without halting productivity. Conduct simple track and trace and/or quality inspections across the whole supply chain with automatic visibility that connects to your WMS in real-time for less guesswork.

Selecting a visibility device is only a small part of complete solution design and deployment. To fully reap the benefits of higher operational visibility, we recommend starting with a full evaluation of your current workflow to target hidden blind spots. By assessing where they’re located, your team can then integrate a scalable solution that stays within allocated budgets while deploying future-forward technologies. By doing so, businesses not only protect transparent traceability, but they also prevent operations from being blindsided in the future by new changes.

In a span of a decade, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have reported a 125% increase in food recalls. In 2020, the FSIS recorded a total of 1,394,585 pounds of recalled products, pulled from markets due to pathogens, allergens, presence of extraneous materials, and import violations. Studies show that grievous tracking and traceability gaps have been responsible for:

  • 47% of recalls stemming from microbiological contamination
  • $3.7 billion spent in medical treatments for salmonella 
  • Nearly 8.5 million food units recalled yearly by the FDA
  • 601,969 pounds of recalled chicken in 2020 alone

While these numbers are ominous, one of the primary reasons behind the increase in recalls are traceability technology and new safety regulations. Real-time tracking and labeling systems now provide easier verification of compliance codes in food safety. That means manufacturers can target and catch more mistakes than before with the help of new intelligent tools and better safety parameters set by the FDA, FSIS, and CDC. However, while timely recalls can prevent pathogen outbreaks, they quickly erode consumer trust. An estimated 80% of consumers do not completely trust brands to ensure safety, and over a third report avoiding businesses associated with food-borne illnesses for many months. Therefore, visibility systems must prioritize early detection to keep compromised products from leaving facilities in the first place. 

The key to establish real-time alerts based on actionable data

Less communication gaps empowers teams with a clear overview of how products are handled, packaged, stored, and moved. Labeling systems paired with handheld scanners and mobile computers can help eliminate gaps by transcribing data from each step into a centralized shareable database. On the other hand, new rugged tablets like Zebra’s ET80/85 2-in-1 tablets emphasize the power of agile adaptability in securing food safety by:

  • Providing a lightweight consolidated computer and scanner – Despite having an integrated scanner and higher durability standards, the ET80/85 is 20% lighter and 35% thinner for easy portability. Its larger screen size permits workers to monitor products at-a-glance when operating forklifts or other heavy machinery.
  • Facilitating data entry with a detachable keyboard – Keep workflows standardized with a device that adapts to preferred data entry mechanisms for administrators and production teams alike. Detachable keyboards and universal mounting options allow the ET80/85 to fit into different work environments, simplifying training and accelerating deployment. 
  • Reducing connection drops through flexible connectivity options – Leveraging several connectivity options such as WiFi 6E, 4G/5G, and Bluetooth, the ET80/85 prevents downtime and breakdowns from signal drops within the four walls, keeping your vital data constantly available to your workforce. This also means workers can update WIPs, notifications, and compliance codes in real-time for entire teams to track. 
  • Deploying seamless push-to-talk and secured texting – Lastly, Zebra’s Workforce Connect empowers manufacturers with real-time communication between individual workers and entire groups, all streamlined through one platform. Moreover, connectivity can extend beyond the four walls, allowing transportation teams and retailers to verify shipments are ready for sale. 

To efficiently start securing real-time workflow visibility, begin with a comprehensive operational assessment to target recurring points of communication breakdowns. Contact Avalon to start your assessment today and learn more about the next generation of technologies devoted to dependable food safety.

