Comment: Why now is the moment for warehouse modernisation

Paul Reed, enterprise mobile computing regional product manager, EMEA, Zebra Technologies, on handheld device modernization strategies given the phase out of Windows systems.
Warehouse, Handheld devices, Windows

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With the end of extended support by Microsoft Windows Embedded Handheld in January 2020 and support for Windows Embedded Compact 7 ending a year later, now is the time to plan your device modernization strategy. These end-of-support dates expose Windows mobile devices now in use in warehouses to potential security issues and limit future software and wireless concern resolution. Add to this the inevitable decline in aging hardware performance and missed performance gains that come with new warehouse devices. While this is prompting warehouse leaders to reassess their mobile device strategies, now is a good time to introduce more automation into the warehouse.

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A key finding from Zebra’s Warehouse Vision Study is the extent that consumers push for reduced delivery times is impacting warehouse operations – 46 percent of respondents cite this as the main driver behind their growth plans. The research highlights greater demands on warehouses: 86 percent of respondents expect to expand shipping volumes; and 81 percent are investing in returns handling. These trends mean that more space is needed – 87 percent of respondents are looking to extend sites and 82 percent to build more. To keep pace, warehouses will need to ‘staff-up’. Industry projections indicate that worker numbers will need to grow by 17 percent to 44.6 million.

There is a strong reason to invest in warehouse modernization projects as 80 percent of survey respondents plan to invest in technology to stay competitive. Interestingly, 70 percent believe that human involvement will remain in workflows. This explains the high number (77 percent) who say that augmenting workers with technology is the best way to introduce automation into the warehouse. Just under three quarters (70 percent) are planning to do this by giving staff new mobile devices.

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While the end of extended support for Windows® Embedded Handheld and Embedded Compact 7 plays a role here, there is a wider recognition that new technology can boost productivity: 43 percent of decision makers believe that a modern operating system, such as Android™, will improve staff efficiencies and 39 percent think that it will help them adjust more quickly to complex tasks.

While warehouse leaders understand the potential of new technology, 77 percent of respondents admit that they are slow to implement it. So, if you’re thinking about rolling out new devices, here are some ideas about how to ease the warehouse modernization process, and some of the benefits you can expect to see.

Facilitating New Mobile Device Roll Out

When discussing Android migration, customers often express concerns about rewriting apps. Typically, their legacy Terminal Emulation (TE) apps have been refined over many years and are still appropriate for warehouse workflows. With this in mind, enterprises should have access to:

  • TE support: warehouse mobile computers include an integrated application to run existing TE apps which gives complete flexibility to migrate apps to devices’ native operating system when the time is right. For example, the Velocity application from Ivanti is pre-loaded on the majority of Zebra® mobile computers and pre-licensed on some (including MC9300, MC3300 Gun and VC80x/ VC8300). This gives a simple way to move to green screen TE on Android, while also offering future application modernization.
  • Longer device support lifecycle: Zebra OneCare® Support Services with LifeGuard™ for Android™ ensure customers get predictable and dependable 3-5 year security updates needed to maximize expected enterprise uptime on Zebra Android devices.

New mobile devices deliver a range of benefits such as being more comfortable, lighter and easier to use which reinforces 88 percent of survey respondents’ feedback which stated worker comfort and ergonomics as top priorities. Key features such as integrated, best-in-class barcode scanning have become more advanced to accelerate and streamline workflows by enabling fast, first-time, accurate, data entry and capture, over longer distances including illegible barcodes. Warehouse worker morale improves when they have devices that are instinctive, easy and comfortable to use which consequently reduces the training time required. This is especially important where high numbers of temporary or seasonal workers are employed. Looking ahead, the increased capability of mobile devices means that they can easily adapt to future business strategies such as supporting the introduction of augmented reality guided picking apps.

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