A Smart Supply Chain Starts with a Smart Enterprise

By Jeff Schmitz | 12/05/2017 | 8:47 AM

Manufacturers and supply chains have slowly started to adopt Industry 4.0. However, if they want to make the transition successful, most enterprise processes will need to become smarter and more digitized. This is easier said than done. In fact, a new survey by Zebra Technologies found that only five percent of enterprises are truly intelligent, and 48 percent are on their way to becoming intelligent.

Being an “intelligent enterprise” means leveraging ties between the physical and digital worlds for better visibility and actionable insights. But how do you measure a company’s intelligence? Human intelligence is measured through standardized tests, but assessing company intelligence is not as clear-cut.

Last year, Zebra, in partnership with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), hosted the 2016 Strategic Innovation Symposium: The Intelligent Enterprise, during which executives from organizations including Google, GE Healthcare and IBM developed criteria that define today’s “Intelligent Enterprise”. Based on these criteria, Zebra then conducted a survey to measure companies’ intelligence as well as provide a path for them to become intelligent.

The framework of an intelligent enterprise is based on technology solutions that integrate cloud computing, mobility, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to automatically “sense” information from enterprise assets. Operational data from these assets, including status, location, utilization, or preferences, is then “analyzed” to provide actionable insights, which can then be mobilized to the right person at the right time so they can be “acted” upon to drive better, more-timely decisions by users anywhere, at any time.

Within the supply chain, an intelligent enterprise could help manufacturers better anticipate disruptions and react to them in real-time. However, most currently lack the operational data needed for this kind of transparency.

According to Zebra’s recent Manufacturing Vision Study, only 27 percent of manufacturers are collecting data from production, supply chain and workers. Additionally, much of the data that is collected remains in silos where it cannot increase the intelligence of the organization.

The on-demand economy is impacting the way supply chains must operate. Now that almost everything – from car services to groceries – is available with the touch of a button, both consumers and customers expect quicker, more customized responses. As consumer expectations continue to grow at a rapid pace, access to operational data is crucial in improving productivity and streamlining operations.

If supply chains hope to become smarter and better cater to consumer needs, they must start investing more in IoT. Zebra’s Intelligent Enterprise Index found 42 percent of companies spend an average of $3.1 million on IoT annually, and 75 percent expect that number to increase in the next one to two years.

Manufacturers need to accelerate the pace of Industry 4.0 adoption if they want to stay ahead. Having a more intelligent and digitized supply chain offers a new level of resiliency and awareness that will give them a competitive edge.

How IoT Gives Supply Chains an Intelligent Edge

By Jeff Schmitz | 10/30/2017 | 7:19 AM

In today’s connected world, organizations have access to millions of data points, and soon it will be even more. It’s estimated by 2020 there will be as many pieces of data available as there are stars in the universe. Every two years, the amount of data we create is doubling in size – in just a few years we will hit 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes.

With all the data available, it’s challenging for businesses to make intelligent decisions. Supply chain managers and manufacturers are especially overwhelmed, trying to wrap their heads around the volume and velocity of data. The big issue is many don’t have the right set of resources or technologies available to help make sense of the data. According to a recent study by Zebra Technologies, manufacturers rated complexity of technology (46%) and availability of IT resources (45%) among the top reasons they aren’t yet realizing a fully connected factory.

Another study by Accenture found nearly 100 percent of supply chain executives report having an understanding of how big data analytics can benefit their supply chain, but only 43 percent of companies have an enterprise-wide big data analytics capability that includes sophisticated tools to capture, process, and produce insights for key supply chain practices. Zebra recently introduced a new platform to help enterprises – including supply chain managers and manufacturers –  take a leap forward and harness their mounds of data to create smart, connected environments.

Zebra’s new platform, Savanna™ unlocks data from connected devices, environments and things to enable digital transformation. The platform gives organizations the power to gain insights at the edge of their operations, ensuring the right data is available to the right people at the right time.

For example, a warehouse worker is informed of the next most efficient, logical product pickup sequence based on real-time information. Additionally, supply chains can better respond to volatile demand or risk and minimize any future disruptions.

When companies have a better sense of what’s going on across the supply chain, they can act on situations in real time and in turn, unleash the full potential of the connected mobile edge to drive new levels of operational efficiency. End-to-end visibility is the competitive edge supply chains need to get ahead of the pack. The amount of accessible data will continue to grow, so the time to act on it is now.

