As the modern workplace continues to evolve into an intelligent, innovation-driven environment that connects the physical and digital worlds, front-line workers throughout the supply chain have experienced enormous change across their job functions, especially in recent years. From cycle counting and put away to replenishment and picking, their daily tasks have been modified by technology, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity as well as a greater level of data-driven operational visibility.
In many aspects, the emergence of the modern workplace goes hand-in-hand with the “on-demand economy.” Driven by shifting expectations, both from businesses and consumers, companies across the supply chain are closely evaluating processes and implementing new standards and practices around e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment, inventory management, labor optimization, safety protocols and more.
Meeting shoppers’ omnichannel product delivery and fulfillment expectations calls for a digital transformation of the supply chain that addresses key pain points. In today’s highly competitive and fast-paced marketplace, failure to adapt new productivity-enhancing technology can be very costly. By leveraging intuitive mobile technology, including rugged smartphones and tablets, scanners, printers and wearables, growing pains for manufacturers, warehouses, retailers and transportation and logistics (T&L) firms have been reduced. However, there are no signs that this rapid pace of innovation will let up anytime soon.
A New Age of Operations and Mobile Computing
Supply chain participants count on real-time data to improve productivity on the plant floor, accelerate collaboration across disparate teams and plan their next move (or react to unplanned events). As businesses adapt new workflows around order processing, materials handling, returns and other activities in the B2B2C era, they need to implement the right Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to capture and communicate data. Zebra’s new MC9300 mobile computer is an example of a connected device that empowers employees at the operational edge of the supply chain to share and act upon real-time insights, giving their business a performance edge over those who may be utilizing legacy data capture and mobile computing technologies.
But technologies new and old alike are only as effective as employees are confident in their ability to utilize those technologies. Employee training has been a pain point for manufacturers and distributors for a long time, in particular for those with sizeable seasonal staff and high turnover. Supply chains can’t afford operational slowdowns or errors caused by technologies that aren’t intuitive, so new employees need to be onboarded in a timely, effective manner and trained how to leverage these tools within their workflow on “day one.” Intuitive mobile computers like the MC9300 offer an avenue to support this best practice by reducing the learning curve and adoption time by leveraging the Android operating system and enhancing it for key tasks across the supply chain. For example, essential information regarding inventory management, shipment status, quality control and more can be easily accessed on-the-go, helping to improve worker productivity by as much as 10 percent over legacy solutions. Furthermore, as tech-savvy millennials join the workforce, technology that mimics the experience of a smartphone helps expedite training without compromising the unique environmental and ergonomic requirements of an industrial enterprise setting.
As Microsoft prepares to end support for existing Windows Embedded Handheld and CE 7 devices in 2020 and 2021 respectively, decision-makers are relying on their enterprise devices to offer features that facilitate a seamless migration to Android. Building on its extensive supply chain experience, Zebra offers enterprise leaders a clear path to Android operating system migration with the MC9300 through extended lifecycle support. It also includes innovation like a Terminal Emulation (TE) application designed to take advantage of the graphical capabilities of the device while easily supporting traditional “green screen” usage.
As companies continue modifying their operations to better accommodate and advance best practices relevant to the on-demand economy, they will need the right tools to do so. Seeking out and deploying next-generation solutions – designed with front-line workers in mind – is a critical first step toward embracing mobility and maintaining a competitive edge.