A grocery store associate looks at the wearable mobile computer on her wrist while picking items for an online order
By Dan Baldwin | December 15, 2020

The Industrial Wearable Computer Has Evolved to Be Everything You Need (and Everything Front-Line Workers Want) in a Hands-Free Solution. Check It Out...

Equipped with a touchscreen and optional keypad, the new Android™ 10 Zebra WT6300 wearable computer is the perfect fit (literally and figuratively) for workers who need their hands free to pick, pack, sort, load and more.

Sure, it’s possible to mount a rugged handheld computer to the wrist and use it as a wearable. But is that really the best option for your front-line workers? Not necessarily. In fact, my colleague Darren Koffer spoke earlier this year about just how critical it is to choose the right technology tool for each worker and workflow. Trying to force-fit a general-purpose device into an application-specific environment can introduce unnecessary risk and lead to potential productivity declines, which impact your ability to drive growth.

That’s why we spent the last several months modernizing Zebra’s WT6000 wearable mobile computer – and why we’re rolling out the new Zebra WT6300 model today!

We know that enterprise mobile computers enable front-line workers to scan barcodes and complete tasks more efficiently. But the continued growth of e-commerce is requiring workers to handle more goods, process more orders and count inventory faster than ever. Demand for a dedicated – or “purpose-built”– wearable mobile computer that maximizes productivity in hands-free workflows has never been greater.

As recently as 12 months ago, it was quite possible that only a few select workers required a wearable computer to do their jobs most effectively – perhaps those who were frequently picking up or breaking down pallets or loading trailers and needed both hands to lift packages. Now, even workers picking produce in the front of the store need a hands-free data capture solution if they are to zoom through the high volume of curbside and delivery orders you’re receiving each day. Order picking and sorting are no longer part-time activities that can be managed by the same handheld devices used for inventory counts, put away, shipping and receiving. At the same time, the line between the back-of-store stock room and the front of the store is becoming blurred, as online ordering has increased exponentially over the last few months.

And while inventory put away used to be a portion of the workday in many supply chain organizations, it’s now an around-the-clock operation as everyone rushes to restock shelves with essentials and luxuries alike to satisfy burgeoning demand. Even with team members putting forth increased effort, many of you have told us that you’re still experiencing a decline in worker efficiency, order accuracy and customer satisfaction because of the unpredictability and overload of orders.

Simply put: workers who have to carry devices in hand these days quickly become disadvantaged, and both customer satisfaction and sales suffer as a result. Thus, the reason why wearables are now the go-to form factor for a multitude of supply chain use cases, not just picking or cross-dock workflows. They help to enhance workers’ capabilities, which in turn accelerates fulfillment for your customers.

But not all wearables are built for all-day use in scan-intensive environments, and even rugged wrist-worn handheld devices may be lacking some capabilities that workers need as inventory management and rapid order processing become the make-or-break operational priorities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, a touch-only device may not suit all of your workers or workflows, especially those that are accustomed to physical keypads. If a wearable mobile computer is not comfortable, or if the user experience is unfamiliar, it will likely slow the person down.

At the end of the day, that’s what motivated us to take everything that you loved about the previous-generation Zebra WT6000 and integrate it with everything else you need and want now in the new WT6300 industrial wearable computer. In fact, we built the WT6300 on the latest Android 10 OS to help de-risk your operations as customer demands and business needs evolve. We then refined it to deliver the fundamental capabilities and enhanced new features that will be required to sustain your operations in the coming years. There aren’t a lot of technologies that stand the test of time – or all-day use in high-tempo, high transactional (and sometimes freezing cold) environments. But the WT6300 can.

In fact, the new Zebra WT6300 wearable computer is proof that it’s possible to “ease” into the next generation of modern mobile computing without abandoning tradition.

A warehouse worker scans the barcode on an item using a ring scanner connected to a wrist-worn mobile computer terminal

With the addition of the optional keypad, the WT6300 offers a familiar user interface to your legacy Windows CE wearable computers. But under the hood you’ll find a powerful Qualcomm SD660 processor, Android™ 10 platform and Zebra Mobility DNA software tools. As a result, you can develop wearable applications on the same platform – and deploy and manage the WT6300 in exactly the same way – as your other Zebra mobile computers. And the touchscreen will still be there when you need it (and workers demand it). In other words, the WT6300 empowers everyone – including application developers, IT and front-line workers – to make the jump to Android without skipping a beat. It also ensures that you’re ready for whatever the future may bring.

The New Table Stakes – For You and Us

With nearly every brick-and-mortar storefront, warehouse and distribution center playing a pivotal role in e-commerce fulfillment, workers can benefit from a productivity-boosting, hands-free mobility solution, regardless of their function.

As such, we focused on making the WT6300 as adaptable as possible to any situation, including those we can’t yet anticipate. Every refinement was focused on fulfilling today’s unique use case requirements with the flexibility to respond to rapidly evolving supply chain demands.

