Evolving warehouse operations in Asia Pacific



Evolving warehouse operations in Asia Pacific

Warehouse, an accumulated goods space, is now advanced with new approaches. In a recent interaction with Emmanuel Christi Das, Editor, Siliconindia, Subramaniam Thiruppathi, Country Lead for India and Sub-Continent, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific, explained how Warehousing companies are implementing the latest technologies and remodeling various industries.

What is the long-due warehouse transformation that companies need to adopt?

In the case of warehouse automation, there are five phases before companies can reach full maturation with the ability to fully sense, analyze and act on their data to unlock opportunities for productivity, accuracy and efficiency and overcome the challenges within the warehouse Operations.

While most companies may think of the warehouse modernization to be the adoption of highly advanced technologies like Intelligent Automation including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics, the reality is that it can start from basic data capture, analysis and workflow distribution. In fact, mobile computers like TC83, MC93, MC33, printers like ZT610, ZT411, scanners like DS3678, DS2X, tablets like L10, ET5X and wearables like RS5100, WT6000 are not always common sights in warehouses that were built years ago. Yet these are the foundational elements that give a modern warehouse the good structure it needs to continue to grow and flourish in the future.

For instance, migrating from Windows® to Android™ handheld mobile computers or 2G to 3G/4G/5G networks may be all companies need to instantly expand their operational visibility and increase their operational intelligence. The same is true of switching to barcode scanners that can read 1D and 2D barcodes on the first trigger pull, even if labels are damaged, dirty or at a distance. And taking advantage of analytics solutions and managed services that constantly monitor the health and security of your devices and networks can payoff significantly for those who can’t afford even a minute of worker downtime.

The best part is that small modernization actions like these can be taken by warehouse operators of all sizes to achieve equally significant benefits. Most warehouse operators have the financial means and resource capacity to upgrade mobile hardware and workflow software and take advantage of professional services offerings – even startups. Making such investments often improve the bottom line versus depleting it.

Thereafter, they can move onto Phase 2 and 3 accordingly. The former enables them to achieve greater team productivity and workflow conformity by optimizing the use of mobility. The latter requires the implementation of sensor-driven technologies that expand their operational visibility into targeted areas that currently lack visibility and may be causing congestion, errors, or inefficiencies. Then, businesses can move to Phase 4 which involves the use of real-time data wall-to-wall in their facilities. At Phase 5, businesses can leverage advanced technologies that can predict and adapt.

Interested customers are recommended to touch base with Zebra Partners or Zebra Sales Team to know more about Zebra Warehouse Maturity Model starting from their Phase 0 all the way up to full automation.

How is RFID technology helpful in warehouse modernization?

Inventory automation and warehouse management are critical factors in the drive for compliance and efficiency, which makes accurate identification and labelling of automotive components essential.

If anything, the pandemic has exposed most enterprises and their supply chains to their lack of real-time visibility of their inventory. They simply do not know how much stock they have left on their shelves or the balance in their warehouses. As such, they are unable to make a swift decision whether to replenish their stock right away.

In the case of supermarkets, the mad rush for groceries and daily essentials during the initial outbreak and on the eve of city lockdowns, almost paralyzed their operations because goods could not be replenished fast enough to cope with the sudden surge in demand.

As for other brick-and-mortar retailers, most of them have since embraced e-commerce to keep their businesses afloat as social distancing measures and city lockdowns, which prevents shoppers from visiting their stores physically. To cope with the increased popularity of e-commerce, such retailers will need to adopt RFID technology to help them better manage their inventory and fulfillment to satisfy the instant gratification of online shoppers today.

The ability to automatically identify and track items through the supply chain, manufacturing, transport, and delivery processes, will help businesses make well-informed decisions swiftly when it comes to replenishing their stock. This is crucial because over-stocking will cause storage constraints while undersupplying will lead to loss of business revenue.

Also, a bigger challenge is whether to  opt for fulfilling from a direct warehouse or from an alternate store location in cases of stock-outs. With  real-time visibility across stores, fulfillment centers, hubs and distribution centers, fulfilment can be achieved  swifter and more cost-effectively.

Considering that e-commerce appears to be flourishing, what has changed since the onslaught of Covid-19?

2020 taught companies that you must be nimble to compete in today’s fast-changing, on-demand world.

The supply chain has become far more complex, especially with the dramatic rise in e-commerce. The Indian e-commerce market alone is expected to reach $99 billion by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27% over the period of 2019-2024. Warehouse operators can no longer function as they have traditionally. They must innovate if they want to be able to cater to the demands of customers today.

Prior to the pandemic, growing customer expectations was already fuelling the on-demand economy. COVID-19 has only raised the bar higher by driving up the demand for essential goods and causing continued restrictions on many products, thereby creating a disparity between demand and supply.

While the supply chain in India is used to being prepared for consumption peaks during the festive season from September to December every year, the current situation creates significant challenges. To overcome these challenges, companies need to rapidly adopt extraordinary measures to ensure timely delivery of essential products to stores and subsequently the customers. Technology-led supply chain models will need to be agile and flexible to emerge as a key defining factor that reduces the current demand and supply gap in India. 

How can companies maintain social distancing and security in the warehouses?

In view of the pandemic and the need to maintain social distancing, we have introduced the Zebra MotionWorks Proximity in 2020. The solution offers proximity sensing with user-level alerting and contact tracing to enable employers to help protect their employees’ health while in the work environment.

Leveraging Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) and WiFi, the software solution is hosted in the cloud, implemented quickly, and managed remotely by Zebra, eliminating on-site professional services. It does not require new infrastructure and can be leveraged on existing supported Zebra Android devices or new devices available in different form factors and price points depending on customer requirements.

The advantage provided by Zebra’s contact tracing solution is that it utilizes the devices front-line workers are already using today, minimizing additional capital costs and accelerating employee adoption.