The Six Dimensions of Warehouse Transformation

How to Apply Technology to Achieve Your Intelligent Fulfillment Ambitions

A male warehouse worker uses mobile computers to pick the right products and fulfill an order.
by Mark Wheeler
March 27, 2019

On April 8, 2019, the manufacturing industry’s leading innovators will descend on ProMat in Chicago in search of the equipment and technology solutions that can empower them to “find their WOW” – or “capture their edge” as we say at Zebra. But, this year, I expect attendees to do more than just window shop or explore their options for future investment.

There’s a sense of urgency to innovate, to employ new technologies, especially in the warehouse. Not just to get ahead of competitors, but to keep up with omnichannel customer demands, such as faster expected delivery times, a shift to item-level fulfillment and higher order volumes – which are fueled by continually rising consumer demands. The efficiency and accuracy of warehouse operations (or lack thereof) directly impact manufacturing and distribution operations, as well as retailers. As a result, every warehouse operator, regardless of size, is now being pressured to activate intelligent fulfillment systems.

The good news is that there are several technology solutions on the market today proven to improve both fulfillment efficiency and accuracy. But, for many manufacturers and warehouse operators, that is the precise problem: technology solutions are advancing more quickly than operations can assimilate them. These new technologies are also disrupting long-established warehouse management solutions. And that is why I’ll be speaking on this at this year’s PROMAT.

Before you commit to a particular technology solution, you must first truly understand the six dimensions to warehouse transformation:

1. Physical Automation

2. Warehouse Management Systems

3. Workflow Optimization

4. Worker Augmentation

5. Operational Visibility

6. Data Platform, Analytics and Artificial Intelligence

Each dimension may require you to utilize a different technology toolset to achieve your intelligent fulfillment ambitions. Some of which will eventually include more advanced technologies, such as augmented reality. But there are many instances in which the same mobile, RFID, barcode and sensor-based platforms already used within the warehouse today can be extended to new workers and workflows – or applied in new ways to refine current processes – in order to improve fulfillment operations. I hope to provide the clarification you need on which technologies could be “game-changing” if applied properly and which could prove to be too “disruptive,” at least for now.

Remember: warehouse transformation is going to remain an incremental process, regardless of the urgency to progress to a fully digitalized environment. Understanding the specific roles and potential cohesiveness of various technologies within each dimension will empower you to make the right investment and commit the right resources at the right time.

Join me on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at 12:00-12:45pm CT to learn what it will take to enable intelligent fulfillment within your warehouse environment. Or stop by Zebra booth #S441 to learn about how specific technology solutions could help you and your supply chain partners capture your edge.

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Editor’s Note: Not attending ProMat 2019? Tune into Your Edge after the event for show-floor highlights and a full recap of Mark’s presentation.

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Mark Wheeler
Mark Wheeler is the lead for warehouse and plant floor solutions for Zebra’s North American manufacturing vertical. Mark has more than 30 years in the industry, with deep expertise in warehouse and plant floor operations.













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