Understanding Technological Disruption in Warehousing, Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Abstract
  • Disruption from Digital Technology has pervaded every industry including Warehousing, Logistics and Supply Management Sector
  • Modern warehouses increasingly use technologies such as Warehouse Management Systems, RFID, Barcode, OCR and Voice Guidance Systems
  • These technologies help warehouses to reap substantial benefits such as reduced labor costs, increased efficiency and improved process optimisation
  • With technology, most warehouses today are either fully or partially automated
What is Digital Disruption?

Since the dot-com boom, which was started in the mid-1990s, the world has started using and adopting the internet more rapidly, extensively and ubiquitously where information technology has now seeped and integrated into our lives so swiftly and vastly, it is almost impossible to think of a world where we could live without technology.

In a world where technology increasingly gets infused with human life in general, businesses throughout the globe have transformed from using analogue methods and traditional business models into adopting digital technologies and novel business models to suit these technologies. This is known as Digital Disruption.

“Businesses who fail to stay ahead of the digital curve run the risk of losing business as markets get increasingly digital”

These novel technologies and business models impact the way customers behave, how existing products and services are offered and how businesses are structured; hence the usage of the term “disruption”.

Businesses who fail to stay ahead of the digital curve run the risk of losing business as markets get increasingly digital; this is evidenced by the fate of Kodak Cameras as the once-dominant producer of cameras during the 20th century failed to capture future markets as they weren’t able to understand and keep up with the changing identities and needs of their customers.

Another concern for businesses in this disruptive atmosphere is the question of taking the correct business decisions within the new digital market. Nokia, once the most dominant manufacturer of mobile phones ran out of business as it failed to keep up with the then-new trend of smartphones. The decision to use Windows Mobile on their phones instead of Android proved deadly as Windows Mobile failed to gain the same popularity and market share Android did.

How Digital Disruption Affects Warehousing and Supply Chain Management

Unsurprisingly, digital disruption affects the Warehousing, Logistics and Supply Chain Management sector as well. It is going to be absolutely important for businesses which operate in this sector to stay updated on the effects of digital disruption and the latest technological trends in order to stay ahead of the curve in the market and continue to grow.

To understand how digital disruption affects the warehousing sector, first, we must look at how Warehousing operated traditionally.

If you take a warehouse in the 1990s, the most conspicuous factor would be having a lot more personnel handling operations than a typical warehouse today. It wasn’t uncommon for a warehouse to have multiple supervisors and a plethora of workers. However, warehouses today require significantly less number of personnel to operate mainly thanks to technology. New technologies that help to reduce labour either make the available labour more efficient or eliminate the need to have labour altogether.

“WMSes have reduced the need for paperwork and have made warehouses more organised, leading to more efficient work practices.”

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are one of the technologies which have been digitized and improved substantially over time, thereby making warehouse operations faster and more efficient.

WMSes have reduced the need for paperwork and have made warehouses more organised, leading to more efficient work practices. This alleviates some of the most common problems associated with traditional warehousing such as readability issues and lost paperwork. In addition, the use of less paper reduces operating costs and helps the environment.

Meanwhile, scanning technologies such as barcode scanning and RFID eliminates the need for data entry where voice technologies increase efficiency as employees would no longer need to look down at their displays; it also enables warehouse personnel to get more done in less time while reducing human error significantly.

Warehouse Automation, on the other hand, has seen the most significant effect on the warehousing sector; which while still being a nascent technology, proves to have the highest potential as they keep increasingly affordable and powerful.

In summary, Warehouse Management Systems, automation, technologies such as Barcode, RFID and voice guidance systems all in unison make warehousing more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective.

Warehousing Today

With new technology, today we have two types of warehouses:

1. Partially Automated Warehouses
2. Fully Automated Warehouses

Partially automated warehouses are automated to a certain degree but still, people play a significant role in managing day-to-day operations. You can expect to find technologies such as Warehouse Management Systems, RFID technologies and even Robotics in the form of automated forklifts in warehouses like these.

“most companies still rely on practices where people still shoulder a higher percentage of the workload.”

Fully automated warehouses, on the other hand, have very little involvement in manual labour. These warehouses can be expected to use more advanced technologies such as automated logistics and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) which are integrated into a warehouse’s WMS. AS/RS systems dramatically reduce the need for manual labour as storage and retrieval are done completely via automated machinery offering much higher levels of productivity and efficiency.

Full automation is still rare as it requires a higher level of literacy in Information Technology, awareness of disruptive trends and newer business models associated with them. And so, most companies still rely on practices where people still shoulder a higher percentage of the workload.

“digital software solutions for warehousing take substantially shorter time periods to return on their investments”

Apart from the benefits mentioned above, digital software solutions for warehousing take substantially shorter time periods to return on their investments and these solutions are now getting increasingly affordable to install and maintain.

Furthermore, Big Data Analytics helps businesses to eliminate weaknesses in processes and software such as inventory management tools which aid in optimising stock levels.

How Zone24x7’s Technology has enabled digitization in the Warehousing Sector

As a technology and innovation partner for a myriad of clientele for over 15 years, Zone24x7 has managed to consistently deliver world-class technology solutions to successfully get businesses synergistically aligned with the new digital economy by embracing digital disruption; especially in the warehousing, logistics and supply chain management sector.

Study 01: A Cross-Border Digital Logistics Company

Zone24x7 managed to improve the monthly performance of the inbound operations of a cross-border digital logistics company by 19% in 5 months with the inbound inventory management solution we implemented. This solution contained an OCR engine to capture incoming package details, camera-based item inspection, automatic package dimensioning, weight scaling and a handheld device-based put-away solution.

