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Zebra Technologies Corporation has revealed the results of the Asia-Pacific edition of its Future of Fulfilment Vision Study, a body of research analysing how manufacturers, transport and logistics (T&L) firms and retailers are preparing to meet the growing needs of the on-demand economy.
Manufacturing and T&L global director at Zebra Technologies Jim Hilton said: “Driven by the always-connected, tech-savvy shopper, retailers, manufacturers and logistics companies are collaborating and swapping roles in uncharted ways to meet shoppers’ omnichannel product fulfillment and delivery expectations. Zebra’s Future of Fulfillment Vision Study found that 95 per cent of survey respondents in Asia-Pacific agreed that e-commerce is driving the need for faster delivery. In response, companies are turning to digital technology and analytics to bring heightened automation, merchandise visibility and business intelligence to the supply chain to compete in the on-demand consumer economy.”
Key survey findings
- 67 per cent of logistics companies expect to provide same-day delivery by 2023 and 55 per cent anticipate delivery within a two-hour window by 2028. In addition, 96 per cent of survey respondents expect to use crowdsourced delivery or a network of drivers that choose to complete a specific order by 2028.
- 92 per cent of the respondents cited capital investment and operating costs of implementing an omnichannel operation as a key challenge. Only 42 per cent of supply chain respondents reported operating at an omnichannel level today. In contrast, an estimated 73 per cent of consumers shop across multiple channels.
- Seven in ten surveyed executives agree that more retailers will continue to turn stores into fulfilment centres that accommodate product returns. By 2023, 99 per cent of retailers plan to implement buy online/pick up in store to allow a more seamless fulfilment process.
- In APAC, 93 per cent of respondents agreed that accepting and managing product returns remain a challenge. Reverse logistics remain underdeveloped and significant opportunities for improvement remain. Today, 58 per cent of retail respondents add a surcharge for returns, and 71 per cent have no plans to change this in the future. Meanwhile, 71 per cent of survey respondents agree that more retailers will turn stores into fulfilment centres that can accommodate product returns.
- Today, 55 per cent of organisations are still using inefficient, manual pen-and-paper based processes to enable omnichannel logistics. By 2021, handheld mobile computers with barcode scanners will be used by 99 per cent of respondents for omnichannel logistics. The upgrade from manual pen-and-paper spreadsheets to handheld computers with barcode scanners or tablets will improve omnichannel logistics by providing more real-time access to warehouse management systems.
- Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and inventory management platforms are expected to grow from 32 per cent today to 95 per cent in 2028. RFID-enabled software, hardware and tagging solutions, offer up-to-the-minute, item-level inventory lookup, heightening inventory accuracy and shopper satisfaction while reducing out of stocks, overstocks and replenishment errors.
- Future-oriented decision makers revealed that next generation supply chains will reflect connected, business-intelligence and automated solutions that will add newfound speed, precision and cost effectiveness to transport and labour. Surveyed executives expect the most disruptive technologies to be drones, driverless/autonomous vehicles, wearable and mobile technology, and robotics.
In association with the launching of the report, Zebra introduced a new mobile printer and RFID tool that will help drive better efficiencies both on and off-premise. Zebra says the new ZQ300 Series mobile printers empower workers in the field, in the warehouse or on the retail floor with on-demand printing capabilities. Meanwhile, the FX9600 fixed UHF RFID readers will enable enterprises to keep up with high volumes of cargo movements in the warehouse or dock doors.
Zebra Technologies Corporation has released the results of its 2017 Asia Pacific Manufacturing Vision Study, analysing the emerging trends shaping the future of industrial manufacturing.
The regional study found that the number of manufacturers supporting a fully connected factory would nearly triple by 2022. This means 46 per cent anticipate having the capability in five years’ time.
Manufacturers will continue to adopt Industry 4.0 and the smart factory. Workers will use a combination of radio frequency identification (RFID), wearable technologies, automated systems and other emerging technologies to monitor the physical processes of the plant and enable companies to make decentralised decisions. APAC manufacturers will lead the way globally, with 77 per cent of respondents expecting to collect data from production, supply chain, and workers in a holistic manner by 2020, compared to 46 per cent doing so today.
Executives across APAC cited achieving quality assurance as their top priority over the next five years. Forward-looking manufacturers are embracing a quality-minded philosophy to drive growth, throughput and profitability. In a sign that improvements made by both suppliers and manufacturers will ultimately boost the quality of finished goods, fewer respondents say quality-related issues will be a top concern in the future. Today, 55 per cent of manufacturers see quality as a top concern, but this falls to 35 per cent in 2022.
Manufacturers expect to expand the level of technology use between now and 2022, specifically mobile technology (27 per cent vs 72 per cent), wearable technology (33 per cent vs 65 per cent), location tracking (38 per cent vs 51 per cent), and voice technology (45 per cent vs 51 per cent).
Forty-two per cent of the manufacturers expect investments in visibility technology to spur growth. Fifty-five per cent will implement real-time location systems (RTLS) and 48 per cent plan to use RFID by 2022, providing the much-needed transparency across their operations.
By 2022, 44 per cent of manufacturers expect to enable Just-In-Time (JIT) notifications for their customers. The request will increasingly come from the high-tech (48 per cent), pharmaceutical (40 per cent), automotive (35 per cent), and food & beverage (36 per cent) industries.
Vice president and general manager of Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific Ryan Goh said:
“Manufacturers are entering a new era where there are increasing expectations of faster and higher quality production along with highly competitive margins. This trend is especially relevant for Asia Pacific – a region often regarded as the manufacturing hub of the world. The Zebra APAC Manufacturing Vision Study shows that savvy manufacturers have started to invest in smart factory technologies to reap benefits such as enhanced productivity, increased visibility, and the ability to predict demands. As we move toward Industry 4.0, this trend will continue to expand and shape the industry in the coming years.”
GS1‘s supply chain conference, Impetus 2008, will bring together international and Australian experts to discuss key topics in supply chain management, including strategies for food businesses to cope with a 21th century pandemic such as SARS or avian influenza, major health reform, and automation of the meat and fresh produce aftermarket.
The conference will also focus on data capture technologies, hearing from Simon Langford, director of EPC Strategies at Wal-Mart, who will illustrate strategy and learnings with EPC/RFID at the major US retailer and the ‘Sam’s Club’ wholesale club chain. Dr Sanjay Sarma, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will discuss the latest developments in RFID technology across the international market, and its implications for Australian businesses.
Running concurrently will be a free trade show, the Impetus Expo, featuring the latest supply chain and technology products from more than 30 GS1 Australia Alliance Partners and associates.
The two-day conference will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of GS1 Australia, with the GS1 Australia Supply Chain Excellence Awards to be presented at the event.
The Australian Defence Force has adopted an e-logistics
solution to enhance its supply chain visibility.
Logistics management is an inherently complex process, involving the management of moving and positioning inventory throughout a supply chain. Currently there are many significant logistics trends affecting Australian business with the aim of managing this complex process. Some examples are Lean thinking, RFID technology, use of 4PLs, global supply chains, and free trade agreements, to name just a few.
However, there is a trend that I believe underpins and enables the examples just described and affects Australian business in the way they conduct business now and in the future. This trend is towards the use of e-logistics to enable collaboration. E-logistics solutions for organisations are increasingly being developed and implemented with the aim of improving the complex process of logistics management through increased information flow and collaboration in a supply chain.
What is e-logistics and collaboration?
The use of ‘e’ was first seen in the 1990s through home shopping via the internet, with ‘e’ business marketed as the way of the future. Unfortunately, it did not receive the anticipated response that was hoped, due to slow communication equipment available at the time, and a lack of consumer understanding. Jump forward to 2006, and ‘e’ has continued to develop with many companies now offering ‘e’ business options and solutions to customers and suppliers, through banking services to the purchase of retail goods. Just look at how popular eBay has become.
However, the term e-logistics is a comparatively recent development and a logical progression of ‘e’. A widely accepted definition of e-logistics has not yet been developed, though in its simplest form, e-logistics is simply the processes necessary to transfer goods sold over the internet to customers. Alternatively, in a more complex form e-logistics is a wide-ranging topic, related to supply chain integration using the internet as the communications medium. This article will focus on e-logistics in the broadest sense of integrating the elements of a supply chain through the electronic transfer of information to enable collaboration.
Collaboration is currently a theme that organisations are looking to implement in their logistics processes, with e-logistics seen as a tool to provide improved collaboration and information flow in a supply chain. Collaboration can be defined as the ability to share information regarding business activities and interact on a close to real-time basis in the supply chain. It provides greater visibility of the supply chain, which then provides a greater ability to measure supply chain effectiveness by all organisations involved.
Collaboration by an organisation can be internal and external. Many Australian organisations have implemented internal collaboration solutions to improve their business and information flow through the use of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that align an organisation’s internal business process, such as forecasting, sales, and inventory management. However, older and some current versions of ERP software do not integrate external supply processes with an organisation’s suppliers or retailers. This is an opportunity that organisations need to look at addressing.
A number of e-solutions to enable external collaboration have been designed over the past decade, such as efficient consumer response and vendor-managed inventory, however, these systems were single-minded in their approach as opposed to viewing the whole of the supply chain to enable collaboration. Electronic data interchange (EDI) was seen as the e-solution to enable external collaboration by connecting companies with their suppliers and retailers and sharing information. However, each supplier required EDI to communicate effectively, and the implementation of EDI was considered costly for small companies.
A number of new e-solution initiatives to enable external collaboration have been designed such as collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR) software, with overseas organisations such as Gamble and Proctor and Wal-Mart implementing it. There is also middleware collaboration software available, with Siemens adopting a web-based collaboration system to share business data with its customers and suppliers, while still being able to use its existing ERP system. The installed system is comparatively cheap and expected to pay for itself in six months.
CPFR, current ERP systems and web-based collaboration software are all e-logistic solutions, assisting organisations to enable collaboration with their trading partners and to enjoy the benefits available from collaboration.
What are the benefits to Australian business?
The benefit of integrating manufacturing, purchasing, warehousing, sales and logistics functions has long been recognised. Over the past 20 years, several approaches have been taken to improve relationships between the various players in a supply chain. These have included vendor-managed inventory, quick response, and just-in-time.
The aim of all of these initiatives is to enable the sharing of data, to allow early identification of trouble spots and therefore allow managers to take prompt action to mitigate risk. While initial efforts involved vertically integrated operations ‘in-house’, later attempts focused on external partnerships, with each organisation managing its portion of the supply chain and monitoring its partners to ensure contractual obligations were fulfilled.
More recently, and in order to optimise the entire supply chain network and not just create locally optimised arrangements for one or two partners, strategic partnerships with suppliers and customers have become more prevalent. The widespread acceptance and use of the internet and more flexible systems in electronic commerce has enabled these collaborative relationships to be widely adopted.
Progressive Australian businesses are moving from the ‘need to know’ mentality to a more open attitude of relevant information-sharing with supply chain partners.
It has been researched that collaborative supply chain management not only reduces waste in the supply chain, but also increases responsiveness, customer satisfaction and competitiveness among all members of the partnership. Thus collaborative supply chain management can transform a business and its partners into more competitive organisations and provide a competitive advantage in their chosen market.
Specific advantages through utilising e-logistic solutions (CPFR, middleware software) for collaboration include integrating business practices amongst trading partners by using internet technology to reduce inventory and expenses, enhanced shipment data visibility, improved production planning, building stronger relationships with suppliers, increased level of forecasting accuracy, and linking demand with supply planning. However, it needs to be noted that trust and interdependency are key elements amongst collaborative partners who see collaboration as a strategic asset to achieve competitive advantage.
Are there any issues?
Like any trend, there are issues for a business to be aware of in implementing an e-logistics collaboration system. Two primary issues are trust and interdependency.
One of the fundamental paradigm shifts exhibited by leading firms in the transformation of their supply chain capabilities is the move from information hoarding to sharing. A key issue of this is that information sharing is heavily dependent on trust, beginning within the business and extending to supply chain partners. Information sharing may take many forms, including the exchange of data files and provision of direct access to databases.
Trust needs to be fostered in a collaborative relationship for it to be successful. Attaining the required levels of trust between trading partners for collaboration to work is not easy. A lack of complete trust between trading partners can create an adversarial supply chain relationship. The possibility of sensitive data from one company being used to the other companies’ advantage creates mistrust. A lack of trust between partners will result in limited collaboration, which will affect each organisation’s supply chain effectiveness.
However, to ensure trust is part of a collaborative relationship, a company should ensure that ground rules for that relationship are stated and formalised in written documents. This is achieved through non-disclosure agreements, partnership agreements and service level agreements. The active management of formalised agreements, joint planning and regular communication of all factors will ensure trust in a collaborative relationship. Further, organisations need to develop an e-business collaboration strategy with senior management support to enable collaboration to work.
As organisations become more collaborative, they are also becoming more interdependent with their trading partners. This raises the issue of managing each of these relationships or interdependencies. Part of relationship management includes identifying what each partner will gain by entering into a relationship. This needs to be clearly articulated and agreed to by each partner for the relationship to be successful.
However, as with any relationship, who has the power in a relationship can become a factor and the influence they exert on the relationship needs to be understood, particularly in a supply chain that has a series of relationships with differening levels of influence. An overseas example is that Wal-Mart has mandated that its suppliers will implement RFID if they are to supply to it. This example demonstrates the power one organisation can exert on a supply chain, with its trading partners needing to adopt its mandate or suffer lost trade.
Consequently, an organisation needs to fully understand the relationship it is entering into and how the collaboration will benefit its organisation.
Are there Australian businesses adopting this trend?
Two Australian organisations, Australia Post and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) have seen the opportunities provided by this trend and have used e-logistics successfully to enable collaboration with their customers and suppliers. Australia Post has been developing new e-logistics systems and protocols to improve the interface between its domestic distribution businesses of Parcel Post and Express Post and its joint-venture distribution businesses Star Track Express and Australian air Express.
Part of this new system includes increased security, which is a vital aspect of the postal industry with millions of personal and business letters and parcels moving throughout the supply chain on a daily basis. However, through collaboration with suppliers, other postal organisations and Government agencies, the use of internet technology is now being used to provide track and trace, enhance mandated security measures and improve customer service.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has adopted an e-logistics solution to collaborate with supply chain partners in order to increase supply chain visibility for deployed operations, through the use of a Lotus Notes-based application. This application is used to order and monitor high priority equipment orders on an operation, and has been successfully used in the Middle East, Afghanistan and East Timor. It provides ‘real-time’ visibility of an order and where it currently is in the supply chain.
This e-logistics application has enabled Defence to be in a collaborative relationship with Defence contractors, Defence suppliers, transport and distribution organizations and finally the customer, are all supporting a common aim of providing equipment to an operation in the most efficient way.
During the implementation of the package it was noted that trust had a direct impact on the level of collaboration between Defence and its contractors. This was due to sensitive Defence information being shared. Consequently, Defence contractors were required to sign non-disclosure statements before being able to gain access to the application.
Defence and Defence contractors were also aware that by increasing collaboration through an e-logistics application there would be increased risks. However, many of the risks were identified early such as access control to sensitive data and downtime of software, with risk mitigation strategies established and implemented before implementation.
With ADF deployments increasing and more equipment resources required, the ADF has recognised that greater collaboration is required with all organisations involved in the supply chain, if it is to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction to ADF personnel on operations.
Although e-logistics is a relatively recent trend, its effectiveness for enabling collaboration with trading partners in a supply chain is an advantage and opportunity that Australian businesses need to consider how they can adopt into their business. As described, the advantages and opportunities of adopting e-logistics to enable collaboration will enhance a business’s logistic processes whilst increasing competitive advantage in their chosen market. This is a trend that will assist the contemporary Australian supply chain manager in dealing with the complex logistics environment.
Squadron Leader George Hodgson is the Caribou Through Life Support Manager at the RAAF’s Air Lift System Program Office and a past winner of the Logistics Association of Australia’s Logistics Development Award.
Excerpted from MHD Supply Chain Solutions, May/April 2008, pp.44-6.
Australian company Syscan International has developed a system that enables RFID tags to communicate with other tags, creating ad-hoc networks.
The system called iCE (intelligent Communication Enbled) allows reliable data acquisition based on IEEE 802.15.4.
The technology designed to address the typical RFID constraints such as read reliability, read range and energy consumption.
iCE enables tags to communicate to other tags, creating ad-hoc networks.
Syscan’s iCE invention is claimed to ensure reliable data reads, increased read range, communication bridges, dynamic bi-directional network communications, and low cost, since only one reader is needed.
Typical RFID can have unreliable data reads, limited read range and struggle with metal, liquids and humidity. It also takes higher power consumption, does not provide dynamic communication and is ideally suited for static systems only. Users also require multiple readers and antennae at every tag read point.
iCE can provide mobile Resource Management (MRM), Container Management, Supply Chain Visibility and asset tracking.
The system uses a master–slave relationship, where the master is used to read the slave tags that are assigned to it. This inter-relationship is used to improve performance, battery life and range. Using this system, iCE can achieve up to a 350-metre read range. The slave tags report to the master that in turn reports to the iCE UMCD (universal monitoring and communication device) or iCE reader.
Using a GPRS Cellular network, the iCE UMCD-G sends the information it has gathered, including tag identification, GPS location and sensor data to the Syscan server where it provides real-time non-conformance information at the point of activity (i.e. temperature violations, door alarms). In non-moving applications, existing Wi-Fi network connections can be used to transfer the data.
Users have direct access to the data via the Syscan server and can view the information via Internet connection or integrate the information in their own software. As well email, text messages and phone alerts to problems are always accessible.
Using a company network or internet connection the iCE UMCD-E sends the information it has gathered to the Syscan server where it provides real time non-conformance information at the point of activity (i.e. temperature violations, door alarms, etc.).
Users have direct access to the data via the Syscan server and can view the information via an internet connection or integrate the information into their own software. Email, text messages and phone alerts can be added as an option.
iCE Reader Serial
Linked to a computer, the iCE Reader Serial can be used to read iCE tags directly.
EastPack, one of the largest Kiwi Fruit pack houses in New Zealand, has implemented a revolutionary new RFID and indoor vehicle management supply chain solution. Combining RFID, indoor vehicle tracking, mobile data capture and inventory management software, the system has already achieved an ROI for EastPak just months after its deployment.
The new approach was designed, developed and deployed by Peacock Bros. for EastPack who needed more than just ‘point of activity’ tracking of RFID pallets to fulfill their supply chain visibility requirements. The resultant supply chain management system now tracks the movement of all of the forklifts and pallets within centimeters, every second of the day in every facility. Continuous monitoring of activities allows for full inventory reporting on where the stock is located, quantity, expiry date and much more, as well as analysing the performance of indoor vehicles such as forklifts to ensure optimal efficiencies within the warehouses.
This is made possible by the forklifts being fitted with Sky-trax optical cameras that identify the relative location of position markers suspended from the warehouse ceiling. The location information is fed to a vehicle mounted mobile computer that continuously relays data such as location, speed and direction to the main warehouse management system. By adding automated RFID pallet tag readers and height sensors to the forklift, the warehouse system now knows the location and height of the tagged pallets even if they are in motion onboard the forklift.
EastPack maintains three warehouses containing 42 refrigerated storage rooms, receiving, storing and dispatching as orders are placed. The system was deployed throughout their entire operation incorporating 25 forklifts, which last year moved over 13.5 million trays of Kiwi fruit. Donna Smit, EastPak’s company administrator said, “We have already moved over 2 million more trays than this time last year due to the new system.
“Knowing the exact location of a pallet at any given time is vital”, she said. “Because Kiwi fruit is a perishable product, we have to be sure that the pallet taken by the forklift is the right one every time.
“Previously warehouse staff read a barcode with a scanner and manually typed in the pallets location, the problem was we could not depend on the accuracy of the information being entered and interpreted.”
Warehouse operational efficiency has improved dramatically thanks to the Sky-trax OPSMan monitoring program integrated into EastPack’s own warehouse management system, which provides the warehouse manager a real-time view of the vehicles’ movements and stock locations. Because all activities are now being monitored to an accuracy of 5sq cm, the system can provide reports on vehicle use effectiveness, stock status and warehouse layout practicality, greatly assisting in the day to day operations of a high activity environment.
Additional OH&S benefits can be retrieved from this solution, including the ‘breadcrumb trail’ function that will identify the heavily congested sections within a warehouse. Proximity alerts can be added when approaching a pedestrian area, and even an optional speed limiter fitted to reduce accidents with pedestrians or other forklifts.
The system is scalable and will fit into any warehouse or distribution centre that requires around-the-clock inventory accuracy and above the norm return on investment.