IAA interviewed Wayne Harper, senior technical director, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific on on 2D imaging in the manufacturing and logistics sectors. By Mark Johnston.
IAA: Discuss the relevance of 2D imaging to the manufacturing/logistics sectors, and any insights on the steady shift toward the usage of 2D barcodes?
Wayne Harper (WH): Asian economies will continue to drive global growth. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asia Pacific region is expected to grow 5.3 percent in 2016, accounting for almost two-thirds of global growth.
As the region continues its growth momentum, technologies such as – but not limited to – 2D imaging will be key in helping manufacturing and logistics enterprises achieve greater efficiency, toward meeting rising demands and shorter lead times.
According to Zebra’s recent Warehouse 2020 APAC Vision Study, 41 percent of respondents cited shorter delivery times as a key measure requiring warehouse investment. Also indicative of increased consumer demand is the expected increase by 74 percent of those surveyed in the number of warehouse locations and volume of items shipped out of warehouses. Executives are also anticipating an increase in inbound items that will be barcoded in the next five years, from 59 percent of survey respondents in 2015 to 78 percent in 2020. The increase in shipment volumes and consumer demand is accompanied by the corresponding rise of technology investments. By 2020, 74 percent plan to invest in equipping staff with technology; 70 percent in barcode scanning; 69 percent in tablet computers and 72 percent in the Internet of Things (IoT).
There has been a steady shift in the industry toward using 2D barcodes, given its ability to encode significantly more data than 1D barcodes. Globally, the scanner market is experiencing an accelerated investment migration at 60 percent of revenues from traditional laser scanners to camera-based 2D imagers by 2018, exceeding industry expectations. 2D imagers also have grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10 percent, outpacing the laser market (-8 percent) and overall total handheld market (+5 percent).
IAA: What are the advantages of 2D scanners and how is this set to help manufacturing/logistics businesses to increase their efficiency?
WH: Businesses, including manufacturing and logistics, are increasingly dependent on the data embedded in barcodes to keep their operations running as smoothly as possible, across their supply chains. Such data provides the visibility into its assets companies need, and this intelligence allows businesses to act in response to market demand.
Using 2D barcodes and imaging solutions designed for warehouse operations and highly specialised supply chains, businesses can respond in real-time to customer demands, inventory turnover and regulatory requirements. For manufacturers, imaging solutions speed up delivery, reduce waste, control costs and improve customer service.
With 2D imagers, companies can ‘Get More, Do More’ with one device. Such scanners boast capabilities of reading the whole spectrum of barcodes – including 1D traditional printed, 2D traditional printed, GS1 DataBar used in Point-Of-Sale (POS) scanning, high-density barcodes, and all mobile and electronic barcodes. In addition to its versatility, 2D imagers can read barcodes even if they are poorly printed, torn, smudged, shrink wrapped, or damaged. They also offer omni-directional scanning which allows data capture from more angles, enhance near-range scanning, and the ability to read multiple barcodes in a single trigger pull.
These abilities minimise the time taken to recognise barcodes, increasing efficiency in manufacturing and logistics sector – for which productivity is a key way to extract mileage for sustained growth.
IAA: What is the importance of Enterprise Asset Intelligence?
WH: Simply understood as the ability to gain visibility and track critical assets within their operations, Enterprise Asset Intelligence gives enterprises the ability to see into every corner of their operations. Our solutions enable enterprises to make smarter, faster decisions to improve their bottom lines, by increasing their ability to track critical assets and know exactly what they are, where they are, and their conditions.
Going beyond the historical recognition of Zebra as a reliable product company, we want to be known as an innovative solution partner that is leading the way in the growing category of Enterprise Asset Intelligence. By providing ‘Visibility that is Visionary,’ the company provides actionable insights for our customers, delivering our promise of helping businesses to be as smart and connected in the world we live in.
We are leading this evolution through the operational framework of ‘sense, analyse, and act.’ Our solutions automatically ‘sense’ information from enterprise assets, such as packages moving through a supply chain, equipment in a factory or workers in a warehouse. Operational data from these assets, including status, location, utilisation, or preferences, is then ‘analysed’ to provide actionable insights. These insights can then be mobilised to the right person at the right time so they can be ‘acted’ upon to drive better, more timely decisions by users anywhere at any time.
Ultimately, we want to empower our customers with Visibility that is Visionary, by providing smarter, more visible environments that help them optimise today, plan for tomorrow and see into the future.
IAA: How is Zebra Technologies helping manufacturing/logistics players gain visibility so that they can make smarter, faster decisions that improve their bottom line?
WH: The benefits of this real-time visibility are wide-ranging, with positive impact on Transport & Logistics (T&L) and manufacturing – key sectors in the APAC market.
Zebra provides T&L businesses with increased supply chain visibility, more efficient operations and improved IT effectiveness. Our T&L solutions enable efficient and accurate freight and cargo tracking using real-time data to optimise routing and ensure delivery of all assets to its final destination. We equip professionals both in the field and at facilities, with next generation devices and applications that help organisations know where products or packages are in the delivery chain. This helps businesses in the sector to exceed customers’ expectations; grow revenue and know where trucks and drivers are located to enable safer and more effective operations.
