The Shifting Enterprise Operating System Ecosystem Is Helping Warehouse Operations Evolve
Tom Lee, Director Sales Engineering, Zebra Technologies
The rising expectations of smartphone-savvy, always-connected consumers have spurred the development of the on-demand economy, where shoppers want to get what they want, when they want it. This rise of e-commerce and omnichannel retail has been driving the growth of the logistics industry.
This was reflected in the results of the recent Future of Fulfilment Vision Study released by Zebra Technologies, which showed 89 percent of survey respondents agreeing that e-commerce is driving the need for faster delivery.
While shoppers in the past may have found shipping times of weeks or even months acceptable, the on-demand economy has seen logistics players rush to make improve their processes. The study showed that 78 percent of logistics companies expect to provide same-day delivery by 2023, and 40 percent anticipate delivery within a two-hour window by 2028. The study also found that inventory allocation, reducing backorders, and replenishment efficiency top the hurdles facing logistics companies with omnichannel fulfillment.
How Android is Helping Warehouses Face the On-Demand Economy
While mobile devices and apps have played a large part in the rise of the on-demand economy, they have also been integral in allowing logistics players to rise to its challenges, primarily by addressing warehousing and inventory issues. Meeting shoppers’ omnichannel product delivery and fulfilment expectations calls for a revamp of warehouses to increase productivity and efficiency.
For enterprises facing the challenge of upgrading from Windows CE, which is nearing the end of its life cycle, Android has emerged as the leading option for the next platform for a number of reasons. First is its ability to work with a range of legacy systems. This is becoming very important especially as aforementioned Windows products will be phased out over the next two to three years. In that case, companies don’t need to reconfigure backend systems or re-train operators.
Another key benefit is that Android is very familiar to the users, being the most widely used mobile operating system (OS) by consumers across the world.
Meeting shoppers’ omnichannel product delivery and fulfillment expectations calls for a revamp of warehouses to increase productivity and efficiency
According to IDC, Android powers around 85 percent of smartphones globally in 2017 and they anticipate that Android’s market share in consumer mobile devices will continue to hover around this level over the next few years.
The use of Android in enterprise mobile fleets makes adoption and use quicker for organizations, especially for Millennials—a key group that is the future global workforce. According to the Zebra Warehouse 2020 Vision Study, warehouse managers estimate that 50 hours are spent on training for new staff to reach maximum productivity, and that they hope to slash that to 36 hours—a 20 percent productivity increase. Using the devices loaded with a familiar OS like Android can ease the learning curve for workers who are often hired on a casual basis to meet seasonal demands.
For example, Zebra’s new Android-powered MC3300 handheld computer, designed to help retailers and logistic providers increase productivity in their distribution centers, warehouses, and inventory management, features a large, bright touchscreen display that enables the Android’s intuitive touch-based interface. This provides staff with the flexibility they need to decrease learning curves and increase efficiency in fast-paced backroom and warehouse environments.
Furthermore, Android offers a secure platform with a good range of management Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that will allow warehouse IT departments to prevent data leakage and enforce compliance. An example of this is Zebra’s Mobility DNA suite of applications that is developed to fortify the Android OS with enterprise-grade traits for ultimate control. The software suite features a unique set of productivity, management, and developer tools designed for easier integration and optimal business efficiency. For enterprises favoring bring your own device (BYOD) policies, there is also an option for IT to deploy a work profile to create an OS level separation between personal and company data.
Last but not least, the current Android platform has a strong emphasis on security, ensuring that devices, data, and apps are safe through exploit mitigation and device encryption. In addition, management APIs allow companies to enforce policy controls across their fleet of devices.
A good example of how Android devices are improving logistics operations is Winc in Australia, which migrated from a Windows-based fleet to Zebra’s Android-powered mobile computers to improve driver productivity and enhance customer experience. Winc rolled out the rugged mobile computers across its distribution centers across the country and as a result of the deployment, the office supply retailing corporation has increased scanning compliance from approximately 50 percent to 98 percent. Overall, the move to Android has saved each Winc driver around 15 minutes per day, which amounts to a savings of approximately 1,200 man-hours every year.
All in all, it is clear that the use of Android is providing significant benefits – workforce productivity, accuracy, robust security, and user-friendly functionality—in warehouse operations, and for the logistics industry as a whole. It is becoming more critical than ever that warehouses re-assess their digital capabilities to see how they can gain a performance edge and stay ahead of customer expectations and the on-demand economy.