Recent State of the Industry Study Shows Organizations Investing in People to Meet Demand
Warehouse modernization trends are being shaped by necessity. Warehousing, fulfillment operations and distribution centers have to adapt to modern demands from consumers, who now are ordering products whenever and wherever they want in an omnichannel environment and expecting faster delivery.
Although consumers want more and want it sooner, manufacturers, retailers and warehousing operations are dealing with a global shortage of workers to match that demand. Industry leaders realize they must modernize their processes and systems to keep pace.
Recently, Zebra Technologies released the results of its Vision Study Report on warehousing and logistics, with an emphasis on technology that enhances worker capabilities and drives modernization efforts. Zebra commissioned a global research study to analyze warehouse modernization trends and challenges impacting warehousing operations. The study asked 1,403 IT and operational decision makers from manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, post and parcel delivery, and wholesale distribution industries for their insights on current and planned strategies for warehouse modernization.
The study’s findings showed automation and worker augmentation are the ways organizations believe they can best meet the challenges ahead. Among the key data points in the extensive report were:
46% of respondents cited faster delivery to end-customers as the primary factor driving their growth plans; 40% reported increased customer demand as the top driver
61% of respondents agreed that IT/technology utilization is their biggest operational challenge; 60% reported labor recruitment and/or labor efficiency and productivity as their top challenges
80% of organizations plan to invest in new technologies to be competitive
61% plan to use partial automation and worker augmentation to reach their goals by as soon as 2024
Organizations also believe there is a great need to expand the size of their operations, whether that is the number of warehouses they use (82%), the size of their warehouse footprint (87%) or adding employees (83%). Warehouse expansion is just one step toward meeting the needs of the on-demand marketplace. Optimizing the use of that space and employees means implementing technology that increases productivity, promotes intelligence and flexibility and enhances visibility.
Get the Complete Story: Download Zebra’s full report here for a comprehensive look at the study’s key findings.
Blending Front-Line Workers and Technology
Warehouse leaders need to pursue new avenues to optimize productivity and efficiency. Strategies range from continuing to rely on manual processes, to optimizing labor by outfitting workers with devices and technology, to deploying full automation. Few (16%) respondents believe full automation (no human involvement) is the optimal solution.
By far, the largest group of respondents believe automation and employee augmentation solutions combined (73%) offer the best path forward. The study cited 39% of respondents believing that adding an automation component to workers’ routines creates the ideal balance for warehouse operations.
Increasing the volume capacity of the facility and the efficiency of the workforce isn’t the only goal of warehouse modernization trends. The study uncovered a long list of labor initiatives that organizations would like to address with their modernization efforts.
Worker comfort and ergonomics
Optimizing the use of temporary/seasonal labor
Increasing training to retain labor and develop career paths
Training labor more quickly to reduce onboarding time
Recruiting labor with more technical skills
Addressing labor shortages
Replacing an aging workforce
Worker comfort was the most commonly cited initiative (88%) and 79% believed that warehouse work will become more desirable due the technology advancements taking place. Worker augmentation that makes employees’ jobs easier can serve as an enticement in a competitive market. As any warehouse leader knows, attracting and retaining labor is not an easy task. Technology is seen as a way to make the field more desirable to workers considering the field or already involved.
Learn More With TRG: Labor shortages are a leading disruptor of warehouse modernization efforts and driving more organizations in their need for optimization.
Tools of the Trade
Worker augmentation efforts are already in full swing for many organizations. Workers already use handheld devices to read barcodes and RFID tags. Robots are used for some tasks to increase efficiency and reduce the risk of workplace injury. Drones are used to take inventory counts and inspect labels. Assisted and augmented-reality technologies give visual cues to workers through heads-up displays, paired with scanners, to validate workflows for picking, sorting and packing. This is just the beginning.
Study respondents indicated they were likely to upgrade or expand their use of worker augmentation tools significantly in the next few years — 62% cited rugged tablets, 62% named wearable computers and 60% tabbed mobile barcode and thermal printers, for instance. This investment would be alongside other technology investment plans, such as:
Automated sensors, 35%
Locationing technology, 38%
Voice Direction & Recognition, 31%
Augmented Reality, 29%
Further, increased use of automation solutions are expected to aid workers streamline workflows, enable more gathering of real-time information and power data-driven decision-making. Governed with a comprehensive warehouse management system, workers warehouse modernization trends will increasingly lean on these automation tools to improve team productivity and workflow conformity.
Automation investments include tools that deal with both data and physical tasks. Here’s a look at the percentage increases from respondents using automation tools today, compared to what is anticipated by 2024:
Organizations will need trusted partners to organize and execute these technology programs, complete with equipment from proven equipment and service vendors. Warehouse modernization trends are about implementing changes to address the challenges of today, while ensuring long-term success.
Learn More With TRG: Managing risks across warehousing and distribution is becoming more complicated in an increasingly digitized landscape. Securing the digital supply chain is more important than ever before.
Turn to TRG for Warehouse Modernization Initiatives
At TRG, we’re committed to ‘Making Technology Simple’ — specifically within enterprise mobility, point of sale and payment processing solutions. With the industry’s most comprehensive suite of lifecycle management services, our Warehouse & Distribution solutions devise and implement the modernization efforts needed by proactive teams today. All are designed to improve the worker experience, increase your operational efficiency and accelerate the delivery of goods and services.
When you work with TRG, you gain the services of the one provider with a global reach capable of providing solutions for everything dealing with mobile technology. We’re aligned with qualified suppliers like Zebra — which delivers industry tailored end-to-end solutions that intelligently connect people, assets and data to help customers make business-critical decisions — to give you options no matter the goal or application.
TRG will help you evaluate alternatives, develop project plans and execute technology transformations. Once a solution is decided upon, our single-source deployment solutions will handle staging, kitting and configuration to simplify technology rollouts. Once your solution is up and running, TRG will ensure it stays that way with comprehensive managed services for the repair, maintenance and logistical support that eliminate downtime.
Connect with TRG to learn more about warehouse modernization trends and capabilities and how we can help you improve operational efficiency and build consumer confidence.