One of the biggest challenges set to impact supply chains in the years to come is reestablishing customer trust. The coronavirus pandemic simply enhanced previous concerns many customers already had surrounding product fabrication, compliance, order accuracy, etc. From retail goods to manufacturing parts, studies show consumers are more and more skeptical of supply chains, increasing the demand for transparent traceability to soothe worries such as: 

  • Brand’s ability to ensure safety – Only 35% of consumers actually believe the food industry is technologically capable of ensuring proper safety guidelines.
  • Delayed order tracking – Since 2017, it’s been estimated that over 90% of customers expect to be able to track their orders from start to finish, preferably in real-time.
  • Seamless returns in the event of inaccurate orders – At least 96% of customers admit to returning to a business that offers easy returns, which means complicated reverse logistics can deter over half of prospective clients.

Whether you run a business-to-business or a business-to-customer operation, no company is immune to disruptions, and these disruptions -whether via a cyberattack or a sudden spike in demand- can either weaken or strengthen your brand’s identity. While disruptions can happen at any given moment, traceability solutions offer preventive measures to protect consumer trust and minimize damage. Below are 5 ways companies are re-establishing trust in the New Normal: 

  1. Verified contact tracing and social distancing – Needless to say, health concerns are far from gone and will most likely be around for a while. That’s why contact tracing solutions have remained crucial to prevent mass germ spread while targeting potential infections without completely halting productivity. Efficient systems like Zebra’s MotionWorks Proximity have recorded a 75% reduction in proximity events within one week of deployment all while providing an easy-to-follow traceability system between events for scheduled alerts.

  2. Real-time notifications – Time is now more than money. It is also safety and possibly your first defense against sudden changes. Real-time visibility, whether through RFID technology or high-speed WiFi connectivity, equips your workforce with valuable updates as they happen, allowing your teams to respond proactively to change. 

  3. Dependable data security – To mitigate cyberthreats, businesses continue to migrate to supported operating systems such as Android. Zebra’s fortified Android goes a step further by embedding automatic OS updates, government-grade encryption, two-factor authentication, and customizable security parameters along with recurrent security patches. 

  4. Long-range networking to connect customers and field teams – To enable tracking for field teams, long-range and flexible networking systems must survive in difficult environments at all times. Not only does this allow customers to track orders, but it also connects field teams to any real-time updates and changes in the warehouse. 

  5. More safety stock – Depending on inventory type, increasing safety stock may be helpful to prevent stockouts during spikes in demand. To efficiently increase stock quantity without losing track of in-house inventory, we recommend adding automated data capture technology that connects to your inventory management system, along with easy-to-ready durable labels.

To see how you can adapt any of these methods into your business, reach out to our modernization specialists and see how you can set your operations on a firm footing to face 2021’s new and recurrent challenges. 

By now, most businesses have begun to understand the importance of traceability systems as it safeguards operations from missed compliance standards and satisfied skeptical customers. Simply put, when it comes to products that will be entering the human body -i.e. food, medicine, and vaccinations- transparent traceability can either make or break consumer trust, yet almost two-thirds of businesses have yet to adopt modernized traceability technologies.

Creating and/or updating a traceability system can be time-consuming and costly. Consequently, Avalon’s Experts work diligently in setting a firm foundation for your solution with Zebra’s Certified Consumables to address today’s major traceability concerns. 

Listen to our podcast to see how to find a traceability label fit for your business.

Top Traceability Concerns Label Can Address:

Yellow Forklift Picking Up Box in a Warehouse to Improve Traceability System

Traceability system by tracking crucial indicators such as order preparation, storage environment, transit times, and delivery status

To recap, your enterprise labels anchor your traceability system by tracking crucial indicators such as order preparation, storage environment, transit times, and delivery status. With these perks in mind, it’s clear to see how labels assist in diffusing popular consumer concerns such as:

