Motorola Solutions’ study finds 66% of warehouses plan to expand technology investments by 2018

Surveyed warehouse IT and operations decision-makers cite growing need to increase worker productivity and automate, streamline processes.

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Motorola Solutions, a leading provider of communication solutions and services for enterprise and government customers, has announced the results of a research study that details shifts in the plans of warehouse professionals across several industries as they respond to new opportunities in the market and mounting pressures inside their organizations.

The Motorola Solutions Future of Warehousing Survey polled warehouse information technology and operations professionals in the manufacturing, retail, wholesale and third-party logistics (3PL) markets on the state of warehousing today and their vision for warehousing and distribution in the future.

“Warehousing and distribution have not traditionally been the most celebrated functions within leading businesses across manufacturing, retail and wholesale industries,” said Mark Wheeler, director of Warehouse Solutions, Motorola Solutions. “But the survey revealed that these functions are playing a more important role as businesses in these industries face new pressures to cut costs to enhance profitability and free up capital as well as drive competitive differentiation and business growth.”

Key facts:
Shifting perception of warehouses coincides with increased supply chain investments
● More than one-quarter (26%) of respondents reported that company management views warehouses and distribution centers as an asset that can drive growth for the business.
● By 2018, more than one-third of respondents (35%) plan to increase the number of warehouses and distribution centers they operate, representing a 71% increase from current expansion plans in action today.
● The most commonly cited reasons for the expansion of storage and distribution networks include a mix of cost-savings and revenue-growth initiatives such as, lower transportation costs (36%), shorter delivery times (35%), new suppliers and trading partner locations (31%) and heightened omni-channel pressures (11%).

Technology investment plans change as workflow requirements evolve
● During the next five years, approximately two-thirds (66% ) of respondents plan to increasingly automate processes by equipping staff with new technology solutions.
● As the industry moves to reduce order fulfillment costs and increase worker efficiency and productivity, the picking and replenishment solutions of the next five years will shift more toward true multimodal operation, with a 142% increase in the integration of voice-directed and screen-directed picking on flexible mobile devices along with a 113% increase for voice-, scan- and keyed-response workflows.
● Warehouse professionals expect a significant shift away from pen and paper-based processes (71% decrease) to handheld mobile computers and tablets (100% increase) for cycle counting and inventory validation by 2018.

Supply chain optimization initiatives focus on external compliance and internal agility
● The pace of supply chain re-evaluation and optimization is quickening as nearly two-thirds (67%) of respondents claimed that they are either constantly or annually re-evaluating their supply chain networks.
● While only 67% of items received at a warehouse are bar coded today, respondents expect supplier management initiatives and trading partner compliance requirements to drive higher utilization in the coming years – reaching an estimated 84% by 2018.
● Internal agility initiatives and the need for intuitive, adaptable and flexible solutions are increasing in importance. Organizations seek to reduce the average training time it takes a new worker to hit full productivity by 44%  (from 48 hours to 27 hours), while at the same time preparing employees to perform more types of procedures during a single shift as a result of a planned 60% increase in the use of task interleaving.

Survey background and methodology:
● A survey was targeted to IT and operational professionals in the logistics, manufacturing, retail and wholesale market segments who work for firms that have at least $15 million in annual revenues.
● The survey was designed to reveal current and planned experiences and processes related to their warehouse and/or distribution center.
● 328 respondents completed the survey without knowledge of Motorola Solutions’ sponsorship.  The Research Now Business panel represents a wide range of experienced employees who work in full-time positions.

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