Warehouses and distribution centers will focus on worker mobility and partial automation strategies as they work to enhance facility efficiency over the next five years, according to a Zebra Technologies Warehousing Vision Study released this week.
Three-quarters of the logistics IT and operations professionals the technology firm surveyed said that human interaction remains a key part of their "optimal operation balance," noting that automation strategies that require some human involvement or that augment worker performance by equipping them with mobile devices is the preferred way forward.
Mark Wheeler, Zebra's director of supply chain solutions, pointed to the use of robotics and automation to reduce transportation and non-value-added walk time in the warehouse as one example, adding that the use of sensor technology and intelligent automation to enhance worker performance will also grow in the years ahead.
"The hard stuff, for the most part, is still being done by human labor," Wheeler said, emphasizing the need for flexible, scalable technology that can help accomplish complex warehousing and distribution tasks. "It's more critical than ever [that workers] have the right technology to do those jobs."
Although the study revealed a clear understanding of the need to automate in the warehouse and DC, it also showed that many professionals in manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, post and parcel delivery, and wholesale distribution markets don't know where to begin. Study findings showed that:
Respondents also emphasized the need to modernize and rethink their warehouse fulfillment strategies, with most saying they will expand their facilities and their facility network over the next five years. Study findings showed that:
Zebra Technologies surveyed 1,400 IT and operations professionals globally across the manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, post and parcel delivery, and wholesale distribution markets for its Warehousing Vision Study.