  • Proper Storage – From the production floor to the checkout lane, over 40% of food is discarded in the U.S. due to improper handling and storage. Temperature-sensitive labels can help ensure storage requirements are met without requiring additional freezer-grade hardware, and dissolvable labels like Zebra’s 8000D help identify containers while seamlessly dissolving away once containers are ready to be reused elsewhere.
  • Foodborne illnesses – In addition to preventing waste, proper storage labels can also curb the spread of foodborne illnesses. The label’s smear-proof and coating and temperature-resistant adhesive help secure the tag on the product as it moves between drastic temperature changes, preserving vital information.
  • Product origin – Allergies and intolerances have created a greater demand for easy-to-read labels that detail product origin and ingredients accurately. While Passive RFID tags help monitor production steps in real-time, long-lasting product labels connect the consumer to the product’s key facts, securing ultimate profitability.
  • Recalls – Recalls can damage brand identity and consumer trust, but careful tracking can help minimize the number of products recalled, minimizing damage. By creating custom labels to store more information, you can better track product variety to best manage recalls if and when they occur.
  • Worker hygiene – Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, cleanliness has always been a top concern for consumers regarding food and medicine. RFID locationing can also help track your team and assets to prevent crowding and unmonitored touchpoints.

While there is much more to efficient traceability than labels, exploring consumable options is a great place to start. Speak with our labeling specialists today for more information as to how you can implement greater visibility in your operations with a label made for success.

Given the constant waves of changes gripping supply chains across the nation, Avalon Integration has continuously researched and studied inventory management optimization to help clients best prepare for changes. A lot goes into creating a dependable system, yet without it, businesses run the risk of:

  • Out-of-stock fees
  • Overworked employees
  • Higher production fees
  • Increased carrying costs and travel times
  • Negative brand identity 
  • Missed sales

Consequently, we called the experts to help pinpoint some of the crucial components to consider when developing a modernized inventory management system.

What to expect from a modernized inventory management system:

As previously stated, because every business is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all inventory management solution available. However, it’s safe to assume that your system must aim at maximizing visibility, agility, and accuracy to remain competitive in today’s now-economy. While it’s impossible to categorize one component as the most important factor in your inventory management system, we can help you identify your system’s goals to better specify your system’s needs. Below are a few goals modernized inventory management systems should strive to achieve:

Modernized Inventory Management Systems

Goals your modernized inventory management systems should strive to achieve

  1. Expanding the availability of actionable insight – One of the top benefits of a modernized inventory management system is the actionable insight it can provide regarding purchase patterns and areas of optimization. Actionable insight can help you reduce costs, provide customer-centered service, and mitigate product loss/theft. Avalon can help expand insight availability with Zebra’s mobile computers, built to secure maximum connectivity, so your workforce can stay up to date on any supply chain changes when and where they occur.
  2. Optimizing storage for lower costs – If left unchecked, deadstock can begin to drain your budget in increased carrying costs and depreciated values. When seeking to lower storage costs, Avalon recommends boosting end-to-end visibility with real-time locationing services such as Zebra MotionWorks. Adaptable to change, real-time visibility allows you to monitor moving inventory, giving you an overview of hidden opportunities in the warehouse, in the yard, and anywhere else you need it.
  3. Accelerating order fulfillment without promoting inaccuracies – Late and inaccurate orders affect customer loyalty. With average order fulfillment times getting shorter, it’s no surprise more warehouses have made speed their goal. To reduce data entry time and shorten travel paths, RFID-powered solutions and tracking can save time by capturing multiple codes without a line of sight. By implementing readers at the loading dock, you can accelerate order verification before shipment, eliminating wasted time and labor.
  4. Facilitating customer tracking and order changes – According to Zebra’s 2020 Shopper Study, over 80% of retailers either provide or plan to provide mobile ordering by 2021. Because customers expect to be able to track their online orders, the visibility that connects to your customers becomes a vital necessity. To preserve identification, we recommend investing in durable labels and accurate scanners that work both in the warehouse and on the field. Zebra’s Certified Consumables still stand as your best option in protecting inventory identification due to their strong adhesives and surface coating.
  5. Maximizing worker performance without increasing training times – As more orders come in, your workforce must find a way to continue meeting deadlines while increasing pick rates. High labor turnover rates make this difficult as companies can spend as much as $7,000 in merely training expenses alone. If your goal is to simplify onboarding while increasing performance, simplicity becomes your crucial component since user-friendly systems can diminish the likelihood of human errors. Equipping your workforce with easy-to-learn technologies such as Android’s familiar OS can help lower training times by as much as 90% to make sure employees can access and navigate inventory management systems as early as possible.

