Two Zebra employees use Zebra technology in a warehouse as part of the Zebra4Zebra program
By Jennifer Springer | May 29, 2020

Stories from the Edge | Zebra4Zebra Program Serves as Proving Ground for Potential Use Cases and Return on Investment for Innovative Supply Chain Technology Solutions

How does Zebra know if its solutions and services will really pay off for customers? We put them to work in our own global supply chain operations in the same way our customers would.

No dollar is spent in business without first understanding the potential return on investment (ROI). Yet, it’s not always easy to demonstrate the potential ROI of goods and services until they’ve been utilized in the real world. Even then, the payoff may not be apparent right away or equally shared by all customers. This is especially true of technology solutions and services.

Though designed to facilitate specific types of applications and deliver different types of benefits, the specific value that each organization derives from mobility, printing, scanning, radio-frequency identification (RFID), intelligent automation, Internet of Things (IoT) or real-time location solutions will depend on a number of variables.

Consider real-time location systems (RTLS). Categorically speaking, RTLS technologies are proven to increase operational visibility, increase accountability, deliver more actionable intelligence and expedite workflows. However, there are many flavors of RTLS – RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy, UWB,  Wi-Fi and long-range sensing technologies – and each “work in a different way to confirm the temperature or absolute location of the people, equipment and/or materials needed in order to complete a task or inform a decision at any given moment” as my colleague and RTLS expert, Kent Landry, recently explained.

At the same time, some mobile computer form factors and feature sets are more suitable for certain workers and workflows than others, even within the same four walls. And the outcome variables multiply even more when it comes to labeling applications, with dozens of different industrial, desktop and mobile printers and hundreds of related supplies that must be carefully selected in the context of the application.

Even investments in enterprise software and managed services could prove to be risky propositions if not first “proven” effective at delivering targeted benefits in comparable business models.

That’s why case studies and other success stories are so sought after during the research and evaluation phases of enterprise buying cycles. Whether a retailer, manufacturer, healthcare provider or government agency, decision makers want to know that other organizations with similar operating principles, challenges and goals have achieved either a tangible or intangible ROI for the types of technology solutions and services being considered.

Herein lies the problem for many solution providers and their customers who need or want to:

  • Build confidence in a technology strategy.
  • Demonstrate the capabilities – and prove the legitimacy – of new solutions from day one.
  • Show that a technology platform works in multiple environments and can viably solve many different issues and achieve several operational goals simultaneously.

While good in theory, and possibly even “proven” in a test lab or pilot program, how do you substantiate that your proposed solution actually performs to the highest standards long term in a real-world, full-scale deployment?  Most customers don’t have the luxury of learning by trial and error.

At Zebra, we believe that one of the best ways to prove that our technology solutions and services are capable of doing everything we say they can do is by using them within our own four walls in the same way that our customers would use them.

That is one reason we launched the Zebra4Zebra program last year, turning more than two dozen facilities across our global supply chain and services operations into real-world test sites for our own solutions – creating centers of excellence and innovation, if you will.

“Wearing Our Stripes”: Why Zebra’s In-House Implementations are the Key to Proving Possible Customer Outcomes

Zebra’s supply chain operations are challenged with the same pain points our customers face: higher demand, labor shortages, visibility gaps, the need for workflow improvements, receiving bottlenecks and rising workflow complexity. However, as they say, the first step to solving any challenge is to recognize that you have one. The next step is finding the right resources to help you work through it in a strategic way. That’s exactly what the Zebra4Zebra program allows us to do – for our customers’ challenges and our own.

We are embarking on the exact same ground-up warehouse modernization process that our customers must go through, and we’re documenting it each step of the way so that others can learn from our best practices and benefit from our successes.

By infusing Zebra products into our own warehouses, repair depots, manufacturing sites and into partners’ operations and “wearing our own stripes,” as we like to say, we are able to truly gauge the effectiveness of Zebra solutions in various real-world scenarios and calculate the potential ROI of new technologies and applications. This helps to mitigate the anxiety and risks common with new technology deployments, which in turn helps to elicit greater trust and confidence from customers and partners alike.

Watch this:

Walking the Walk: A Testament to Zebra’s Commitment to Collaborative Innovation

In short, the culture of ideation and collaboration that the Zebra4Zebra program fosters within our own manufacturing and transportation and logistics community enables us to more proactively address customers’ ever-evolving modernization needs. We’re not innovating in a bubble. We’re on the front lines of the supply chain and service industries, modeling how our hardware, software and services can be optimized in various real-world, operational scenarios so that our customers, in turn, will know exactly how to capture their performance edge. By validating the performance and productivity opportunities made possible by Zebra, we’re ensuring that customers and partners receive the greatest possible return on their investments, with very little associated risk.

Want to learn more about the lessons learned from the Zebra4Zebra program? Contact us here.

Energy and Utilities, Public Sector, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics, Warehouse and Distribution, Innovative Ideas,
Jennifer Springer
Jennifer Springer

Jennifer Springer is currently the Senior Director of Distribution Center Operations & Logistics + Zebra4Zebra. In this role, she is responsible for global warehouse fulfillment and postponement activities supporting over $3B in annual revenue; forward and reverse global transportation connecting Zebra’s manufacturing, distribution, repairs and customer supply chains; and infusing the best of Zebra’s Manufacturing, Transportation & Logistics (MTL) hardware and software technologies into Zebra’s global Supply Chain operations.

Jennifer has almost 15 of experience within the logistics industry and infuses that accumulated expertise with a passion for connecting and developing global teams and deploying technology and innovation to drive productivity. Jennifer is an active champion for gender equality and inclusion and serves as a chairperson for Zebra’s Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN).

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