Both automation and worker augmentation solutions will be a key focus for decision-makers’ plans over the next five years, according to the results of Zebra Technologies Corporation’s latest Warehousing Asia Pacific Vision Study.
The study analyzes IT and operations decision-makers from manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, post and parcel delivery and wholesale distribution industries for their current and planned strategies to modernize warehouses, distribution centers, and fulfillment centers.
More than three-quarters (81 percent) of respondents agree that augmenting workers with technology is the best way to introduce automation in the warehouse, but only 34 percent have a clear understanding of where to start automating. Currently, up to 88 percent of decision-makers are either in the process of or are planning to expand the size of their warehouses by 2024. Meanwhile, up to 85 percent anticipate an increase in the number of warehouses during this timeframe.
Across the Asia Pacific, 87 percent of respondents plan to implement a mobile execution system to better manage workers on the warehouse floor by 2024. Meanwhile, 73 percent of decision-makers plan to invest in smartwatches, smart glasses and hip-mounted wearables in the next three years.
“Warehousing, distribution and fulfillment operations are undergoing a modern-day makeover as they
transform to meet the growing needs of the world’s on-demand economy. Warehouse leaders today are turning to technology to address business-critical challenges resulting from this global phenomenon, by adopting advanced technology and empowering their workers with a performance edge,” said Aik Jin, Tan, APAC Vertical Solutions Lead, Manufacturing, and Transportation & Logistics, Zebra Technologies.
“Expanding space, implementing new processes and enhancing workflows are only part of the equation. By 2024, warehouse leaders will be shifting their focus to the integration of more holistic solutions to build data-powered environments that balance labor and automation in the warehouse, ultimately empowering front-line workers with a performance edge to lead the way.”
The study reports on the forward-thinking fulfillment strategies that companies are focusing on to keep up with the growth of the on-demand economy. Both automation and worker augmentation solutions will be a key focus for decision-makers’ plans over the next five years. More than three-quarters (81 percent) of respondents agree that augmenting workers with technology is the best way to introduce automation in the warehouse, but only 34 percent have a clear understanding of where to start automating. Currently, up to 88 percent of decision-makers are either in the process of or are planning to expand the size of their warehouses by 2024. Meanwhile, up to 85 percent anticipate an increase in the number of warehouses during this timeframe.
“The on-demand economy has fueled that "want-it-now" mentality of consumers today, who are on the hunt for products almost 24/7. These demands have disrupted the supply chain, impacting manufacturers, retailers and the warehousing operations that serve their need,” said Fang-How Lim, Regional Director for Southeast Asia, Zebra Technologies. “Our study further revealed that 49 percent of the surveyed business leaders reported an increase in consumer demand as a top driver for growth, with almost 40 percent of respondents stating that shorter order lead times are fueling their expansion plans and causing them to reanalyze their strategies.”
“To match up to the on-demand mentality of consumers, decision-makers will need to quickly train their front-line workers to fill orders more efficiently. Outdated Windows devices running green-screen applications are not designed to match the speed and volume of today’s on-demand economy. Conversely, modern Zebra Android touch-screen devices like the MC9300, MC3330R and MC3390R are designed for a faster, more flexible operation that improves warehouse performance to meet the expectations of demanding consumers today,” added Aik Jin, Tan.
KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
By 2024, automation will enhance worker performance rather than replace workers.
- 57 percent of decision makers plan to enable partial automation or labor augmentation with technology in the warehouse.
- 70 percent of respondents believe human interaction is part of their optimal balance in warehousing, with 43 percent citing partial automation (some human involvement) and 27 percent citing augmentation (equipping workers with devices) as their preference.
- Decision-makers anticipate using robotics for inbound inventory management (27 percent), packing (24 percent) and goods in/receiving (21 percent) by 2024.
Rethinking fulfillment strategies and operations to meet emerging challenges across the warehouse remains a top priority.
- 68 percent of respondents cited capacity utilization as one of their top expected challenges over the next five years.
- 68 percent of organizations cited labor recruitment and/or labor efficiency and productivity among their top challenges, with 62 percent of respondents wanting to improve individual worker or team productivity today while also achieving workflow conformity.
- IT/technology utilization was identified both as the biggest operational challenge (68 percent) within the next five years and a desired long-term outcome for increased asset visibility, real-time guidance and data-driven performance.
- As warehouses expand, so will the volume of stock keeping units (SKUs) and the speed items need to be shipped. Decision makers will seek increased visibility and productivity by implementing more robust returns management operations (85 percent), task interleaving (85 percent), value-added services (84 percent) and third-party logistics (88 percent).
The investment and implementation of new technologies is critical for remaining competitive in the on-demand economy.
- Almost half (48 percent) of surveyed respondents cited faster delivery to end-customers as the primary factor driving their warehouse growth plans.
- Three-quarters (75 percent) of decision makers agree that they need to modernize warehouse operations to remain competitive in the on-demand economy but are admittedly slow to implement new mobile devices and technology.
- 73 percent of companies are currently modernizing their warehouses by equipping workers with mobile devices. By 2024, modernization will be driven by Android-based mobile computing solutions (90 percent), real-time location systems (RTLS) (60 percent) and full-featured warehouse management systems (WMS) (55 percent).
- 66 percent of respondents cited mobile barcode label or thermal printers as a key area of investment as part of their plans to add, expand or upgrade devices in the next three years.