“over 95% weekly inventory accuracy improvement in 5 months with RFID based cycle and inventory counting and handheld device-based bin transfers and verification”

In the meantime, the inventory controlling solution we implemented enabled them over 95% weekly inventory accuracy improvement in 5 months with RFID based cycle and inventory counting and handheld device-based bin transfers and verification.

This solution combined with an online eCommerce platform impacted order fulfilment by improving hourly performance by over 70% in 5 months and outbound delivery management by improving SLA performance by over 69% in 5 months. We used handheld device-based order picking to support rule-based order picking and inventory inspection while using automatic inventory packing dimensioning and weight scaling to support inventory packing. For outbound delivery management – delivery shipment scheduling, outbound inventory loading and gate pass verification were supported with RFID based outbound inventory verification.

In addition, BI based reporting and dashboarding was implemented.

Study 02: Mobile Retail Company

Zone24x7 developed a warehouse management system for a mobile retail company where we supported inbound goods receiving through RFID tagging. Bins were mounted with RFID antennas to automate inventory reading and we achieved 99% inventory read accuracy in 1 month.

“impacted outbound delivery management by achieving 99% inventory read accuracy in 1 month”

We impacted outbound delivery management by achieving 99% inventory read accuracy in 1 month by mounting Fixed RFID Reader and Antennas on Delivery Vans.

In Summary

In an economy where information technology and digitization is ubiquitous, warehouses are getting increasingly digital. Most warehouses are at least partially automated where more and more warehouses are en route to being fully automated.

It’s crucial for warehouses to be updated with digital technology and business practices in order to stay ahead in the market.

Zone24x7’s cutting-edge technology stack and extensive consultation experience can help businesses to adopt digital technologies swiftly and affordably so they can thrive and expand in the modern digital economy.

Ashen Monnankulama

Was an Associate Business Designer. 


“Inspiring Emotions” – The Story of Zone24x7’s Unique Ethos That Fuels Our Innovative Solutions

Do you remember the last time you got absolutely awed by something? So awed that you kept going back to that experience, you wanted to relive it as much as you want, you felt surreal. It was an experience so visceral, you briefly forgot your reality, you temporarily forgive yourself for your sorrows, you briefly felt hopeful and then you transcended into what felt like a fantastical, augmented version of reality.

Can you remember what it was?

It may have been an award-winning film from a legendary director; for an instance, say perhaps Schindler’s List, by Steven Spielberg. At one moment you’re on the couch in your living room and decide it’s time for a film. You hit the play button on the TV remote and see Liam Neeson’s face in black in white on the TV.

“That’s a bit odd,” you think.

“Didn’t this film came out in the 90s?” you wonder.

After a while, you forget all of that. Suddenly, you’re not seeing Liam Neeson on the TV. You’re seeing Oskar Schindler. He’s an Industrialist, a member of the Nazi party, and a saviour of lives; he’s a man riding against the tide despite all odds on a quest for absolution. This is a man hell-bent on doing the right thing in a world of relentless adversity. You see his sorrow, you feel for his guilt, you cry with him, you root for him.

You’re in awe. You feel enthralled.

See, experiences like this make us feel things. These experiences make us feel emotional. They lead us to engage, to question, to wonder. They make us feel alive. If you think about it, at the end of the day, these experiences and emotions make us, us. They are what makes humans, humans.

And that, brings us to Zone24x7’s tagline, “Inspiring Emotions”.

Initially, you may wonder what “Inspiring Emotions” means for a technology company. Let me explain.

At Zone24x7, we believe that contrary to popular belief, technology shouldn’t just be mundane. We believe that much like movies, music, deep conversations with people we like, which are essentially things we really enjoy, which makes us feel human, technology itself needs to make us feel those same things. We believe that technology should make us feel emotional (after all we humans create technology for ourselves).

This is why the solutions we provide for our clients go beyond mere technicalities. Staying true to our beliefs, we go one step further when we deliver solutions; we deliver solutions with an emotional edge.

Zone24x7 does that in two ways:

First, we operate with a heavy emphasis on Human Experience Design; that is to engineer solutions that resonate seamlessly with human experiences. In the intricate and fully technologized world we live in today, we want our solutions to be comprehensive and in alignment with ourselves as human beings.

With our emphasis on Human Experience Design, we deliver solutions that aren’t just excellent technologically, but solutions that make us feel, solutions that Inspire Emotions.

Secondly, when we deal with clients, we make sure that we deeply empathize with them. We make sure to understand their requirements at an absolutely fundamental level.
Once we have this understanding, we take complete ownership of the problem and the requirement so the client does not feel as if they’re dealing with an outside party.

Our clients often tell us that we are more like a deeply committed in-house team that is working on their problem with maximum care and earnestness. We make sure our client would not only get a solution of excellent quality but a solution that would Inspire Emotions.

The glowing testimonials we’ve received from our clients for over 15 years attests to the emotional impact we’ve created.

Despite being a relatively small company, it is this unique vision and approach that has enabled us to deliver staggering results to many businesses around the world for such a long amount of time.

As a company based largely in Sri Lanka as well as the Silicon Valley, we harness certain values that are characteristic of Sri Lankans to deliver these results. Sri Lankans, of course, are renowned for their unorthodoxy and ingenuity across various fields. This ingenuity, of course, emanates from a thorough comprehension of fundamental concepts and an inherent sense of empathy that is typical of Sri Lankans; and those unique characteristics are exactly what Zone24x7 uses to deliver solutions with standout excellence, emotional impact and thereby to Inspire Emotions.


Ashen Monnankulama

Ashen Monnankulama was an Associate Business Designer at Zone24x7.