Three Pointers To Warehouse Transformation

Aik Jin, Tan, Vertical Solutions Lead, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific | Thursday, 19 November 2020, 13:29 IST

Aik Jin, Tan, Vertical Solutions Lead, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific

It wasn’t very long ago when fulfillment was described as: “Just logistics.” How times change. And with the speed and accuracy of deliveries enabling competitive advantage, warehousing is high on boardroom agendas. The importance of warehouses in India can be quantified by the fact that the warehousing sector has attracted interest from many institutional investors since 2017, with investment inflows of Rs 254 billion (USD 3.5 billion). The inflow is expected to reach Rs 495 billion by 2021 with incumbent players expanding their portfolio and with the entry of new players, according to property consultancy firm, Colliers International.

While this change is good news, it comes with challenges. Along with consumers’ expectations for ever faster delivery, issues like returns processing, the move to picking single items and worker high churn rates are testing operations. Zebra’s Warehousing Asia Pacific Vision Study reveals that such emerging trends in India are driving various industries to adopt the latest technology in order to stay competitive, profitable and sustainable.

There are often good reasons for reluctance to embrace new technology. However, it’s important to focus on, and synchronize, three key areas to prepare for the future: optimizing Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), connecting teams with enterprise mobile devices, and enhancing infrastructure to introduce more automation and improve visibility across operations.

Optimizing Warehouse Management Systems

As the WMS is the in-flight system of the warehouse, there can be resistance to changing it. Indeed, we often come across legacy systems that have been enhanced and maintained over many years. But there is recognition that investment is overdue. By 2024, 55 percent of the Warehouse Vision Study respondents plan to either upgrade or add additional modules to their existing WMS, or to migrate to full-featured, best-of-breed systems.

There are good reasons for this. Today’s cloud-based WMS are automatically updated to new versions, they can handle the data demands needed for real-time visibility, and they are designed for changing workflows (e.g., returns). What’s more, new inputs are supported to enable improved data-driven performance. For example, 40 percent of the surveyed organizations plan to implement real-time location systems (RTLS), while 60 percent of decision makers plan to continue to evolve their RTLS solutions or implement new solutions of this type by 2024. Over the next five years, an average of 87 percent of warehouse operators plan to have their WMS communicate with both their yard and transportation management systems to ensure synchronization across the supply chain.

Connecting Teams and Enhancing Infrastructure

Enhancing warehouse infrastructure to support more automation and greater visibility is also an area of focus. To improve item-level visibility, data capture and track and trace solutions have been widely deployed – notably barcode labeling. With warehouse workers often walking around to find a shared printer, this move will improve supply chain visibility and help to achieve significant productivity gains. Furthermore, Zebra’s enterprise-grade printers and labels ensure high-quality printing and the adhesion of labels that remain legible and fixed across the supply chain.

To further boost item visibility, technology such as passive and/or active RFID tags, scanners or receivers (which can automatically register and track bulk or individual items) has a big role to play in improving inventory management, picking, and cross-docking efficiency.

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