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Study: North American warehouses get smart

BY CSA STAFF

The warehouse is shifting from a building where you keep stuff to an intelligent hub that supports order management, customer service and general productivity.

According to U.S. and Canadian results from a new global study of 1,378 warehouse and IT professionals conducted in October 2015 by Zebra Technologies, “Warehouse Vision Study,” companies are investing in warehouse technology. Fifty percent of respondents currently have or are moving to a full-feature, best-of-breed warehouse management system (WMS), and 75% plan to have or be implementing one by 2020.

In addition, 51% of respondents currently have or are implementing a real-time location system (RTLS) that continually track items in the warehouse, and 76% plan to have or be implementing one by 2020.

Forty-one percent of respondents have an RFID system in their warehouse, and 56% plan to be RFID-enabled by 2020. And by 2020, respondents cited plans to make investments in the following processes and tools: increasing volume of items shipped (76%), equipping staff with technology (73%), barcode scanning (68%), tablets (66%) and Internet of Things (62%).

The key drivers for change in warehousing systems and processes are lower transportation costs (37%) and faster delivery times (36%). Top picking and fulfillment concerns also demonstrate interest in reducing the time it takes to get items into the hands of consumers – productivity (50%) and order turnaround time (47%).

In addition to updating systems, respondents are also interested in updating processes used in their warehouses. Fifty-six percent plan to perform cross-docking by 2020, up from 41% who do so now.

“IT and operations decision makers in warehouses and distribution centers consistently need to identify new ways to improve productivity and reduce costs to remain competitive,” said Mark Wheeler, director of warehouse solutions for Zebra Technologies.” Fulfillment is an integral part of the customer value chain, and investment in technology and innovation in this area can go far to improve a customer’s experience.”

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