The Smart Manufacturing Revolution is Upon Us

By Jeff Schmitz | 08/14/2017 | 7:18 AM

In today’s on-demand retail landscape, manufacturers are undergoing massive changes to meet customers' ever-increasing expectations. It’s the new reality manufacturers face and those that don’t integrate automation and smart technologies over the next few years risk becoming irrelevant.

According to Zebra’s recently released Manufacturing Vision Study, nearly two-thirds of manufacturers are embracing smart technologies to achieve a fully connected factory by 2022. Despite this shift, only 43 percent of manufacturers embrace smart technologies today. For example, 62 percent use pen and paper to track vital manufacturing steps, putting companies at risk for error. Ultimately, this number is expected to drop to one in five by 2022.

The move toward smart technologies, sometimes referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), enables real-time visibility and decision making across the supply chain.  

At the heart of IIoT is the way companies capture and share data. The ability to have data immediately available in the cloud offers unheard-of visibility that heightens operational performance. However, few manufacturers are harnessing the power of their data. Zebra’s study found only 27 percent are currently collecting data from production, supply chain and workers.

Having instant access to data is essential to making real-time adjustments that ensure that the production process operates smoothly. It gives suppliers the ability to react to the changing needs of their customers while also keeping less inventory on hand and eliminating points of failure. In fact, 50 percent of manufacturers stated that improving their ability to adjust to fluctuating market demands is one of their top business growth strategies.

In addition to data, the shift toward a more automated environment is also putting technologies like voice solutions and RFID at the forefront. According to Zebra’s study, 51 percent of manufacturers are planning to expand the use of voice technology in the next five years, while 60 percent will expand the use of real-time location tracking to drive greater visibility and growth across their operations.

The smart factory of the future will be here before we know it. Now is the time for manufacturers to start integrating visibility solutions into the plant floor to increase quality, expedite production and reduce costs.

Why Warehouse Managers Need Android on Their Radars

By Jeff Schmitz | 06/20/2017 | 6:56 AM

Android is one of the most talked-about consumer technology brands in consumer electronics. And for good reason – it can be found on four out of every five consumer handhelds, as well as Chromebooks, TVs, wearables, and even in cars. In fact, Android is now officially the world's leading mobile operating system (OS) with approximately 87 percent of the global market share, according to IDC.

But it’s not just consumers latching onto this trend. Enterprises have also found a way to leverage the popular OS. As enterprise customer expectations have shifted, they now require technology that can keep pace with their ever-changing environments. This is especially true for those working in the warehouse. Enterprises also need to consider migration from Windows Mobile and Windows CE that are reaching their end of life. These OS are run with most warehouse applications today.

As e-commerce, omnichannel and click-and-collect quickly become the norm, warehouse managers can no longer rely on soon-to-be outdated OS, clunky systems and green screens to accommodate consumers’ growing online shopping habits. It goes without saying that these trends are causing a massive increase in shipments, creating the need for more accurate, real-time inventory insight, speed and quality of order fulfillment.

To compete, warehouses must have a contemporary OS that offers the best of both worlds—enterprise and consumer-grade features—and more overall efficiency. Android-based devices do just that as they help simplify operations and automate processes across the entire supply chain, from goods-in to ship-out. Android also offers the visibility needed to enhance productivity, while providing reduced operating costs.

With more intuitive technology, warehouse managers can quickly gain access to real-time data including the location of inventory, staff and equipment, to improve efficiency and ensure successful and timely order fulfillment.

Picture this scenario: A warehouse employee receives a handful of product and delivery documents. Each document contains what looks like a laundry list of items—multiple barcodes, images, check boxes and lines of text. Manually logging all these documents would take at least a couple of hours. With an Android-based device, employees can instead take all the documents in at once, populate whole digital forms, and have everything done within a matter of seconds.

In addition to reducing the number of steps and time taken when scanning products, Android devices also have a strong appeal to millennials. With e-commerce picking up speed and more baby boomers leaving the workforce, millennials have a growing presence in the warehouse and supply chain space.

As more millennials enter the workforce, it’s crucial they have user-friendly technology to which they’re accustomed. Android devices offer a touch-screen display that looks like what one would see on a smartphone with all the apps easily and clearly accessible. Ultimately, workers will feel familiar with the technology and overall more engaged.  

