Delivering essential goods? Add a robust supply chain to cart

With a population of almost 650 million[1] and the highest internet penetration rate in Asia Pacific[2], the ASEAN region is often considered to be the next gold rush for e-commerce[3]. With the ongoing pandemic, retailers are scrambling to meet the needs of the market as the demand for everyday goods, such as bread, eggs and even toilet paper surges. Across the ASEAN countries, the demand for online grocery and food delivery has increased rapidly. This has resulted in traditional supermarkets like Tesco and Cold Storage and even wet market grocers jumping on the bandwagon to provide improved delivery services[4].

While most retailers are used to consumption peaks during holidays and sales periods, the current situation creates significant challenges due to the unprecedented demand and workforce crunch.

To continue delivering essential goods to customers, supply chains must be robust and flexible. Warehouse staff are key to that flexibility, which entails accelerating the onboarding process with technological tools. Android mobile devices can help to speed up the training and onboarding of new warehouse workers. With a familiar user interface, mobile computer users will be able to get up to speed faster and carry out their jobs. This gives retailers and logistics companies the extra agility to adapt to the ongoing customer needs for essential goods.

What role does technology play here then?

Warehouse operators are likely to use different technologies such as mobile devices, augmented reality (AR) apps, head-mounted displays and other wearables that can quickly guide them directly to confirmed item locations, as they look to drive more productivity from their processes.

Android-based mobile computers give workers the intelligence needed to complete tasks efficiently and accurately – an edge that is crucial in today’s fast-moving warehousing environment. Devices are typically used 24/7/365 by shift workers in fast-paced warehouses where seconds matter. Mobile devices must have bigger batteries than traditional enterprise-grade mobile computers as they need to run for much longer before a hot swap or recharge is required. Each second of downtime can impact the flow of just-in-time fulfillment operations and reduce the pick rate. Devices must also be able to facilitate rapid data capture without compromising information accuracy, which is why the scanning capabilities of such mobile computers are crucial in improving productivity and efficiency.

However, many enterprise-grade mobile computers are unable to read barcodes from long distances. This can be a pressing issue for warehouse workers who are required to scan barcodes from up to 70 feet away, as well as forklift drivers who may need to do this from their vehicles.

Furthermore, not all enterprise-grade or ‘rugged’ devices are built to withstand constant or prolonged exposure to cold-chain freezing temperatures. This is where using the right device is key, such as a freezer-friendly model that includes a heated scanner exit window and a freezer-rated battery. However, this is not the only type of warehouse environment in which mobile computers can be of use. A Class 1 Division 2 (C1D2) non-incendive model, for example, would be suited for use in hazardous environments. 

Mobile devices can perform functions beyond just scanning, with growing numbers implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AR. We can see these trends in smaller use-cases today, most notably in relation to mobile computers and tablets. Despite this, people are increasingly looking at how enterprise-class, head-mounted displays can be integrated. By using smart glasses, workers can navigate warehouses, manage stock levels and quickly define tasks completely hands-free, which allows them to select products and physically place them on carts.

Once the products have been picked, sorted and packed at the warehouse, the next challenge is the facilitation of customer delivery or collection. Delivery is increasingly becoming the preferred fulfilment method for shoppers in this region. Mobile technologies that enable seamless delivery experiences are critical in ensuring that customers obtain the things they need, at the right place and time, and in a safe, contactless manner amidst the ongoing pandemic.  By empowering front-line workers with the right solutions at the edge of the enterprise, businesses can enhance their workers’ efficiency and improve operational workflows in order to stay competitive.