Business in America has always been competitive, as that is simply the nature of capitalism. There are a few things that are new and different now though, which are fundamentally changing how many of our clients competing:
Unemployment is now at a 40-year low. It is harder than ever to recruit strong players to your team.
Direct to consumer shipping
For most of our clients, the historical norm was to ship pallet quantities to distributors who would then take it from there.
Because people have become accustomed to “same day shipping, next day delivery”, many of our clients now find themselves shipping in case quantities to tens of distribution centers around the country, or, in some cases drop shipping in batches direct to consumers on behalf of web retailers or their distributors.
This is problematic because our clients’ warehouses, systems, procedures, and people often were not set up to do this case or each picking in an efficient fashion.
These two factors are causing many of our clients to really ramp up their investments in technology.
- Clients that run on pen and paper are looking to deploy mobile computers.
- Clients that run on mobile computers are looking to deploy wearable computers, voice-based systems, and even heads up displays to further improve productivity.
- Clients with the largest workforces are even starting to deploy “co-bots” (robots that work alongside humans) and other forms of automation (self-driving forklift anyone?)
What’s going out outside the warehouse? In production areas?
The hot top is “mistake-proofing”. Low unemployment is resulting in more mistakes than ever before.
Whether that is because the new employees aren’t as capable as they used to be, the turnover is higher than it used to be, or there is less time to train them, the result is the same – more mistakes.
Many of our clients are keenly aware that mistakes are on the rise and that mistakes can be very expensive. They are looking to us for technologies, products, and solutions that will help them prevent mistakes or at least catch them while they are still in the building when the are comparatively cheap to fix.
The 2 big technologies that are really ramping up are:
We’ve been hearing about RFID for almost 20 years now, with very few deployments outside of apparel in retail. What’s new is that RFID has grown at >50% nationally in each of the past 3 years and much of that growth is outside of retail. People are using RFID to systemically catch when people, assets, or inventory are not where they are supposed to be, BEFORE something bad happens.
With RFID, tags are cheap, and readers are expensive. With Bluetooth, those are flipped. When people want to track a comparatively small number of reusable things (think totes or gaylords) across a large area, Bluetooth can be a more cost-effective solution and we are starting to see a lot of interest in this area.
Are these things really here? Are they right for me?
All of the technologies that I’ve mentioned are definitely here today. However, they are at different stages of maturation and require different levels of commitment from your IT staff to deploy. Our job here at Avalon is to help you figure out how to get the most out of your workforce based on the budget and IT resources you have available.
Interestingly enough, folks at a single plant or warehouse tend to have ready access to budget, but not much access to IT support.
We often find ourselves working across plants and warehouses in the same organization to “drum up” support for a corporate initiative which will enable the individual sites to “skip” a few iterations of technology all at once. That almost always requires a bit of IT support.
Committed to helping others in any situation, Dan McCabe can assist you in evaluating your current workflow to integrate the appropriate technology. To discover your match, speak to Dan McCabe today and unlock all the possibilities hidden in the modern warehouse and plant.