According to a report by VDC Research, Android devices made up almost 37 percent of rugged device shipments in 2016, compared to 24 percent the previous year—and that number is expected to grow. The combination of increased visibility, reduced operating costs and strong millennial appeal put Android at the forefront, so why not start investing now?

Today’s Digital Business Calls for Smarter Marketing and Increased Visibility

By Jeff Schmitz | 05/22/2017 | 6:41 AM

With the proliferation of smart devices and demand for constant connectivity, businesses big and small are challenged to quickly transform their processes to keep pace with the speed of change. As businesses scramble to keep up with the times, they often overlook the importance of communicating the value-add of smart technologies to their end-customers. Some may ultimately miss the opportunity to educate their stakeholders on how investing in the “intelligent enterprise” will drive their business forward. Marketing professionals are tasked with articulating the value and impact of these technologies, raising the organization’s market relevance and brand awareness.

Gartner predicts that 50 percent of all enterprises will be digital businesses by the end of 2017, and this number will rise to more than 80 percent by 2020. Let’s explore the trends, or rather megatrends, that are driving this growth and forever changing the way businesses operate.

The convergence of IoT, cloud and mobility are all driving real-time insights into operations and giving organizations the opportunity to gather the information needed to act on this visibility. By 2020, there will be an estimated 1.75 billion global mobile workers, giving organizations more insight into their operations than ever before. The cloud enables organizations to leverage data collected from IoT devices and easily analyze and deliver real-time insights. And with mobility, organizations can bring an omnipresent device into the workplace and empower their employees to individually act on insights in real-time even on the go.

Together, these trends create the perfect environment for new levels of Enterprise Asset Intelligence (EAI). EAI aims to move enterprises beyond improving efficiencies and increasing productivity to also help accelerate business growth and improve customer service through real-time operational visibility.

These megatrends are already changing the landscape of today’s digital businesses, and marketers need to ensure the impact on operations – and ultimately the end-customer – are communicated to drive a competitive advantage.

With the laser-focus on implementing new technologies and keeping up with consumer demands, often updating or even rebranding corporate’s mission gets overlooked, and that is to an organization’s detriment. Articulating the corporate brand story helps build trust with current and potential customers, significantly impacting an organization’s bottom line. It is equally important to elevate beyond simply products and features, fending off any future commodification and communicating the significant, tangible benefits.

Gone are the days that Marketing can only concentrate on leads and launches. Everything Marketing chooses to do must have an impact on revenue. This requires Marketing to transform as much as digital enterprises are transforming. We need to be able to sense data from the market and customers, analyze that data and take action to move the needle on revenue.

When it comes to digital business, the one thing you can count on is change, and marketers must move quickly to keep pace. IoT, mobility and cloud are creating an environment that enables new levels of productivity and accelerated growth to improve customer service. But none of that matters if Marketing is unable to articulate the value-add for the end-customer. By increasing strategic Marketing efforts and focusing on the brand, organizations can create a strong foundation for their businesses today and future-proof their business processes for an ever-evolving technology market tomorrow.

How Increased Visibility Improves the Retail Supply Chain

By Jeff Schmitz | 03/22/2017 | 12:25 PM

There’s no denying that we live in an increasingly digital world. Everything we want or need can be obtained with just a click of a button or swipe of the finger. But as technology advances, consumers gain more and more power – and with more power comes higher expectations for a great customer experience.

As online shopping continues to grow at a rapid pace, retailers’ supply chains are forced to keep up with demand and provide unprecedented levels of convenience to help businesses drive customer loyalty and achieve consistent revenue streams. Retailers can no longer rely on traditional or outdated supply chain processes if they want to stay competitive with e-commerce giants. That’s why many of them are beginning to shift their focus and give their supply chains a high-tech makeover. According to the recent Zebra Retail Vision Study, 72 percent of retailers plan to reinvent their supply chains with real-time visibility enabled by automation, sensors and analytics.

In regards to automation, 65 percent of retailers plan to invest in inventory and supply chain automation by 2021. Because multichannel shopping has become the norm, inventory accuracy is more critical than ever as products from both brick-and-mortar and digital channels flow through the supply chain. Studies show superior omnichannel support requires 90 percent inventory accuracy or greater, but the retail industry is not where it needs to be. As an industry, retail inventory accuracy falls much lower at around 65 percent.

