I have the good fortune of visiting many forward-thinking organizations that either run their own distribution and warehouse facilities or are in that business for their customers (3PLS, 4PLs). While they are consumed daily with a myriad of challenges including worker turnover (a big one these days), robotics research, WMS applications and process reviews, they are also consumed with a preponderance of data usage improvements (Digitized AI).
Handheld companies providing information on Android devices, not only because of the Windows end of life support for anything not Windows 10, but also because these companies have been looking at delivering devices that have significant feature richness and a wider breadth of products in their line, all at a lower cost, benefitting towards a more aggressive ROI for new mobile equipment.
The leading rugged mobile device companies saw this evolution coming five to six years ago and have invested millions of dollars to provide hardware solutions that not just provided an Android OS, but also many other capabilities that most felt would be a prerequisite for adoption of robust network connectivity, better Bluetooth support, stronger and more diverse scanning capabilities and many other features.
Almost every company I speak with communicates the same thing. While they are duly impressed with the new devices, it also a time to do a strategic reset on the infrastructure as well; from looking at new warehouse building and configurations, network viability, WMS effectiveness, application efficacy, voice integration for their mobile applications, worker safety, and automation techniques and so many others that space does not permit me to list them all here.
Many astute organizations have seen this bellwether time coming and vendors, VARS, device manufacturers have done a great job developing their hardware and software solutions for this migration. These customers, that have always been tasked with bigger, faster, more accurate marching orders, now have triple the amount of choices to evaluate. Their time is pressed tightly as it is, but now, there is even more to research, test and evaluate, and the stakes have never been higher.
Customers are looking to the solution providers, their partners and the VARs to truly understand their specific processes, what they need to accomplish in the short term and long term as well as bring to them multiple options that can be analyzed and evaluated for maximum effectiveness in their specific workflow scenarios.
The mindset that has evolved for customers is the proof-of-concept. Historically, market-leading solution providers have had strong enough relationships or long-term market presence to demand a certain level of faith and trust that the solution provided would indeed be effective and relevant for a customers specific challenge at hand. The market has done a complete 180 on this stande. No longer can those in the positions of responsibility trust the man behind the curtain anymore. Tested implememtations with true productivity and measurable ROI are the only solutions companies want to see now in their facilities.
The smart partners and VARs have caught onto this and are taking a bigger role in providing agile, scalable solutions that can be tested on premise to make a true evaluation of function and fit. This is a daunting challenge as well since these vendors have worked for years developing long standing, positive relationships and their customers have come to rely on them for good advice. So, what customers are saying is, please have a detailed understanding of my infrastructure, what my challenges are beyond the basic headline fodder, and provide us with products and services that have real relevance to operational goals.
If these solutions are from new vendors in traditional technology spaces, that’s ok. If they are new tech, better software, it can’t be just because of trust. These new implementations will have to be real-time tested, have a future growth and evolution path and be agile enough to change as the business needs to change. Expect sales cycles, which are already very lengthy, to get even more extended. The high cost of robotics, automation, WMS/WES/WCS packages will require it. All that said, there is a desperate need for all this hardware and software to work together, symbiotic and unique to every organization. Customers are saying their job is getting tougher every day…they need good expertise, reliable choices and partners they can depend on to understand their parameters and allow for testing on-site. Continuous improvement is alive and well….just harder, more aspects to the technology, and, Android too.