Didn’t see your goal listed? Contact our specialists for a free evaluation of your enterprise objectives and see how you can tailor your inventory management system to meet goals and exceed expectations.

Compared to ten years ago, today’s warehouse operations are starkly different. Not only did 5,000 new warehouses appear in a span of 5 years, but e-commerce sales have skyrocketed over 300% way before the global health crisis. Thanks to globalization and the internet, the high demand for specific products and fast order fulfillment has revolutionized operations, leading to one of the biggest business trends helping and hindering operations: SKU proliferation. 

As companies adapt to cater to customer preferences, they create new product varieties, giving way to new SKU numbers to identify different types of the same kind of product. This is a natural progression for any growing business, yet without crucial visibility, SKU proliferation can lead to:

  • Increased carrying costs as you’ll need more shelf space and labor to accommodate more products
  • Increased manufacturing/production costs for slow-moving inventory
  • Added order cycle times since workers take more time to compile orders
  • Missed predictive analytics since collected data does not apply to larger segments of your operations

However, when done correctly, SKU proliferation sharpens your competitive advantage by allowing your business to fulfill a customer’s immediate and secondary needs. Therefore, Avalon Integration outlines three ways your distribution plan can leverage intelligent visibility solutions to best manage varying SKUs.

Bringing Insight to Where it’s Needed Most

When modernizing inventory management, Avalon suggests the following areas to start:

Analyze purchase patterns in conjunction with customer interactions

Zebra L10 Tablet to Analyze Purchase Patterns

Zebra’s L10 tablets provide ample screen space, processing power, and integrated scanning capabilities

Obviously, one of the most common causes of SKU proliferation is customer demand. For example, a shoe company selling back shoes may notice the sudden popularity of red shoes and decide to sell them as well. While this may be competitively smart, one must not forget to continue monitoring current stock performance. In our shoe example, that would mean managers would still need to accurately track the number of black shoes in stock, how often they sell, and where they’re located in addition to trends in demand.

To properly analyze stock performance without increasing cycle count times, Avalon recommends streamlining data capture and mobile computing to eliminate data entry. Mobile devices such as Zebra’s L10 tablets provide ample screen space, processing power, and integrated scanning capabilities to empower workers to manage data on the go, creating an undisrupted inventory management system.

Connect workers to real-time stock updates

MC3390R RFID Real-Time Stock Updates

Integrate real-time visibility with RFID tracking solutions

Customer preferences can change within a day, sometimes in a matter of minutes. Moreover, research shows that customers are more likely to abandon carts if they’re unable to fulfill 100% of their needs in one place. That means every decision your workforce takes matters.  To avoid wasting labor efforts, integrate real-time visibility with RFID tracking solutions, such as Zebra MotionWorks, to manage multiple inventory identifiers all once. Inventory counts and location can then be shared with your workforce via their mobile device to accelerate picking by guiding them to the correct location faster.

Protect communication channels across the whole supply chain

Zebra TC77 Touch Computer Communication

Zebra’s TC77 touch-computer for high-speed and long-range connectivity

Disruptive communication channels such as Blockchain Technology are already redefining the way supply chains communicate by allowing enterprises to monitor inventory before it reaches the receiving dock. That means connectivity has now become a driving factor in enhancing competitiveness since it also allows customers to track their orders, a benefit sought by 97% of online shoppers. While there are many ways to establish communication channels between teams, Avalon continues to prioritize streamlined productivity and flexibility by recommending Zebra’s TC77 touch-computer for high-speed and long-range connectivity that keeps field teams and warehouses connected while also providing mobile computing and data capture capabilities.