To improve accuracy, many retailers are budgeting for digital upgrades that enable automated, real-time inventory visibility via Internet of Things (IoT) technologies such as RFID. Using RFID platforms increases inventory accuracy to 95 percent, while out-of-stocks can be reduced by 60 - 80 percent with item-level RFID tagging. So, it’s no surprise over 70 percent of retailers plan to provide, or are currently providing, item-level RFID technology.

Along with RFID, retailers are also turning to analytics to enhance visibility as well as inventory demand and forecasting. According to Zebra’s study, 75 percent of retailers plan to invest in predictive analytics by 2021. If retailers can determine what’s selling and what’s not, they can better manage inventory to keep customers happy and avoid stock-outs and overstocks. The study indicates one of the key sources of customer dissatisfaction today is out-of-stock merchandise, and McKinsey & Company found reducing stock-outs and overstocks can lower inventory costs by 10 percent.

Retailers are also migrating from siloed supply chain processes to unified commerce models. These models ensure end-to-end, digital and brick-and-mortar enterprise visibility of store associates, shoppers and merchandise. Taking this approach allows stores to double as distribution centers, getting customers what they want and in their hands faster — which means no longer having to solely rely on warehouses to get the job done and providing a better overall shopping experience.

How the “Intelligent Enterprise” Will Shape 2017 Technology Trends

By Jeff Schmitz | 02/06/2017 | 12:15 PM

It’s that time of year when everyone reflects on the past while looking to the future, and enterprises are no different. Executives at companies worldwide are reviewing changes in their industries including disruptive competitors and the technologies driving them. At the same time, they are reviewing their own technology implementations, assessing their effectiveness and looking to 2017 for further innovations.  

In 2017, there will be growing “chatter” in the enterprise, thanks to smart devices that are now able to “speak” to the cloud and to one another. Some enterprises are already able to pinpoint the location and health of their critical assets, and are looking to expand the data available from these devices. Apart from operational data, these devices can provide real-time workflow visibility ensuring that the next best action is taken to achieve their business objectives.

Additionally, enterprises will take data to the next level in 2017 and begin to truly decode the information already being collected from IoT-enabled and wearable devices. Decoding this data will help inform and accelerate the decision-making process. However, this opportunity is not without its challenges. As computing power has skyrocketed and the amount of energy needed for each computation has plummeted, the ability to track and analyze data is reaching a point where enterprises have to jump in.

Data is, in fact, “perishable.” This means if you leave it sitting for too long, data loses its value and the ability to provide time sensitive insight your enterprise needs. Data has a shelf life, and enterprises are losing valuable insights because of the disjointed sources generating and collecting data independently, contributing only to a small piece of the big picture. One of the greatest challenges in the next year will be for businesses to translate captured data - across all devices and business functions - into actionable insights as fast as they can.

The “Intelligent Enterprise” is an operational framework that helps to define how information passes from the physical world into the digital world and how the resultant data is analyzed along the way providing real-time actionable insights and visibility. In partnership with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), Zebra assembled 40 industry experts for the 2016 Innovation Symposium: The Intelligent Enterprise. Click here to discover how these thought leaders defined an “Intelligent Enterprise” and how you may apply these best practices and opportunities to your organization.

Ultimately, the “Intelligent Enterprise” provides a new level of visibility that will enable businesses to grow faster by helping to make better decisions more quickly and efficiently. In 2017, we will begin to see enterprises functioning intelligently on a larger scale, across industries, to remain agile and save both time and money.

Enterprises should be excited for the coming year and the real-time opportunities it will bring. Businesses will be better positioned to react to how products and inventory are moving and where they are needed, manufacturers will understand what parts are needed and how to produce them immediately, and enterprises will be situationally aware of what’s happening across all their business processes and can act on that information immediately.

The “Intelligent Enterprise” is Among Decade’s Most Impactful Trends

By Jeff Schmitz | 01/04/2017 | 11:19 AM

In 2016, Zebra explored the concept of the “Intelligent Enterprise,” an operational framework that helps to define how information passes from solutions to their handlers and how the data analyzed along the way provides actionable insights and visibility. In partnership with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), we assembled 40 industry experts for the 2016 Innovation Symposium: The Intelligent Enterprise. Click here to discover how these thought leaders defined an “Intelligent Enterprise” and explored best practices and opportunities for organizations of varying sizes and industries.

When you think about the various industries that drive our world - including healthcare, transportation, logistics, manufacturing and retail - enterprises are already taking advantage of a new “intelligence” to make decisions in real time today. At the heart of the Intelligent Enterprise are sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, beacons and locationing solutions that, along with the rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), offer enterprises real-time operational visibility.