We know that, in order for your workers to stay at the top of their game and process as many transactions as possible per shift, especially in high-pressure situations, they need a wearable that has:

  • A physical keypad option for manual inputs in addition to a touch display that automatically adjusts its sensitivity for bare and gloved hands. This is a big one! In our experience, many workers who use a keypad are able to process transactions faster and with fewer errors than those who use an all-touch computer worn on the wrist. Plus, we didn’t want your Windows-to-Android migration to be disruptive, as I mentioned before. That’s why we made the WT6300 what we call a “drop-in replacement” for legacy Windows CE devices, such as the Zebra WT41N0 and WT4090 Windows CE wearable computers.  Application developers can simply mimic the current Windows CE user interface (display and physical keys) from the WT4x instead of creating a new user interface for a touch-only display to port applications over to Android. They won’t have to rework them to fit on a single screen with an on-screen virtual keypad because users will still have a physical keypad available. At the end of the day, your new Android applications will look and feel the same as the legacy Windows applications to your workers.
  • All-shift power and a hot swap battery that prevents loss of application data in the event of inadvertent battery removal. In addition, with the PowerPrecision+ batteries, you will be able to manage your WT6300 battery pool with the complimentary Mobility DNA PowerPrecision Console, which makes it easy to instantly spot and remove aging batteries before they impact user productivity.
  • An extreme cold temperature tolerance. Workers who spend all shift long moving in and out of freezers to manage inventory will appreciate that their wearable computers still operate when it’s -30 degrees Celsius.
  • Multiple communications ports for corded ring scanners and wired headsets, as well as other peripherals, such as head-mounted displays, to create the “total wearable solution” your workers need to make the greatest impact these days. We’re increasingly seeing the Zebra HD4000 enterprise head-mounted display and FulfillmentEdge solution used in tandem with an industrial wearable computer for picking and put away tasks that benefit from real-time visual navigation guidance. Plus, the WT6300 – when paired with a ring scanner such as the Zebra RS5100 – allows for multi-barcode data capture as well as black and white image capture, the latter of which will make it easy to document damaged goods on the fly. The WT6300’s near-field communication (NFC) tap-to-pair feature makes it easy to sync with Bluetooth® ring scanners, headsets and other NFC-enabled devices.
  • A host of accessory options that allow for the customization and safe use of shared devices. Easy disinfection is key to any technology design these days, no matter where it is used. An ecosystem of interchangeable chargers, straps, holders and more is also important. Business needs and people’s preferences are widely varied from one corner of a building to the next. The WT6300 offers both, including non-absorbent bands of the micro-adjustable mounting system that – along with the device itself – can easily be sanitized with isopropyl alcohol or soap between users without deteriorating the device itself or the wrist mount straps. The WT6300 also eases the financial burden on those who may simply be upgrading from the WT6000 wearable computer to the WT6300 as it is backwards compatible with all WT6000 accessories!

You also need a solution that boasts a long lifecycle so that you can minimize operational disruptions and maximize your return on investment (ROI). That’s why the WT6300 ships with Android 10 and will be fully supported through at least two more future Android OS version releases!

In fact, we’re so confident in the WT6300’s long-term performance capabilities and value that we’re backing this rugged Android wearable computer with our top-of-the line “5+5” support guarantee. That means that we’re committed to selling this product for 5 years – during which time you’ll receive full support via Zebra Mobility DNA – and then receive another 5 years of full support after the sales period ends. In total, you’ll get 10 years of manufacturer support and service if you deploy the WT6300 today! And, if you purchase a Zebra OneCare® service contract, you’ll also receive Lifeguard™ for Android security and system updates throughout the decade.  We just want to make sure you extract every bit of value you can from your investment, which we believe is going to be quite a lot.

A Final Thought

You can’t stop the influx of orders flooding your systems and keeping your team working non-stop around the clock, nor should you want to stop it. The increased revenue generation – though creating a somewhat chaotic operating environment – keeps your doors open and your staff employed.

At the same time, you can’t avoid the impending transition to Android mobility solutions. And though it might be inconvenient to embark on such a sizeable tech architecture overhaul in the middle of a pandemic, this endeavor doesn’t have to be disruptive.

In fact, I strongly believe that giving your workers the right tools for the task at hand is the key to keeping the e-commerce explosion from crippling your operations and, subsequently, the broader supply chain. Businesses that embrace Android mobility solutions right now will have the advantage of workflow flexibility, operational agility and tech scalability as market conditions, customer demands and worker expectations unpredictably change. Plus, Android users have access to an expanded set of data capture and security tools, which help to reduce risk through increased operational visibility and actionable intelligence – which are now table stakes as you aim to stay ahead of the curve.

If you haven’t deployed wearables in a widespread manner yet, let’s talk about the many different ways this one WT6300 industrial wearable computer can serve you without overwhelming your IT team or requiring a lot of worker retraining. If a subset of your team is currently equipped with the previous generation Zebra WT6000 or you’re ready to migrate from a legacy Zebra WT4x Windows CE wearable computer to Android – and possibly expand the use of wearables to other applications – give your Zebra sales representative or partner a call to get the process started.

You can also learn more about the benefits of wearable computers on our website.

Manufacturing, Warehouse and Distribution, Transportation and Logistics, Retail, Hospitality, Public Sector,
Dan Baldwin
Dan Baldwin

Dan Baldwin is the Senior Product Manager for the Wearable category at Zebra Technologies. In this role, he is responsible for new product development and management of the wearable solutions portfolio, which includes wrist mounted mobile computers, ring scanners and rugged headsets.  Zebra’s wearable solutions are utilized by a wide range of industries, including Retail, Transportation & Logistics and Manufacturing, to maximize worker productivity by enabling hands-free operations.  

Since joining Zebra in 2015, Mr. Baldwin has engaged with customers’ operations and technology teams, as well as solution partners, to translate their needs into innovative, next generation wearable platforms.

Mr. Baldwin has more than 20 years of experience in information technology, including positions in Product Management, Business Development, Operations and Strategy at a number of Fortune 500 companies, including Symbol Technologies, Motorola Solutions and IBM.

Mr. Baldwin holds an MBA from the New York University Stern School of Business and a Bachelor of Science from Harvard University.

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