Zebra Technologies, a US headquartered $4billion organization that offers technological solutions to the supply and logistics sector has recently conducted the Warehousing Vision Study that highlights the positive approach of warehouse operators in the APAC region (including India) towards implementing next gen technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning to elevate operations and better manage the workforce. Warehouse operators are making significant investments to better fulfil the needs of both customers and workers and make it easier to fill open jobs.
Conducted in January and February 2022, the survey collected feedback from more than 1,500 warehouse decision-makers and associates around the world. In Asia-Pacific (APAC), the markets surveyed for the study are India, Australia, China, Japan, and Singapore.
Market Pressures Become Catalyst for Positive Changes
Nearly 9 in 10 warehouse operators globally agree they must implement new technology to be competitive in the on-demand economy, with 80% confirming the pandemic has prompted them to evolve and modernise more quickly. Those in the APAC region (including India) feel the pressure to modernise almost as much as the others around the world, with about three-quarters of APAC decision-makers (including India) saying the pandemic has prompted them to make changes.
They are turning their focus and spending most heavily toward technologies that support workforce augmentation and workflow automation. In addition, 27% of warehouse operators globally and in APAC (including India) have already deployed some form of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) today. Within five years, that number is expected to grow to 92% in APAC (including India) and 90% worldwide.
Warehouse associates are also becoming more comfortable with their employers’ use of advanced technologies. Less than half (45%) globally say their employers have increased wages or offered bonuses amid labor constraints, yet most (82%) feel positively impacted by the situation. This trend continues in APAC (including India), where 9 in 10 warehouse associates report a positive outlook despite only 34% reporting that employers increased renumeration.
Top Warehouse Challenges
Decision-makers are having a harder time getting customer orders out the door on time than they did three years ago, and they are struggling to maintain inventory accuracy and visibility. They also admit they are expected to deliver orders faster than ever to keep up with the on-demand economy, with rising transportation costs taking their toll on over 40% of warehouse operators spanning manufacturing, transportation, wholesale distribution, logistics and retail. This may not be surprising considering that respondents indicate their shipping volumes have increased more than 20% on average over the past two years.
Like associates, though, warehouse operators are viewing these challenges as catalysts for change and growth. Between now and 2025, over 8 in10 expect to increase the number of stock-keeping units (SKU) they carry and the volume of shipped items. They also plan to expand returns management operations, offer more value-added services, and increase their physical footprints, with both the number and size of warehouses increasing.
While 61% of warehouse operators globally also want to increase headcount within the next year to right-size their workforces, they admit finding (55%) and training (54%) workers in a timely manner remain big challenges. This is especially true in APAC (including India) where 53% report difficulty finding workers and 59% indicate training is challenging. As a result, over 8 in 10 decision-makers around the world agree they will have to rely more on automation in the future.
Balancing the Scales: Augmenting the Workforce with Automation
While most warehouse operators worldwide will deploy AMRs for person-to-goods (P2G) picking, material movements and other automated inventory moves, more will invest in software that helps automate analytics and decision-making. In APAC (including India), 95% of decision-makers indicated this willingness to invest in such software in a bid to raise worker effectiveness and efficiency and reduce labor costs, outpacing the global average by just a bit (94%).
The portfolio of warehouse solutions including printable indicators, RFID scanners and readers, among others are meant to support the continued upscaling of warehousing operations driven by the on-demand economy. Through the introduction of the right technologies, enterprises will be able to gain real-time insights needed to help make business-critical decisions swiftly and decisively.
Five-Year Technology Outlook for Warehouse Operations
Globally, 85% of decision-makers say they have implemented mobility so front-line workers can capture each inventory move they make, and most feel they are optimizing the use of their devices to fit the task, safety, and ergonomics. However, warehouse associates (84%) and decision-makers (79%) are concerned they will not meet their business objectives unless more technology investments are made to improve operations, with associates in the transportation (92%) and logistics (88%) sectors feeling most strongly about this need.
As a result, more than 6 in 10 decision-makers say they will invest in technologies that increase inventory and asset visibility within their warehouses and overall visibility throughout supply chains over the next five years.
9 in 10 expect their use of sensor-based technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID), computer vision, fixed industrial scanning, and machine vision systems to become more prevalent over the next five years. As businesses invest in advanced technologies that enable more visibility, real-time guidance and data-driven performance, they’re focusing on increasing team productivity and better utilization of assets, equipment and people, which equates to improved worker well-being and overall market competitiveness. However, it will become critical for warehouse operators to become more thoughtful about how they implement and integrate technologies as they increasingly digitalize workflows and scale systems. Following a phase-based roadmap will be key to steady, sustainable maturity.