Gartner predicts 6.4 billion connected things are in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. But what does this explosive growth mean for the future and how can enterprises harness this intelligence to drive meaningful innovation?

The concept of the “Intelligent Enterprise” is about making businesses as smart and connected as the world that surrounds us. A sensor may seem like a small device, but when married with the troves of data and the ability to understand – and act – on it brings a big wave of technological innovation, creativity and new levels of intelligence to our world.

Engaging and leveraging the tremendous advances that IoT brings to enterprise solutions can be challenging. The answer lies in a framework that Zebra refers to as sense-analyze-act. Sensing data, analyzing it for insights and then mobilizing it to the right person to drive specific actions is fundamental to building an “Intelligent Enterprise”.

For example, to help advance retailers’ capabilities, Zebra is working with them to develop solutions to dramatically improve inventory accuracy levels, which is frequently a barrier to a successful omni-channel strategy. While our solutions enable automation, human interaction is still critical at many points in the fulfillment chain, and we are helping retailers with real-time visibility of inventory, efficient picking, staging and delivery to customers.

With smarter devices come smarter things and smarter environments, paving the way for enterprises across all industries to become more intelligent.

Back to the Future: A Look at Today’s Wearables and IoT

By Jeff Schmitz | 11/07/2016 | 10:23 AM

The wearables we use today were once noted as science-fiction – at times showcased in a “Back to the Future” plot twist that defied the concept of widespread deployment. However, technology marches forward and technologies that were once portrayed as futuristic have come to life and are injecting some form of disruption into every industry. Enterprises are compelled to look at how they can deliver better results more efficiently and effectively using new technology, including wearables. 

The driving force behind this technology disruption is that enterprises now look to data for insight into their processes, helping them to identify opportunities to streamline operations, expand market share and spark ideas for new products. But what captures all of this data? There are many devices that live at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, turning real-world information into insightful data, also known as Enterprise Asset Intelligence. And increasingly those devices include wearables. Straight from the wrist and hands of enterprise employees across industries, wearable devices are capturing vital information from the Internet of Things (IoT), and analytics software is making sense of it.

We have already seen wearable technology and IoT make a dramatic impact on the way workers operate in the warehouse, retail, transportation and logistics and manufacturing industries on a day-to-day basis. The increased emphasis on enterprise wearables for workers is changing back-end operations and helping to overcome tremendous business process challenges.

One of those business challenges is finding new ways to streamline and error-proof every aspect of order fulfilment and inventory management. According to the recent Zebra Vision Study, nearly half of all survey respondents indicated a concern about labor performance in the order, pick and fulfillment process. With wearable technology, warehouse workers are able to boost their productivity to new levels, minimizing scan frustration in the most challenging work environments. Additionally, hands-free and speech-directed picking devices increase user mobility, comfort and accuracy. By creating wearable devices with the end-user and worker in mind, new levels of productivity have been achieved and cycle times have been improved by integrated wearable technology that provides enhanced situational awareness and gives workers real-time access to critical data and video at the point of work.

By 2020, Zebra Vision Study respondents cited plans to make investments in the following processes and tools: equipping staff with technology (73 percent), bar code scanning (68 percent), tablets (66 percent) and the Internet of Things (62 percent). As IoT becomes more deeply engrained in all of our enterprise processes, wearable technology will become that much more valuable in helping employees to easily capture information. Current technologies will continue to evolve and revolutionize the way people instinctively work with devices and intuitively interact with their environments, making what once seemed like science fiction a reality.

The days of Marty McFly and his self-lacing shoes and hover boards are among us – and the manufacturing, warehouse and logistics industries are primed and ready to take advantage of IoT wearable technology to bring us back to the future with Enterprise Asset Intelligence.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz is senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Zebra. Mr. Schmitz most recently served as executive vice president for multiple business units and sales at Spirent Communications where he had previously also held several senior leadership roles including chief marketing officer and vice president of networks & applications. Prior to joining Spirent, Mr. Schmitz held senior marketing positions at Rivulet Communications, Visual Networks and Tellabs Inc. Mr. Schmitz holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University and a Master of Science degree in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


Popular Tags

Subscribe to DC Velocity

Subscribe to DC Velocity Start your FREE subscription to DC Velocity!

Subscribe to DC Velocity
Go digital