zebra logo

The Visible Value Blog

Is Your Warehouse Operating in Perfect Harmony?

Posted by Mark Wheeler

Find me on:

November 25, 2014 at 9:56 AM


This is the 7th in a series of blogs discussing technologies and trends in voice picking and multi-modal warehousing solutions

Is the performance of your warehouse network and mobile devices music to your ears… or something else?

Britain’s Sex Pistols helped usher in the punk rock era in the mid 70’s. It was music that mostly tended to be about, well, chaos and anarchy. It was hardly classic, and especially not classical. In fact, the Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” and “Anarchy in the U.K.” were about as far from Beethoven’s “Eroica” and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” as humanly possible.

Strange as it may seem, within these contrasting musical styles lies a salient observation about warehouse wireless networks. They’re nothing like simplistic punk rock where chaos is kind of the point. They’re everything like a symphony orchestra, where anarchy is to be avoided at all costs.

Anarchy in the Warehouse

Because of their tremendous complexity and number of disparate processes and parts, modern warehouses have much more in common with a large symphony orchestra than with Johnny Rotten and company. They have hundreds of SKUs in inventory. Thousands of items moving in and out of the facility simultaneously. A variety of processes that have to mesh together while conforming to tight schedules and even tighter budgets. And a large contingent of individuals working at varying skill and experience levels. The point is, all of these moving parts have to blend together seamlessly to avoid descending into… well, you get the idea.

So what’s the catalyst for bringing the multi-faceted warehouse environment into productivity-enhancing harmony? In a word, technology; especially today’s powerful wireless network infrastructure and data, voice and multi-modal devices.

Warehouses in Harmony

In any warehouse, optimum performance will always be found in systems that effectively harmonize the benefits of mobile devices with the network infrastructure. Every CIO and warehouse manager understands that when networks and devices work well together, you can unlock the greatest value in your infrastructure, voice and multi-modal investments. This isn’t an easy task. You’ve got to manage and coordinate a volatile mix of network systems technology with a wide variety of mobile devices that enable efficiency-driven applications ranging from voice picking to data gathering to task interleaving. It involves staying on top of everything that affects productivity, from worker skills to battery life.

Open System Flexibility

At Zebra, we have always been a supporter of open systems. With an open approach, you have the flexibility to choose any wireless network to power your mobile terminals and voice and multi-modal hardware and software offerings. And because Zebra engineers excel at optimizing the performance of Zebra mobile terminals working over a Zebra WLAN, there are important benefits to be gained by combining these technologies as the foundation of your warehouse systems.

Improved Roaming and Battery Life

One benefit of Zebra combined systems is improved roaming performance, which is crucial to keeping your warehouse processes and staff working together harmoniously. Our network/terminal synergies enable more efficient use of voice and multi-modal devices, leading to greater effectiveness in WMS management, task interleaving and other processes. Sub-optimal roaming means dropped sessions and excessive latency in receiving, recognizing and processing voice commands… resulting in slower, inefficient, distracted and frustrated workers. And that’s the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve by equipping them with ergonomic, flexible, multi-modal solutions.

A synergistic Zebra solution that combines mobile computers and a robust industrial-grade wireless network also addresses one of the most frustrating issues with mobile devices used by different users constantly on-the-go in multiple, often back-to-back shifts: power management. The heavy usage and round-the-clock schedules typical of warehouses and DCs can often require workers to stop mid-shift to swap batteries, a cause of wasted time that impedes overall warehouse productivity. Some of the customers that have deployed both Zebra wireless infrastructure and Zebra mobile terminals in their warehouses are seeing upwards of 20% longer battery life, thereby reducing inefficiencies and worker frustration.

Orchestrating Technological Harmony

When you’re in the process of assessing and upgrading your warehouse’s technology, ensuring harmonious interaction among your network, your mobile devices and your workflows will result in classic performance that’s music to your ears… and to your bottom line.

Zebra is the only technology partner that has all the necessary instruments that work together in harmony. These include:

  • Open, flexible devices
  • Purpose-built data capture interfaces to unlock multi-modal power
  • Robust set of specialized voice-directed applications to choose from
  • The solution agility required to support effective introduction of voice beyond picking alone
  • Powerful reporting tools that provide customized and important labor management insights
  • Industrial-grade wireless network technology

Working in perfect harmony, these valuable elements give you the ultimate confidence that you’ll be taking a bow and playing an encore after your multi-modal solution has been fully deployed in your warehouses and distributions centers. They will also ensure that your selected voice solution “Did You No Wrong” and providing your boss with no reason to make your current position “Pretty Vacant” after the rollout is complete.

Are you ready to pick a new direction now? Zebra Technologies is ready to help you improve your operation.


Mark Wheeler is the Director of Supply Chain Solutions - North America for Zebra Technologies. Mark works with customer’s supply chain operations teams across all industries as well as Zebra’s product development teams for the plant floor and warehouse solutions space.

Read other blogs by supply chain expert Mark Wheeler.