• Digital Transformation
  • Hardware
  • Warehouse Management

A Digital Revolution Is Underway In the Warehouse

Written by Mark Gemberling
July 3, 2018

Many warehouse teams are adopting mobile devices.

Many warehouse teams are adopting mobile devices.

The digital transformation movement is alive and well in many industries, but it is proving particularly disruptive in the supply chain. Businesses are facing new challenges in terms of inventory management and order fulfillment, and the time to move to embrace digital solutions has arrived.

What’s more, the rapid pace of operations across warehouse settings is pushing organizations to not only put new digital systems into place, but to truly embrace the underlying philosophies of the digital transformation movement. These are:

  • Aligning processes and technology for seamless operations.
  • Empowering employees to work more efficiently so they can create stronger customer experiences.
  • Developing IT strategies that are forward-thinking by nature and can position organizations for sustainable innovation.
  • Leveraging strategic automation to handle repetitive tasks so humans can focus on more high-thinking work.

In warehouse settings, the digital transformation movement takes on many shapes, but it often begins with bringing consumer-like tools into operations and making life simpler for employees.

Download our “Warehouse Automation Trends” whitepaper to learn more about how digital technologies are transforming the warehouse.

Bringing Mobile Devices to the Warehouse

A report from The Wall Street Journal tells the story of one warehouse environment in which the organization uses smartphones as the center for its processes. Because of this, the retailer can onboard new employees and refine operations with ease because people come in comfortable with the devices and operating systems, so they don’t have to learn something completely new.

According to the news source, using today’s digital technologies to simplify the tactical side of back-office operations can go a long way in handling the growing complexity companies face in the supply chain.

Simplifying the technical work on the front-end enables businesses to streamline the end-user experience.

While consumer technologies aren’t always the answer in the warehouse – they can present challenges that need to be addressed before deployment – the philosophy of simplifying the technical work on the front-end enables businesses to streamline the end-user experience. This same thing can be done with intuitive barcode scanners that let users log data with the push of a button and automatically pass that data on to the relevant systems. Voice picking headsets take simplicity to another level, letting employees use natural voice commands to simply tell the system what they are doing and have it logged in an enterprise resource planning system.

Modern digital solutions are simplifying operations in the warehouse so users can spend less time on tedious, but complicated, clerical work. The result is more time to focus on interactions that actually impact the customer experience.

Preparing for a New Mobile Reality

For many businesses, a move to embrace mobile data collection is actually quite significant. Many smaller manufacturers or ecommerce companies still default to using paper in the warehouse because they simply haven’t had the time, money or technical resources to make a shift. It’s time to get moving as the tech landscape keeps evolving and organizations that don’t embrace digital technologies are likely to fall behind.

However, many enterprise mobility early adopters also find themselves at a critical turning point. An Information Age report explained that ruggedized smartphones and tablets, which are often popular in warehouses and similar settings due to their durability, were frequently configured to use Windows mobile operating systems, particularly Windows CE. At the time of their creation, hardware manufacturers were establishing these systems specifically for business environments, most of which use some form of Windows as their primary operating system. As such, Windows CE, Windows 10 Mobile and the many Windows mobile operating systems that fall in between actually have a relatively large market share in the warehouse sector. The problem is that Microsoft is discontinuing support for those operating systems at the end of 2018.

An end of service life announcement doesn’t mean your systems suddenly won’t work when the termination date hits. Instead, they won’t receive any updates, patches and support from Microsoft. If a security vulnerability emerges, you’re stuck. If the OS isn’t compatible with an app you need, you’re out of luck. Hanging on to an OS past its end of service date is possible, but it’s also incredibly risky.

Whether you are still relying on paper or have an older mobility strategy based around Windows CE, it may be time to accelerate your move into mobile data collection. RFgen can help. Contact us today to learn how our combination of barcode scanning and ERP integration solutions can help you keep up with digital transformation.