Technology and Modernization are Key for Retailers to Deliver Essential Goods as Workers Start to Return to the Warehouse

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As restrictions begin to ease and ‘Stage One’ of the Federal Government’s plan is implemented across various states and territories, it is predicted that over 25,100 transport, postal, and warehousing workers will be back at work by July.

Until then, meeting the needs of the on-demand economy will continue to be challenging for retailers: the rapid increase in demand for everyday goods, particularly toilet paper, pasta and other pantry products, has created substantial worldwide shortages. Coles, for instance, experienced an increase of 13% in sales during the first quarter of 2020, with Woolworths also claiming a 10% increase in revenue from food.

The first issue was meeting the initial demand for everyday goods and groceries because of panic buying. Now, the impact on global supply chains has become the biggest issue for retailers to manage, particularly with new rules and regulations that must be adhered to.

While the supply chain is usually prepared for consumption peaks during winter holidays and sales periods, the current situation creates significant challenges. With the rising volume of demand and the lack of an available workforce, the supply chain must be robust and flexible to continue delivering essential goods to customers.

How can technology play a role here?

Retailers and supply chain managers have been faced with an unprecedented global issue that they can do little to control. As such, warehouse operators should turn to technology to streamline what they can control.

To increase the productivity of their processes, warehouse operators are likely to use different technologies such as co-bots, mobile devices, augmented reality (AR) apps, head-mounted displays and other wearables that can quickly guide them directly to confirmed item locations.

Warehouses that utilise these technologies empower workers to complete their jobs efficiently, meeting the heightened demand of consumers during this time. For instance, Coles recently signed a $400 million deal to develop two high-tech sheds in Sydney and Melbourne to meet the online demands of Australian shoppers.

There is a strong case for utilising smart robotics solutions in warehousing and retail environments right now. Employing co-bots to retrieve picked items and transport them to packing stations can reduce warehouse workers’ movements and interactions, while mobile automation solutions that roam grocery store aisles to check for items that are out-of-stock or misplaced can minimise the number of associates that have to be on the floor.

Many enterprise-grade mobile computers are unable to read barcodes from long distances. This can quickly become an issue for warehouse workers who are required to scan barcodes from up to 70 feet away, as well as forklift drivers who may need to be able to do this from an aisle or bin location from their vehicles.

The use of mobile devices extends far beyond scanning, with growing numbers implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), particularly to help in maintaining social distancing standards. These technologies are most widely used on mobile computers and tablets. It is vital that businesses equip their workers with the right tools to help ensure efficiency and safety.

Zebra Technologies’ partnership with CouriersPlease has helped to empower front-line workers in ensuring contactless delivery and effective communication with the rest of their team. The deployment of Zebra’s handheld computers supported CouriersPlease in meeting the initial demand, and has also provided data-driven insights that will help the company to maintain future efficiency.

What we are seeing across the industry is that businesses are having to adapt quickly to these unprecedented times, with all operations being impacted. However, the importance lies in the technology that businesses have implemented in their processes and systems. Effective technology solutions are the business enablers that have allowed managers to develop robust supply chains that can rapidly adapt to changing situations.

For more information: visit Zebra warehouse solutions.

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Vertical Practice Lead, APAC Supply Chain, Zebra Technologies

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