Zebra captures more data from more sources allowing workers to automate and streamline workflows, enhance flexibility to respond to customer demand and help manage risk. Each step reduces the time that parcels and products spend onsite – increasing traffic and revenue.
A simpler network empowers IT teams to move beyond troubleshooting and unleash their true capabilities. With reduced complexity and applications that are simple to deploy, manage and evolve, IT teams can spend less time keeping the parts connected and more time servicing business needs.
Zebra gives businesses visibility into their manufacturing processes and maximises profitability, creating room for growth, which would ultimately improve their bottom line. Our manufacturing solutions capture, track and trace materials, verify parts and production schedules, and improve inventory controls, boosting productivity and ensuring materials get where they need to go.
Our solutions allow manufacturers to modernise into highly connected, agile, information-driven factories that can respond quickly and intelligently to change and realise potential for new revenue growth and customer satisfaction.
Our solutions also help manufacturers achieve:
- Intelligent Production – Creating deeper, broader integration points, to make warehouse processes more effective.
- Flawless Fulfillment – Enabling of greater visibility so manufacturers can get the right goods, to the right place at the right time every time – allowing businesses to more quickly capitalise on working capital.
- Dynamic Service – Ensuring products can hit store shelves and consumers’ hands in an efficient manner in order to better support manufacturers’ efforts to help their customers provide exceptional customer service.
Our warehousing solutions provide real-time actionable intelligence in a constantly shifting supply chain landscape and can sense what is happening with analytics on the location and condition of personnel, goods and assets. The company’s flexible warehousing solutions seamlessly integrate with customer supply chains to create a more agile and effective organisation that can exceed operational expectations.
Customers can proactively respond to changing environments and customer demand; act confidently with real-time, predictive insights and quickly implement strategic changes in their supply-chain with instantaneous communication.
IAA: With the advent of IoT, what future do you see for barcodes?
WH: The company’s transformation as a leader in Enterprise Asset Intelligence is driven by mega trends, such as IoT. At the same time, Asia Pacific, including Singapore is fast becoming the frontline for IoT, and Zebra is leading as an enabler in this space.
By 2020, more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the IoT. By then, the market for IoT devices is expected to reach nearly 21 billion connected devices. We believe that IoT will continue to be an enabler delivering optimal performance, insightful engagement and smart mobility. Furthermore, today’s mobile technologies and the IoT offer enterprises the ability to accelerate productivity, profitability and operations with solution tailored specifically to their business processes.
Organisations are increasingly aware of IoT’s importance – in a 2016 study commissioned by Zebra, 96 percent of surveyed T&L companies agree that the IoT is the most strategic technological initiative their organisation will undertake this decade. According to the company’s recent Warehouse 2020 APAC Vision Study, 78 percent of those surveyed expected increased investment in real-time location systems that track inventory and assets in 2020.
We believe that there is great potential for barcodes in this age of Big Data. Barcodes are still very relevant to businesses as they offer the most basic form of visibility and tracking. And as the scanners that read these barcodes are in turn connecting devices, 2D imaging is making tremendous waves in the global business sector. A recent market study estimated that 2D imagers will account for nearly 52 percent of the global industrial barcode scanner market by 2020.
The superior performance offered by 2D barcodes – such as the ability to encode significantly more data; and 2D imagers’ ability to provide various-added functions allow companies to ‘Get More’ information and data, which they can use to ‘Do More’ business with the data captured. These functions, ranging from mobile marketing, loyalty applications, image capture, to optical character recognition enable companies across industries to reduce errors, increase asset visibility and reduce losses in the entire value chain.
IAA: What productivity improvements can a company expect from employing 2D imaging technology? Do you have any case examples you could share?
WH: Businesses depend on the data embedded in barcodes to keep their lines running and their processes flowing. But in industrial environments, barcodes may be scanned in less-than-perfect conditions. Besides the possibility of getting damaged, torn, and smudged, barcodes may also be covered by shrink wrap or condensation (in freezers or outdoor environments). They may also be placed in hard-to-reach places such as on pallets or packages stored high up on shelves. All these scenarios can pose a challenge for barcode scanning.
Productivity is lowered in situations where a scanner is not able to read barcodes or read them quickly within a wide working range. In addition, processes are compromised and are more subject to user error as the need for manual entry increases.
The superior scan performance provided by 2D imaging technology such as Zebra’s 3600 Series enable workers to scan faster and 20 percent further than other scanners in the category.
Scanners that are optimised to read smaller barcodes are especially handy in the manufacturing setting, helping manufacturers to obtain the data they need — even as parts and components become smaller. Optimised to read extreme density barcodes, the company’s DS4308-XD can capture 1D, 2D on various media from near contact to as far as six inches away. These media include those printed on paper, plastic, metal and electronic sub-components such as the Printed Circuit Boards (PCB), or memory chips.
Furthermore, it also reads small direct marks printed on non-reflective surfaces, and barcodes displayed on mobile devices or computer screens. Its superior aiming technology makes accurate aim easy for the tiniest and densest barcodes. With all these features of the DS4308-XD, data capture is made easy, fast, and accurate, allowing businesses to save time and be more productive and efficient.