Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD Jan-Feb 2017 Contents How do you imagine the future warehouse
will look like? It's probably one that's fully
robotised, with nary a person in sight.
For the more imaginative ones amongst us, we
may think of drones whizzing around -- barely
missing one another -- picking up items from
their receptacles and delivering them to droids
waiting at sorting stations.
That picture doesn't seem too far away
from reality -- and we are starting to see the
warehouse of the future taking shape right now.
What's driving the evolution?
The growing importance
Several evolutions have happened in the
warehouse industry. A traditional warehouse is
staffed with workers manually stocking shelves,
running from aisle to aisle, and filling out
paperwork with pen and paper.
Then we are starting seeing additions to the
warehouse -- barcode printers and scanners,
handheld computers, vehicle mounted
computers, RFID scanners and printers, robots,
and automated shelves; some warehouses
are even talking about using drones for asset
location and cycle counting. (Visit www.
take-warehouse/ for an example.)
To further understand the trends that are taking
place in the warehouse, we first need to know
what is happening outside of the warehouse.
E-commerce is booming -- consumers in Asia
Pacific (a region that is home to 60 per cent
of the world's population) is twice as likely to
purchase online than in brick-and-mortar stores.
The region is on track to become the largest
e-commerce market globally in the next five
years, as predicted by MasterCard. Warehouses
need to constantly revamp themselves to
increase productivity and efficiency. The Zebra
Warehouse 2020 Vision Study reveals several
interesting findings that gives an insight into the
current state of the industry and trends, as seen
by decision makers for the next 3-4 years.
Warehouses of the future are
embodiments of technology
The study shows at least 74 per cent of
warehouse managers have plans to outfit their
staff with more and better technology that
increases visibility of operations and automates
tasks that were previously performed manually.
For example, barcoding and RFID-tagging
items that are traversing across the warehouse
help staff accurately track their location and
remaining stock, in turn allowing longer lead
time before they have to be replenished.
According to our survey, the top five
technologies warehouse managers are most
interested in include Internet of Things (IoT),
barcoding, tablet computers, big data/analytics,
and automation. Wearable and RFID are also
two sought-after technologies in the warehouse.
Compared with results for the 2015 vision study,
only 40 per cent of warehouses surveyed were
planning to adopt RFID then, but the figure has
grown twofold in the latest survey.
With ergonomic wearables and handheld
computers built for the enterprise environment,
workers are enabled to scan and track items with
faster speed, less effort, and better accuracy.
The use of mobile handheld computers and
tablets with real-time access to warehouse
management systems will double from 40 per
cent in 2015 to 86 per cent in 2020. In the
meantime, the use of pen and paper is expected
to drop to 24 per cent in the next four years,
down from 95% just a few years ago.
These technologies bring about numerous
benefits: from increased productivity amongst
workers to faster delivery time, creating value for
The wearables deployed in the warehouse are
often multi-modal, which means that with one
device, workers can access multiple functions.
For instance, the device can 'hear' and respond
to voice prompts, display text or pictorial
information on its screen, scan barcodes and
capture RFID tags, take a picture to identify
damage on an item, and allow workers to input
the quantity of items they would like to pick on
the touch screen.
A better way to work
According to the same Zebra study, warehouse
managers estimate that 50 hours are spent
training for new staff to reach maximum
productivity, and they expressly hope to slash that
to 36 hours -- a 20 per cent productivity increase.
To achieve that, the industry is adopting
voice-and-screen directed inventory picking
and replenishment in the next five years. In
this scenario, operators are equipped with a
mobile device or voice-dedicated terminal,
and a headset with microphone. They receive
voice prompts and perform the tasks. Voice-
and-screen picking is designed to free up an
operators' hands and eyes so they can focus on
the task at hand. Picking technology featuring
voice commands is expected to be huge in the
warehouse, with 62 per cent of respondents
planning to deploy both voice and screen
picking by 2020.
Using a touch screen format for enterprise
mobile devices and computers, loaded with a
familiar operating system like Android, also eases
the learning curve for workers who are often hired
on a casual basis to meet seasonal demands.
ANATOMY OF A
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS --- JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2017
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