Technology News

Increased Ecommerce Sales Require a Modern Mobile Solution

As more information is captured at more points throughout the DC and supply chain, users and providers of scanning technology are reimagining how best to make sense of a data-dense world.

The Rise of Android

Since the early 2000s, the majority of handhelds used in Distribution Centers and carried by delivery drivers were using the Microsoft Windows CE operating system (OS).

Following the 2015 announcement that support for CE would sunset, users were also told that those devices running a legacy Windows mobile OS cannot be upgraded to Microsoft’s new mobile version, called Windows 10 IoT Enterprise.

At a crossroads requiring a massive overhaul, many users have opted for Android, an OS born of consumer tech that is making substantial inroads in enterprise applications.

Mark Wheeler, director of supply chain solutions for Zebra Technologies, says the Android migration is a significant factor for many players, even large and established ones with plenty of IT resources.

Mark Wheeler;

“There is now acceptance that Android is the future of computing at the edge. With that comes a shift from IT-management-oriented hardware decisions to more operations-oriented objectives. We see a lot of excitement and investment around solutions that are easier to learn and use.”

Bryan Boatner, director of product marketing for Cognex, agrees, especially with the imminent approach of peak season that will require rapid onboarding for temporary staff. Using “sleds” that grant scanning capabilities and ruggedness to the latest consumer devices, managers can deploy familiar technology while leveraging tools to manage those devices and achieve visibility into hardware that runs different versions of firmware or operating systems.

Bryan Boatner;

“As you look at needs of consumers and warehouses, many are similar. Better speed, better and richer and more intuitive interfaces, IP-68 and ruggedness. A lot of those goals are common.”

Boatner adds that the adoption of user-friendly consumer products, whether Android or Apple’s iOS, has helped streamline customers’ OS strategies. He describes an OS-agnostic terminal platform that can help unify, for example, the Android devices companies use in their warehouses with the iOS devices they use in the field.

Sleds can leverage the latest processing speed, security, cameras and screen resolutions of consumer devices to improve the worker experience. But, importantly, they don’t need to tinker with the foundational software that drives processes.

For example, Boatner says the market leaders for terminal emulation are adopting a strategy of enabling the automatic conversion from the green screen to a more modern, app-based, touchscreen interface.

Bryan Boatner:

“Customers are risk-averse, and as unsexy an interface as the green screen is, warehouse workers can trust it, and it’s reliable. That’s because of the way it integrates into the ‘back end.’ But that doesn’t change when the interface changes. You get the best of both worlds: a robust back-end connection and all the benefits of an easier-to-use interface.”

Intuitive interfaces that dramatically speed up onboarding have a lot of value, especially given the current labor shortages, Wheeler says. In addition to learning quickly, new Android-based tools help workers get the job done even faster. Wheeler describes a utility that can use either a scanner or camera to capture multiple barcodes at once - up to 100 at a time. A pallet at receiving with 50 unique cases might now require one trigger pull instead of a cramp-inducing 50.

Wheeler highlights another solution that uses optical character recognition, 3D capture, and scanning technology to support the physical process of loading a trailer. Together, the captured data give systems unprecedented insight.

In the past, the only interface between the physical world and the enterprise resource planning (ERP) or warehouse management system (WMS) of record has been through someone keying in data, scanning it, or maybe a materials handling system that scans, Wheeler, explains. “We’re now moving toward technologies that sense the physical world directly and use analytics to make useful information out of data. It’s a real fundamental change,” he says.

They say you can’t manage what you don’t measure, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. For example, without the smart trailer scanning system described above, the management team’s information about outbound transportation use is probably anecdotal and intuitive, Wheeler, says, instead of being based on hard data.

Mark Wheeler;

“As a result, managers might invest in different size trailers, or specialized decking to double stack, or entertain any number of other solutions, but without hard data it’s kind of guesswork. With better visibility into what’s actually happening, management teams can identify the right investments in the long term. In the short term, they can react in real time to issues without roaming the docks and just hoping to spot an issue.”

