It’s not easy changing jobs in the middle of a pandemic, much less taking over regional operations of a Fortune 1000 technology company. But when Brian Tse “showed up” for his first day as Zebra’s new Greater China Country Lead in July, he was ready to hit the ground running. As an IT industry veteran, Brian understands the value that innovative, purpose-built technology solutions can bring to companies during times of crisis and periods of economic recovery and growth. In fact, his whole mission here at Zebra is to support our customers by enhancing their businesses using Zebra solutions, especially our state-of-art Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
Once he settled in a bit, we were able to speak with Brian to learn more about his goals as well as the technology trends that he thinks will most significantly impact customers and partners in the coming months. Below is an excerpt from our conversation:
Your Edge Blog Team: Brian, first off, we want to welcome you to Zebra. We’re excited to have you on the team. Can you tell us a little bit more about your new role as the Greater China Country Lead? What will be your primary focus and objectives?
Brian: I am super excited to join Zebra and have the chance to lead the team that serves our customers in Greater China. We have been very successful in the manufacturing, retail, transportation & logistics and healthcare verticals, and I plan to work closely with both customers and partners to ensure they are fully leveraging Zebra solutions to their benefit. In particular, my team and I will be focusing on empowering organizations with our mobile computing and RFID solutions. We will also be introducing many new value-tier products to cater to the needs of the vast community of small and midsize businesses (SMB) in our region.
Your Edge Blog Team: The on-demand economy is booming in China right now and Industry 4.0 is on the rise. Do you feel that manufacturers, retailers and their supply chain partners are fully maximizing all available technology platforms to keep up with the growing production and distribution demands?
Brian: China has many leading technology adopters who have leveraged leading technologies coupled with brilliant business models to create competitive advantages in order to become market leaders. We are delighted to be their partner in innovation.
However, there are still many customers who are struggling with the ever-changing macro environment. In these instances, we are working hard together with our partners to share our best practices with customers to support their transformation through state-of-the-art IoT technologies. There are tremendous opportunities ahead of us in Greater China.
Of course, as businesses are reopening and rebuilding from the COVID-19 pandemic, the resiliency of retailers and supply chains are being tested more than ever before. To meet rising customer expectations, retailers need to rethink the safety of the customer journey, whether it is in store or via delivery. Click-and-collect, online shopping and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) are fast becoming preferred methods of shopping across Greater China. With this in mind, it was no surprise that Zebra’s 12th annual APAC Shopper Study revealed great interest in more advanced technology utilization. Retailers cited robot assistance (83%), smart check-out and real-time store IoT platforms (89%) as being extremely important to their operations over the next five years. And 81% of retailers plan to provide mobile ordering as a fulfilment option by 2021. Based on this, it is evident that there is still room for retailers and their supply chain partners to leverage more advanced technology to cope with the challenges.
Your Edge Blog Team: Do you think COVID-19 has slowed down or accelerated technology modernization efforts across Chinese industries?
Brian: Many companies were already embarking on a technological transformation to achieve greater efficiency and results prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has merely accelerated this transformation. For instance:
- Retail: E-commerce is growing exponentially because of lockdowns and the need to maintain social distancing. As such, consumers are increasingly shopping online as they refrain from venturing out. Even those who were not shopping online previously are doing so now. After experiencing the convenience of online shopping, it is highly likely that these consumers will continue this practice in the future. As such, brick-and-mortar stores will need to re-think their strategy on how to attract shoppers back to their stores by deploying the right technology to both increase store associate efficiency and enhance overall shopping experience.
- Transportation & Logistics (T&L): The on-demand economy has fueled that "want-it-now" mentality of consumers today, many of whom are on the hunt for products almost 24/7. Therefore, T&L organizations need to have the right technology to help them cope with this growing demand by accelerating their modernization to increase efficiency and minimize errors.
- Healthcare: COVID-19 has resulted in a sudden surge in patients for many hospitals and clinics across the world. This has made the healthcare community realize the importance of having the right technology, which can enhance the efficiency of healthcare providers and reduce medical errors due to fatigue. Technology would offer tremendous help to hospitals and their front-line staff, especially in the badly affected countries, who are often working round-the-clock now.
Your Edge Blog Team: Are there other business or economic challenges driving operational changes and defining technology utilization strategies right now?
Brian: The shortage of skilled workers has rapidly driven up labor costs in China. That has led to a higher demand for technology to improve workplace productivity. With the impending arrival of the 5G network and maturing of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, our customers are moving toward leveraging these advanced technologies to create new business opportunities and revenue streams. We (Zebra) need to continue working closely with our customers through our partners to help them with their transformational journey. We want to help them succeed by becoming their trusted partner.
Your Edge Blog Team: You have been in IT for many years now and have experienced firsthand just how significantly computing technology can impact business outcomes. How can companies better utilize mobile computing solutions to boost operational efficiency and worker productivity?
Brian: I believe that the future of the business world is to seamlessly integrate cloud/legacy computing with powerful edge computing technologies. With the near-term arrival of 5G in many countries and the maturity of AI, the workload between backend computing and the edge are set to be redefined when leveraging actionable insights and introducing new work patterns/business scenarios. This shift in technology integration strategies will enable companies to make business-critical decisions swiftly, thereby boosting their operational efficiency and worker productivity.
Your Edge Blog Team: What types of technology investments do you think Chinese companies should prioritize in the next 12-18 months and why?
Brian: In light of COVID-19 and the current geopolitical changes, businesses need to be agile to cope with the rapid changes. Flexible automation will be the key to business success, while advanced IoT technologies will enable a higher level of automation to help lower labor costs and achieve a greater operational efficiency.