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Zebra Survey Finds Warehouses Preparing to Augment Operations With Technology

The company's "2024 Warehousing Vision Study" finds that RFID and RTLS are among the technologies that three-quarters of surveyed businesses plan to use to meet the demands of the e-commerce market, even with labor shortages.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 19, 2019

With worker availability down and the volume of goods centered around e-commerce growing, warehouses and logistics companies are turning to technology to help manage their products, assets and personnel. Zebra Technologies' "2024 Warehousing Vision Study" found that approximately 60 percent of the decision-makers it polled expect to employ devices or technology to automate tasks and operations by 2024, while 55 percent intend to use real-time location system (RTLS) technologies that employ RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons or Wi-Fi connectivity to provide visibility into the locations of goods, equipment and workers.

During the survey, conducted online earlier this year, 77 percent of those who responded felt they would benefit from augmenting workers with technology as a way of introducing automation, while only 35 percent actually knew where or how they would start on the automation path. The need for change is compelling, however. Eighty percent of those surveyed said they know they need to invest in technology to remain competitive.

Zebra's Mark Wheeler
Zebra conducts vision studies each year geared toward specific industries (see Shoppers, Retailers See Need for Better Automation, Technology in Stores). The last such study focused on the logistics market was conducted in 2016. The latest study is designed to look ahead five years to 2024, in order to provide an understanding of where warehouses and logistics providers intend to focus their strategies to meet the increasing demand for efficiency, productivity and accuracy.

Warehouses, fulfillment centers and distribution centers currently face an environment involving a higher volume of goods, a demand for faster fulfillment and a shortage of workers. When it comes to labor, the time to onboard or train those individuals can be time-consuming and costly. For logistics companies, "The business environment is changing structurally to meet the demands of the ecommerce market," says Mark Wheeler, Zebra's director of supply chain solutions.

In fact, Wheeler says, e-commerce growth has led to increases in both the volume and velocity of orders, culminating in two new focuses for decision makers: expanding warehouse size, as well as rethinking fulfillment strategies, such as implementing the automation of technology-based tools. Within such an environment, companies are looking at what technology has to offer them. "There's an expectation that new technologies are coming that are going to help," Wheeler states. "A big part of that is being manifested in the challenge regarding onboarding and retaining labor."

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