Zebra’s Investing Heavily in the Asia-Pacific Region Right Now. This is Why.

All organizations need technology to operate in the current environment. They also need help determining which technology is best for their operating environment. We want to provide both.

 Low Yen Ling, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth, Ryan Goh, Vice President and General Manager, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific
by Your Edge Blog Team
February 22, 2021

Many suspected that spending would be down throughout 2020 and moving into this year as businesses – and entire economies – recovered from the pandemic. And it has been in many cases. But the world has continued to turn, and consumers have continued to need goods and services. In fact, demand has grown drastically in many categories. At the same time, delivery models have had to evolve dramatically to support social distancing and lockdowns.

That has generated greater demand for technology across the globe – technology that can help compensate for a lack of infrastructure or labor resources, improve inventory availability and give businesses the agility to successfully adapt fulfillment models as demand surges. In the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region specifically, Zebra has seen technology investments increase across manufacturing, transportation, logistics, warehousing, retail and healthcare as strategic imperatives shift and more advanced mobility, RFID and automation platforms become critical business tools.

However, as Ryan Goh, Vice President and General Manager, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific, explained in a recent interview, even the simplest technology implementations require expert support. Organizations don’t have a lot of time to spend on solution design, deployment and refinement these days, and they can no longer afford to wait to modernize operations. They need devices, software and systems in place now to help front-line workers become more efficient and productive. They also require 360-degree operational visibility so they can see what’s working and what’s not all the way to the edge of their operations. That’s where Zebra comes in.

We’ve been making our own investments to help improve the delivery of Zebra services and assist customers with finding the right solutions in a safe, socially-distanced manner. Read the interview below to learn how a new APAC headquarters campus in Singapore will make it easier for our stakeholders there to adapt to new business models and take advantage of growth opportunities.

Your Edge Blog Team: Why did Zebra choose to expand its APAC headquarters right now?

Ryan: Zebra is constantly growing, and the expansion of our APAC headquarters is the result of a natural progression. Since the establishment of Zebra APAC in 2008, our staff strength grew by about four folds to over 150 staff this year. Today, our APAC headquarters is home to a broad range of strategic leadership teams that oversee the region, as well as our regional Distribution Center based in Singapore.

Your Edge Blog Team: Why was Singapore selected over another country?

Ryan: Singapore has always been a business-friendly investment hub in APAC. Since our early days, we have been receiving strong support from the Singapore government, especially through the Economic Development Board (EDB). We are very grateful and are committed to continuously investing in Singapore. Our APAC headquarters expansion reinforces Zebra’s commitment to support Singapore in its Smart Nation ambition. We are bringing our knowledge and technological expertise to enable Singapore enterprises to gain a competitive advantage amidst economic transformation.  

Your Edge Blog Team: Part of the expansion includes a new print research and development (R&D) center. Why did Zebra decide to increase its investment in this technology right now? Is there demand for more innovative printing solutions?

Ryan: Zebra spends about 10% of our global revenue on R&D to empower the front line of enterprises with the latest technological solutions. This includes the development of our new print R&D center in Singapore, as well as the introduction of other advanced facilities like the Zebra Experience Center (ZEC) and Global Enablement Center (GEC). The advanced facilities at Zebra’s APAC headquarters serve as an invaluable resource for Zebra and our partners in this region, as we jointly tackle the business challenges faced by our customers.

Your Edge Blog Team: Will the printing technologies developed in Singapore be available globally?

Ryan: Absolutely! In fact, the center has already developed some of Zebra’s global printer innovations, including the color touch-screen panels for our ZT series of printers. Additionally, the center provides opportunities for local Zebra team members to learn from our innovative practices. The team is currently working on the development of premium stationary printers by applying new technology and innovation. This is very exciting as these are slated to be global products.

Your Edge Blog Team: We understand that this facility now houses the largest ZEC in APAC. Can you tell us about the types of solutions showcased there?

