However, not all warehouse operators will begin their transformation at the same time or from the same place. Nor is there a standard “upgrade” strategy that will be applicable to all. Every warehouse serves a different purpose, leverages different processes and relies on different technologies.
There is, however, a shared goal right now: increase the sophistication of technologies to achieve greater levels of visibility, utilize data to a greater extent and orchestrate operations wall-to-wall to ensure every asset and worker is visible, connected and fully optimized.
Sound familiar? That’s because I mentioned it in my last post as well. No matter how you get there, you’re trying to reach the same destination as every other warehouse operator.
So, let’s talk a bit about what Phase Two of the Zebra Warehouse Maturity Model entails, as the steps taken at this point in your journey can help accelerate outcomes from other phases.
Phase Two Goal: Achieve Greater Team Productivity and Workflow Conformity
While it’s true that there is no “I” in team, each individual’s productivity ultimately influences the maximum speed and output of your workforce as a single unit. That’s why continued warehouse maturation is dependent on your ability to take your transactional mobility strategy to “best-in-class” status by optimizing the use of mobility throughout your facility. That means the success factors you want to focus on in Phase Two are:
- Improving consistency and accuracy
- Leveraging task-specific devices and form factors
- Unifying team communication and mobilizing managers
- Increasing visibility of assets and workflow processes
- Simplifying remote device management
- Utilizing your IT resources to help get workers to full productivity faster
Though it sounds like a significant time and resource commitment for any size organization, especially for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB), it’s really not. In fact, I think Phase Two is where all organizations stand to gain significant efficiencies from the technology investments and process changes they make.
If you’re relying on a lean team to sustain your business during growth periods, then you need to make it as easy as possible for workers to increase their speed, accuracy and productivity as order rates and inventory volumes rise. Fulfillment demands can surge far faster than you can hire, as many SMBs and large warehousing operations learned in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SMBs can deploy technology allowing workers the flexibility to cover more than one role when needed, whereas larger organizations will have the volume and velocity of orders to leverage mobile technology optimally selected to suit a specific task. In any size organization, realizing efficiencies from increased productivity without the traditional cost and complexity can help to eliminate or reduce the expense of overtime or temporary labor.
In that same vein, small thoughtful steps to expand technology utilization can make a huge difference on worker productivity and workflow compliance in the on-demand economy.
“A Super Simple Solution to a Big Problem.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: though warehouse modernization may seem too time- and resource-intensive to start right now (or ever), the goal is in fact to remove the burdens imposed by your legacy processes and systems, not create new ones. We want to identify and eliminate the complexities that disrupt workflows, hinder efficiency, limit growth and drive up operational costs – not contribute to them. You don’t have to rip and replace every single one of your mobile devices, software applications or back-end systems to drive business process improvements. In fact, many warehouse operators we’ve worked with have seen dramatic productivity and efficiency gains from incremental upgrades to existing solutions.
For example, one precision machining company switched to a Zebra® IQ Color and Zebra thermal printing solution to give its staff a way to clearly see whether or not shipments of like items were being kept together and shipped to the right location. It didn’t take long before the company was able to eliminate mis-shipments altogether.
In another scenario, a third-party logistics (3PL) services provider made periodic, but consistent, technology updates within its warehouses so that its retail business customers could give consumers more buying choices and its workers could keep up with the growing demand for rapid order fulfillment and receipt. After first replacing paper-based, product-tracking records with barcode scanning in the early 2000s, Saddle Creek Logistics Services then moved onto phase two of its warehouse modernization plan by adopting a number of new mobile computing and scanning device form factors that are purpose-built for warehouse work. Because the goal is to increase “warehouse associates’ productivity wherever possible to keep up with burgeoning order volume,” Saddle Creek wanted to ensure every worker had the right device form factor and feature set for his or her job. Today, Saddle Creek uses more than 1,500 Zebra® mobile computers, tablets and scanners for workflows from receiving to shipping, as you can read about here or see in the below video: