A study by Zebra Technologies Corporation found that mobile technology investment is a top priority for 36 per cent of organisations and a growing priority for an additional 58 per cent, to keep up with rapidly evolving and increasing customer demand. The findings of the Future of Field Operations report indicate investments will be made in new technologies and enterprise mobile devices to enhance frontline worker productivity and customer satisfaction in field operations including fleet management, field services, proof of delivery and direct store delivery workflows.
“Driven by the acceleration of e-commerce along with customers’ heightened expectations and more focus within companies on differentiating service levels, the field operations industry is rapidly adapting the way it looks at its mobile technology investments,” said director of vertical marketing strategy, manufacturing, transportation & logistics at Zebra Technologies Jim Hilton. “Our study shows how growing challenges related to the on-demand economy drive organisations to adopt transformative technologies such as augmented reality and intelligent labels to provide visibility and integrate business intelligence for a performance edge.”
Key survey findings
Equipping frontline workers with enterprise mobile devices remains a priority to stay competitive.
- The survey shows today only one-fifth of organisations have a majority of their field-based operations using enterprise mobile devices. This is estimated to reach 50 per cent in five years.
- Respondents indicate most organisations intend to invest in handheld mobile computers, mobile printers and rugged tablets. From 2018 to 2023, handheld mobile computer usage with built-in barcode scanners is forecasted to grow by 45 per cent, mobile printers by 53 per cent and rugged tablets by 54 per cent. The higher levels of inventory, shipment and asset accuracy provided by using these devices is expected to increase business revenues.
- A key driver of productivity, efficiency and cost-savings in field operations is ensuring ruggedised enterprise devices replace traditional consumer ones. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents usually or always conduct a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis of business devices prior to making a capital expenditure. Only 32 per cent of respondents believe that consumer smartphones have better TCO than rugged devices.
Tertiary concerns and post-sale factors are important for organisations when evaluating frontline worker enterprise mobile devices.
- The survey reveals these TCO considerations when investing in new frontline enterprise technology: replacement (47 per cent), initial device (44 per cent), application development (44 per cent) and programming/IT (40 per cent).
- Almost 40 per cent of respondents say device management and support costs are important as well as customer service (37 per cent), device lifecycle cadence (36 per cent) and repair costs (35 per cent). Such factors increasingly influence the purchase cycle, showing that those who do not provide clear value or cannot control these costs will quickly be overtaken by those who do.
Emerging technologies and faster networks are disrupting field operations.
- The survey shows seven in ten organisations agree faster mobile networks will be a key driver for field operations investment to enable the use of disruptive technology.
- Significant industry game-changers will be droids and drones, with over a third of decision makers citing them as the biggest disruptors.
- The use of smart technologies such as sensors, RFID, and intelligent labels also play a role in transforming the industry. More than a quarter of respondents continue to view augmented/virtual reality (29 per cent), sensors (28 per cent), RFID and intelligent labels (28 per cent) as well as truck loading automation (28 per cent) as disruptive factors.
Key regional findings
- Asia Pacific: 44 per cent of respondents consider truck loading automation will be among one of the most disruptive technologies, compared respectively to 28 per cent globally.
- Europe, Middle East and Africa: 70 per cent of respondents agree e-commerce is driving the need for faster field operations.
- Latin America: 83 per cent agree that faster wireless networks (4G/5G) are driving greater investment in new field operations technologies, compared with 70 per cent of the global sample.
- North America: 36 per cent of respondents plan to implement rugged tablets in the next year.
Survey background and methodology
- The Future of Field Operations Vision study reports why mobile technology investment is a top priority for organisations, with over half planning investments to keep pace with more proactive, customer-centric, business-driven systems.
- The online survey interviewed 2,075 mobility decision makers from 20 countries across the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, China, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.