Article Courtesy of Zebra Technologies
How You Can Optimize Business Growth in APAC, Starting in the Warehouse
With “The Great Reshuffle” ongoing, a phenomenon that is creating labor shortages across many sectors, well optimized, highly automated processes are integral in ensuring that the needs of logistics and warehouse associates are fulfilled.
Importance of Automation
Automation is no longer seen as an advanced technology. It is now as fundamental to operations as digital information systems and mobile technology. There is a direct correlation between an organization’s operational efficiency and capacity and the extent to which it can integrate cyber-physical systems into the warehouse ecosystem.
To achieve the desired return on Industry 4.0 investments, the workforce needs to be retooled too. Zebra’s study illustrates an encouraging trend of warehouse operators turning their focus and spending most heavily toward technologies that support workforce augmentation and workflow automation. For example, more than nine in 10 operators in all regions, including APAC, indicate they will increase the use of wearables, mobile printers and rugged tablets over the next few years, along with mobile dimensioning software that automates parcel and carton measurements. In addition, 27% of warehouse operators globally and in APAC have already deployed some form of AMRs today. Within five years, that number is expected to grow to 92% in APAC.
Increased e-commerce activity
Globally, shipping volumes have increased more than 20% on average for both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) orders since 2019. Even before the pandemic, the lines between brick-and-mortar and click-and-ship retail were blurring, as consumers came to expect the same shopping experience whether buying in store or online. Decision-makers surveyed in the Zebra study revealed that the top three challenges face are: faster delivery to end customers, increased transportation costs, and inventory accuracy and visibility. Across the board, B2C and B2B manufacturers are beginning to sell and ship direct to customers. Some are driven to set up e-commerce platforms that allow for fast, direct customer transactions to keep up with consumer expectations. Therefore, operations teams have no choice but to reconsider how to automate and optimize end-to-end workflows.
Augmenting workforce with devices, software and automation
While most warehouse operators will deploy AMRs for person-to-goods (P2G) picking, material movements and other automated inventory moves, more will invest in devices and software that helps automate analytics and decision-making. They want to raise worker effectiveness and efficiency and reduce labor costs. Right now, decision-makers feel the most important labor initiative is to reduce unnecessary tasks so associates can focus on more customer-centric work. If warehouse operators automate through AMRs and workflow optimization software, it will be easier to scale operations and meet service level agreements as customer demands and labor availability fluctuate.
Time to invest
Zebra’s study respondents believe automation may help keep more people in their jobs and fill empty ones. Nearly eight in 10 warehouse associates in APAC (79%) say walking fewer miles per day would make their jobs more enjoyable, even if they had to pick or handle more items, and many strongly believe automation could make warehouse jobs less stressful.
As businesses invest in advanced technologies that enable more visibility, real-time guidance and data-driven performance, team productivity increases and assets, equipment and people are better utilized, which translates to improved worker well-being and overall market competitiveness.