Scanning on the go

The growing popularity of wearables takes mobility and ease of use to the next level. Whether case picking, sortation or outbound load verification anywhere along the chain where it’s critical to verify the right item in the right quantity and even the exact serial numbers - Wheeler says it’s important for the ergonomics to be optimal so the technology does not interfere with the work.

“Advances in the capability of handhelds and wearables are really key as we see the need to capture more data at more points in the supply chain, which has to be done productively,” Wheeler says.

Bruce Stubbs, director of supply chain marketing at Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions adds that wearables also increase the attractiveness of the work and retention of those performing it.

“If you’re not using the latest and greatest, not only will you be less profitable, you will have a hard time capturing and retaining employees. The workforce is much more tech-savvy than ever before, and when they enter the workforce they want to be empowered.”

For older generations of people and technology, change management was more difficult. It was harder to learn and there was often pushback. This generation expects it, Stubbs says.

“If you are operating in a way that does not provide that kind of work satisfaction it can erode morale,” says Stubbs, noting a WERC study that found 43% of DC executives have trouble with turnover, and the biggest reason was low morale.

Bruce Stubbs;

“A company that embraces these technologies can reward employees for going above and beyond. The paper environment is very subjective, and not in real time. Technology makes the work more interesting.”

That said, a DC operation has four critical aspects: Facility, people, processes and technology. All four must work in concert, but Stubbs argues processes could be the most critical.

“All the ways we use technology to capture, interpret and pass data, and all the back-end systems, are not going to help drive better business and efficiencies if married to bad processes,” Stubbs says.

“If you use the greatest technology without best practices on the floor, all you’re doing is creating an expensive bad process.”

Related Resources

Download the Paper

Modernizing the Warehouse with Zebra’s Android
New market dynamics require greater fulfillment speed, and your legacy mobile devices can’t meet the need like Zebra Android devices can. Download Now!


Download the Paper

Building the Smarter Warehouse: Warehousing 2020
This online survey asked IT and operations personnel in the manufacturing, retail, transportation, and wholesale market segments to share their insights and business plans over the next five years, in light of a rapidly changing industry. Download Now!


Download the Paper

Future of Fulfillment Vision Study
Zebra Technologies commissioned a global research study to gain a richer understanding of how manufacturers, retailers, and logistics firms are preparing to meet the growing needs of the on-demand economy, the surveys were designed to reveal plans, implementation levels, experiences and attitudes toward omnichannel logistics. Download Now!


More Resources from Zebra Technologies

Article Topics
Trends   Technology   Mobile & Wireless   Data Management   Ecommerce   Warehouse Management Systems   All topics


Comments
Be the first to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Login.

About the Author
Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.
 
Latest Technology News
How Humans and Robots Will Work Side-by-Side in the Supply Chain
Humans and robots can work in harmony to create a safer, more efficient working world, here’s what that world might look like.

Positive Human-Robot Relationships Will Power the Future Supply Chain Workforce
Technology is changing rapidly, and humans need to accept their robot counterparts, and the modern factory must quickly align itself to the cultural change forced upon it by the advances in these technologies.

Meet NEO Your Real-Time Supply Chain Intelligent Assistant
Neo is not just an algorithm, he’s your best friend, your tireless virtual supply chain assistant, he senses, analyzes, and fixes problems so you can do the important work.

Increased Ecommerce Sales Require a Modern Mobile Solution
As more information is captured at more points throughout the DC and supply chain, users and providers of scanning technology are reimagining how best to make sense of a data-dense world.


 

24|7 Pro Team

The 24|7 Team is your direct pipeline to solutions for your business challenges. It's your opportunity to have supply chain and logistics experts look at your specific challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information.

The 24|7 Team will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list.

1
  Choose a topic for your RFP

Transportation RFP/RFI

The Transportation RFP is your direct pipeline to solutions for your transportation challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific transportation challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request.

Choosing the perfect software or system can be an indomitable challenge. Using this transportation/TMS RFP will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list.

