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Supply Chain Evolution to Emerge as one of the Key Trends of 2020

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Article by Deep Agarwal, Regional Sales Director – Indian Sub-Continent, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific

According to eMarketer, Global e-commerce spending will continue to grow, expected to reach ~15% of total retail sales by 2020. Today, customers have more demanding shipping expectations as a 3-4 day delivery timeline is no longer “good enough”. Supply chain dynamics has evolved significantly with consumers demanding shortened shipping windows/ accelerated turn-around times. This is largely driven by the “fluid expectations” phenomenon, where customers’ expectations of service are set based on hyper-efficient digital experiences that set the bar.

In this view, there are several challenges that companies face when it comes to trucking and warehouse labour. Some of them are:

  • Difficulty finding and retaining workers; low unemployment and competitive wages.
  • Shrinking labor pool and increasing worker turn-over. 
  • Competition around the world for attracting and keeping workers who are willing to do work in T&L and retail verticals is intensifying and is adding stress to an already challenged global supply chain. 

Warehouse space shortages and harder-to-predict demand are being driven by shifting geopolitical dynamics and environmental uncertainties. Downward cost to serve pressures has resulted from global economic turbulence, rising duty rates and trade barriers.

Technology is set to significantly disrupt the current warehouse and transportation industry and evolve it in the days ahead. Challenges such as demanding customers who want timely deliveries, shortage of workers due to difficulty in hiring and retention, as well as limited warehouse space have given rise to various solutions, such as 

  • End-to-end orchestration of systems, devices and information from order to delivery spanning cross-functional boundaries
  • Increased integration of augmented reality and robotic process automation solutions within the warehouse
  • The transformation from passive big data to guided intelligence from data 
  • Anticipating the T&L market to continue to invest on Over-the-Road (OTR) technologies and integrating that data with other inside-the-four-walls data to create greater supply chain visibility and ultimately better outcomes for customers

There are a few types of technologies that will significantly disrupt the current warehouse and transportation industry: robotics and autonomous vehicles, prescriptive analytics enhanced by AI, machine learning and workflow augmentation. 

Zebra is developing more solutions focused on enabling speed and effectiveness of the supply chain by providing greater visibility of events and how they impact the workflow.  The data capture solutions that Zebra provides are a key part of the modern manufacturing landscape and continue to support the speed and flexibility that companies need as they move to reconfigure manufacturing lines and locations.

Zebra also improved the ability to generate new outcomes for enterprises by integrating the data from our point solutions into integrated end-to-end visibility offers. Point solutions can be connected via Zebra Savanna, which is enabled by our integrated solution stack. Zebra is still in the early stages of exploring how robots, co-bots and autonomous vehicles can be put to use within the supply chain but early adopters have been able to automate low-value work where labor has proven to be unavailable or unreliable and where there is low-hanging fruit in efficiency gains. In the next few years, increased utilization of these technologies will drive greater opportunities for semi-automated warehouses where human labor and autonomous solutions (like robots and cobots) work together in concert to drive higher levels of performance as the fulfillment and shipment volumes outstrip the available skilled labor pool. Prescriptive analytics and workflow augmentation combined will continue to push next-level operations to trim steps, touches, stock and costs while allowing for reallocation of labor within the supply chain to the points of highest value.

SMEStreet Desk

SMEStreet is fast growing platform dedicated to entrepreneurs from small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). Committed to facilitate Knowledge & Networking for Business Growth, SMEStreet offers value added content which shows the actual voice of Indian MSMEs.

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