Ryan: The new ZEC in our Singapore office is the largest, with a floor space of 1,178 square feet, which makes it almost three times bigger than the one on our old premises. The ZEC is designed to be more than a demonstration space, though. It is where customized solutions are brainstormed and innovative strategies are conceptualized for our customers. This is also where customers get to spend time with Zebra’s top executives and subject matter experts and experience some of the best practices in the industry today. The ZEC is split into four key verticals – manufacturing, transportation and logistics (T&L), retail, and healthcare – and it features the cutting-edge technologies that companies need to stay ahead in today’s disrupted world.

Low Yen Ling, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth, looks on while Ryan Goh, Vice President and General Manager, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific, gives a solution demo at the new APAC headquarters facility

Your Edge Blog Team: Can you tell us more about the GEC? What is the purpose of that facility?

Ryan: The GEC is a Center of Excellence built to advance the adoption of Zebra solutions and services by customers and partners through sales enablement and learning. The GEC comprises the Zebra Solution Center and the Zebra Knowledge Center. Collectively, they serve the functions of solution innovation, testing and thought leadership. This is also where we evangelize Zebra solutions and coach all of our stakeholders on how best to leverage the technologies, including customers, global partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), independent software vendors (ISV), and solution partners.

Your Edge Blog Team: Even though COVID-19 restrictions are easing in some parts of the region, the world is very much still challenged by the pandemic. How has that impacted Zebra’s innovation and investment strategy in APAC?

Ryan: While the pandemic may have impacted businesses across the world, it has also accelerated the digital transformation journey for many businesses. For instance, retailers are prioritizing digitalization to achieve growth in a post-COVID 19 era. To ensure business continuity in such times, reports have shown that businesses have quickly embraced advanced technologies, such as those with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and increased cloud adoption. In APAC, we’re still seeing good momentum across a number of technology platforms and are optimistic that market demand for our solutions will continue to grow over time. In fact, Singapore is one of the bright spots that we’re seeing. This brings us back to the launch of our APAC headquarters, which signals Zebra’s commitment to building our presence locally and our firm belief in Singapore’s capabilities as a Global-Asia hub for technological advancements. Moving forward, technology will be a key focus and point of differentiation for businesses to remain competitive.

Your Edge Blog Team: Nearly every industry is still trying to adapt to the impacts of COVID-19, and many are investing in technology to improve their agility and resilience. Are there certain technologies that you believe should be prioritized, and why?

Ryan: While the pandemic continues to strain operations across various industries, it has been a catalyst in accelerating key technology developments that can help companies succeed in 2021 and beyond. Therefore, technologies that can help to maintain operations and profitability should be prioritized, as well as those that help to optimize workflows to support continual peak demand and supply chain disruption.

Your Edge Blog Team: What are the top challenges faced by customers in 2020 that you expect to continue in 2021? 

Ryan: The pandemic has required many organizations to adapt their operating environments, and the changes – and challenges – really vary by industry.

In healthcare, the focus is on ensuring the accurate labeling, tracking and tracing of laboratory test results and other assets. Increased patient flows in and out of hospitals and ambulatory units are also driving the need for real-time visibility. Another requirement that’s really come to the forefront is medical-grade plastics on mobile devices. Any devices used in healthcare environments must be able to tolerate frequent disinfecting wipe downs to help keep clinicians and patients safe.

In logistics, there is increased demand from more people buying online. Given the rapid change in fulfillment models, adapting operations to build more efficient supply chains is driving technology investment and the need for more employees.

For retailers, the challenge lies in being able to forecast and manage their supply chains, without knowing precisely what will be in demand over time in a rapidly changing environment. They also need to equip and enable store associates with the required technology to manage more complex tasks, such as reacting to online orders.

In a nutshell, both large enterprises and small businesses alike will continue to explore new ways to optimize their operations, improve productivity and increase profitability, and they will need to have the right technology to achieve this.

Your Edge Blog Team: Are there any other market trends that you think will influence technology utilization strategies this year?

Ryan: The top three technologies that will influence or disrupt our industry in 2021 are computer and machine vision, intelligent automation – which includes robotics and artificial intelligence – and prescriptive analytics. These technology areas relate to, and depend on, one another to realize value. Companies can visualize their operations better through both real-time data (i.e., computer vision) as well as source system data (i.e., ERP systems). They can turn that enhanced visibility into intelligence to drive automated decisions to the front line, enabling workers to take better actions resulting from the combined value of these technologies.

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