Warehouse/DC Management RFP/RFI

The Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) RFP is your direct pipeline to solutions for your WMS challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific WMS challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request.

Choosing the perfect WMS solution can be an indomitable challenge. Using this WMS RFP will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your WMS Request for Proposal list.

Supply Chain RFP/RFI

The Supply Chain RFP is your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific challenges and needs, and receive free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information. It simplifies finding a pool of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list. The companies in the Logistics Planner have agreed to respond to your request for in-depth information and follow-up, and your request is totally confidential.

Software/Technology RFP/RFI

The Software/Technology is your direct pipeline to solutions for your logistics information technology challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific technology challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request. Whether it's WMS, TMS, Mobile or Cloud, our pros can help.

The companies listed below have agreed to respond to your request for in-depth information and follow-up. Your request is totally confidential.

Executive Education RFI

The Logistics and Supply Chain Education RFI can help you identify the schools, coursework, continuing education, distance learning and certification opportunities available from leading logistics educational institutions.

Upgrade and improve your logistics and supply chain skillsets. Whatever route you choose—advanced degree, executive education, certification or distance learning—the time and money you invest in your education today can pay off in continued career success tomorrow. Contact leading universities and professional institutions for the information you need to prepare for the future.

Third Party Logistics RFP/RFI

This 3PL Request for Proposal (RFP)/Request for Information (RFI) can help you find the 3PL and 4PL providers that can meet your specific 3PL service challenges and needs. The 3PL companies below will provide free, no-obligation third-party logistics advice, solutions, and information.

Ask your 3PL questions, you'll get answers. Simply complete the information, and detail your 3PL challenges. Then, check off the third-party logistics companies that you want to review your request.

1. Choose an RFI topic.
2. Enter your contact information and challenge.
3. Select companies and optional categories.
4. Submit.


2

Your Information



Your Challenge, Problem or Request *

3

Select Transportation Companies

  • Select All

  • 3Gtms
  • BluJay Solutions
  • CSX Trans. Intermodal
  • Kuebix
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • One Network
  • Pitt Ohio
  • Purolator
  • Quintiq
  • SEKO Logistics
  • SMC3


Select Relevent Categories

  • Air Freight
  • Intermodal
  • Motor Freight
  • Ocean Freight
  • Rail Freight
  • TMS

Select Warehouse/DC Management Companies

  • Select All

  • 3PL Central
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • Honeywell Intelligrated
  • Kuebix
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Swisslog
  • Westfalia Technologies
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • Auto ID & Data Capture
  • Automation
  • Conveyors & Sortation
  • Lift Trucks
  • Packaging & Labeling
  • Pallets & Containers
  • Shelving & Racking
  • WMS

Select Supply Chain Companies

  • Select All

  • 3Gtms
  • 3PL Central
  • Amber Road
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • APICS
  • BluJay Solutions
  • CSX Trans. Intermodal
  • Frontier Business
  • Kuebix
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Logility
  • One Network
  • Purolator
  • Quintiq
  • SMC3
  • Synchrono
  • TAKE Supply Chain
  • Westfalia Technologies
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • Global Trade
  • Inventory Management
  • Risk Management
  • Sustainability

Select Software/Technology Companies

  • Select All

  • 3GTMS
  • 3PL Central
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • BluJay Solutions
  • Honeywell Intelligrated
  • Frontier Business
  • Kuebix
  • Logility
  • One Network
  • Quintiq
  • SMC3
  • Swisslog Logistics
  • Synchrono
  • TAKE Supply Chain
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • ERP
  • Sales & Operations
  • Sourcing/Procurement
  • Optimization
  • Transportation Mgmt
  • Warehouse Mgmt

Select Executive Education Choices

  • Select All

  • Graduate Courses
  • Online/Distance
  • Executive Education
  • Certifications
  • Undergraduate
  • Seminars
  • Associations
  • Conferences
  • Tradeshows


Select Third Party Logistics Companies

  • Select All

  • 3PL Central
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Purolator
  • SEKO Logistics
  • Westfalia Technologies


4
 

24|7 Company Profiles