Startup Guide: Transform Supply Chain Operations By Embracing Modern Warehouse Management Solutions

Mr Aik-Jin Tan, Vertical Solutions Lead, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific underlines how SMBs and startups can transform their supply chain and warehouses.

CIOL Bureau
New Update
Supply Chain and Warehouse

The year 2020 taught companies that you must be nimble to compete in today’s fast-changing, on-demand world. The supply chain has become far more complex, especially with the dramatic rise in e-commerce. The Indian e-commerce market alone is expected to reach $99 billion by 2024; growing at a CAGR of 27% over the period of 2019-2024. Warehouse operators can no longer function as they have traditionally. They must innovate if they want to be able to cater to the demands of customers today.


According to Zebra’s Warehouse Vision Study, 81% of IT and operations decision-makers in the manufacturing, logistics, retail and distribution industries believe that modern technology is key to competing in the on-demand economy. However, only 34% of them say they have a clear understanding of where to start deploying that technology.

The challenge is incredibly daunting for small- and medium-sized supply chain organisations. Some of these supply chain organisations continue to rely on manual processes to support their warehouse operations. But there's good news! Technological advances have made it easier for these companies to introduce modern warehouse technology. Innovative solutions are now easier to deploy, more intuitive to use and deliver a faster return on investment (ROI). According to the new market research report, the warehouse management system (WMS) market globally is likely to reach USD 5.1 billion by 2025 from USD 2.4 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 16.0% from 2020 to 2025.

Not surprisingly, the first step in realizing a solid ROI involves identifying areas where technology can help quickly streamline operations. Start by looking at daily tasks performed by employees. Although this may seem obvious, companies often fail to step back and truly study their day-to-day operations. When they do, they often quickly uncover new ways to streamline workflows and increase productivity.


Boosting Front-line Worker Productivity

Employees spend hours each day using basic barcode scanners that perform poorly and result in costly productivity losses. By simply introducing more intelligent scanners that can accurately read damaged, torn or poorly printed barcodes from any angle, you eliminate the need for multiple scans, saving time and money. Employees should use scanners that are more rugged and can accurately scan barcodes that are close or far away. They should also be able to scan multiple barcodes with a single trigger pull.

Such solutions enable forklift drivers, for example, to quickly complete multiple inventory scans without getting off the vehicle – saving hours of lost productivity every day. Wearable scanners that speed up the scanning process can result in significant labour savings as well. Setting up mobile thermal printers near inbound and outbound operations can also boost efficiency by eliminating the need for workers to walk back and forth to centralized printers to retrieve shipping labels. And newer thermal printer models are much easier to operate and reload, saving time on employee training and operation.


Increasing Team Productivity and Safety in Supply Chain

During the pandemic, it has become vital for companies to identify the most cost-effective solutions and leanest process-improvement approaches while driving continuous innovation within the warehouse. Mobile devices and wearable technology, such as smart glasses, that are integrated with the WMS can help to quickly streamline operations across teams. For instance, employees equipped with head-mounted displays can view easy-to-follow picking instructions at eye level. This will enable them to pick multiple orders simultaneously. Managers can dynamically assign order fulfilment instructions based on a picker’s current location or availability, or even the order urgency.

Small upgrades that improve operations for multiple workers can also deliver significant productivity improvements with minimal investment. For instance, rugged tablets mounted on lift trucks or pick carts can facilitate faster, more efficient materials transport.


Technology can also help keep workers safe during the pandemic by issuing alerts when employees get closer than six feet from each other – and creating a record when employees are in close contact for a specified period of time. These data records allow easy contact tracing if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Improving Asset Visibility

After improving employee and overall workforce productivity, the next logical step involves gaining greater asset visibility. Technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID) registers tagged inventory via an RFID reader as soon as someone takes it off the truck and wheels through the dock doors. RFID readers located throughout the warehouse give visibility to precisely what’s in stock and where it is stored.

Aik-Jin Tan, Vertical Solutions Lead, Zebra Technologies, Asia Pacific>

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