As a Zebra Premier Solutions’ Partner, Avalon Integration makes sure to connect you with durable enterprise-ready solutions. Contact us today to discover new ways you can get a better handle on SKU proliferation with solutions tailored to your workflow.

Facing an increase of demands for seamless real-time tracking, many businesses are being forced to revisit their tracking systems in search of improvements. As a result, Avalon Integration has made it a priority to make sure our clients understand the differences between the top tracking technologies within today’s markets: RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). 

Download the Warehouse Vision Study

Click here to download the Warehouse Vision Study

Last year’s Zebra’s Warehousing Vision Study estimated over a third of surveyed warehouses will invest in RFID and locationing technologies by 2024. From optimized picking to verified packing, to real-time inventory management, RFID and BLE serve as more than mere tracking systems as they both give you contextual intelligence to restructure operations based on trends and available resources. While they are both similar and useful, several key differences must be understood before choosing your next locationing system.

What will you need?

Zebra RFID Devices

Avalon and Zebra can help you deploy a complete RFID locationing system

Although both solutions can be customized to fit specialized needs, they both have set requirements when it comes to hardware. To deploy a complete RFID locationing system, you’ll need:

  • An Antennae – Your RFID antennae will connect the reader’s signal to the tags. Needless to say, damaged or subpar antennas can damage the whole operation as they can “lose” signals.
  • A Reader – Capturing up to 1000 codes with one trigger pull, your reader can be customized to match frequency type, delivering 99.99% accurate scans in less time than conventional barcoding.
  • Your choice of an active or passive tag – While RFID is significantly more expensive than other locationing systems, it provides greater flexibility in tagging options. Passive tags are more cost-effective since they don’t have any integrated power sources and can reach up to 82ft in the reading range. Active tags can track high-value assets more accurately with embedded power within the tag, covering a range of up to 328ft.

On the flip side, a BLE solution requires:

  • A BLE tag – These tags contain their own power source, which requires less energy from your operations. Tags generally communicate within ranges as high as 20ft.
  • A Reader – Because Bluetooth technology was developed within the same era as most smart devices, many consumer phones and technologies have Bluetooth capabilities and can serve as readers, reducing hardware costs. However, when it comes to securing reliable device performance in harsher environments, Avalon recommends pairing your BLE tags with enterprise-grade hardware instead.

How will your system communicate?

Complete RFID Tracking System

RFID tags communicate via radio-frequency waves with the antennae

RFID tags communicate via radio-frequency waves with the antennae, pinpointing tag location for real-time tracking. Your reader is then able to digest scanned information and transpose it onto your inventory management interface. This communication pattern empowers workers to:

  • Eliminate manual data entry 
  • Accelerate scanning without requiring line of sight
  • Integrate long-distance data capture

Bluetooth locationing differs from RFID in allowing tags to communicate with each other, eliminating complicated networks and wasteful energy. Readers can sense nearby Bluetooth beacons, providing real-time tracking without constant scanning along with:

  • Easiest implementation
  • Trackable users and assets 
  • Smaller power drain

BLE provides a simplified way to integrate real-time visibility into your operations, while RFID serves as a scalable and adaptable tracking system. Nevertheless, there are many other tracking choices you may want to consider.

Final Considerations

Warehouse Employee Scanning with RFID

Whether you choose an RFID or BLE tracking system, both methods will require an interface to collect and display your data. Once again, this is where consumer-grade devices are unsuitable since they would add extra weight to workers who already carry other enterprise-grade devices. To maximize worker comfort and device performance, modernized tracking solutions are tailored to fit into your mobile computer. As a Zebra Premier Solutions Partner, Avalon provides intelligent Zebra mobile computers that accommodate both BLE and RFID tracking systems onto a user-friendly Android system. To see how your mobile device can fit into an optimized tracking solution, contact us here.