5 WAYS NEW TECHNOLOGY
MAKES WAREHOUSE WORKERS
2Informs | 5 Ways New Technology Makes Warehouse Workers More Productive
Today’s warehouse and manufacturing environments need to keep up with growing challenges. For
most, the top two business goals are controlling costs by finding ways to do more with less labor hours,
and achieving the fastest production and delivery times possible to meet ever-evolving customer
expectations. When the competition steps up their game, it’s vital for you to match it to retain customers
— ensuring order fulfillment is not only fast but also accurate.
Workforce demographics are also changing: Millennial and Gen Z employees have virtually grown up
with technology and expect the same ease of use from the technology tools they use at work.
A key to meeting these challenges is letting go of outdated technology. By now, most enterprises have
realized the benefits of using wireless, handheld mobile devices instead of manual data entry and
paper forms. But technology has continued to evolve through the years, and companies that aren’t
taking advantage of the latest innovations are missing valuable opportunities to increase productivity.
The good news is that when you choose the right technology, you immediately optimize your other
resources. Here are five examples of how technology can make your employees more productive:
1 Employees Can Work Faster
One way that workers can complete tasks like order picking or inventory checking more
quickly is to eliminate wasted motions. For example, a gun-style scanner/mobile computer
requires the user to point the device at the barcode to scan it and then tilt the device in order
to be able to read the display screen and verify the information. That extra tilt motion may only
3Informs | 5 Ways New Technology Makes Warehouse Workers More Productive
take a second or two — but when a typical item pick requires repeating that motion an average
of three times, those seconds add up. At a rate of 120 picks per hour during an 8-hour shift,
that simple motion can account for at least 3,600 wasted seconds. That equals one whole hour,
per worker, per day, that is lost. Current state-of-the-art mobile computer technology offers a
more linear design and single-plane user interface that eliminates the necessity to “scan-and-
tilt,” recovering those wasted hours and creating a 14% increase in productivity.
Another advance that can eliminate wasted motions and help employees work faster is two-
dimensional (2D) imaging technology. Traditional 1D laser scanners have to be lined up with
the barcode in a specific orientation in order to read it properly. But 2D imagers (which can
read both 1D and 2D barcodes) are multidirectional and can read from longer distances as
well. Workers won’t have to turn items to orient barcodes or climb ladders to reach items on
upper shelves, which can save time during a shift. And unlike 1D scanners, 2D imagers can
read barcodes that have been damaged or are covered by plastic wrap, saving additional
time when scanning those items.
With employees scanning more quickly and efficiently, your operation will be more productive.
2 Employees Can Use New Technology More Easily
Providing your employees with devices that are more comfortable to use can also have a big
impact on productivity. Today’s innovative mobile computers have touchscreen, graphical
interfaces instead of the traditional legacy “green screen” and push-button keyboard
combinations. The newer displays are more like those found on smartphones and consumer
tablets that your employees are accustomed to using. According to the Pew Research
Center, 77% of U.S. adults (and 92% of 18- to 29-year-olds) now own smartphones. They are
familiar with graphical touch interfaces and prefer to use them on work devices as well as
4Informs | 5 Ways New Technology Makes Warehouse Workers More Productive
their personal ones.1 With devices that your workforce feels
comfortable using, you will also find new employees require
less training on their devices, saving time and money.
In addition to solutions that use touchscreen interfaces,
there is also technology that enables you to transform
your green screens into touch-based interfaces. Products
such as Zebra’s All-Touch Terminal Emulation (TE) can
convert your legacy green screen application into a
graphical, touchscreen user interface with no coding or
host application modification required. This transformation
simplifies processes and allows tasks to be completed with
fewer clicks, keystrokes, and screens to navigate, which
saves valuable time. Seasoned employees can work faster
and pick better with a more intuitive interface and new
employees can learn your team’s processes more quickly.
When evaluating a handheld computer’s ease of use, also
consider the design of the device itself. The industry’s most
advanced mobile computers are up to 33% lighter than
traditional models, reducing worker fatigue. They are even
designed to be used with gloved hands. Eliminating the tilt
motion during scanning also reduces muscle effort by 15% and
wrist motion by 55% — which decreases the risk of repetitive-
motion strain or injury that could sideline your employees.
1Pew Research Center, “10 facts about smartphones as the iPhone turns 10,” June 28, 2017.
5Informs | 5 Ways New Technology Makes Warehouse Workers More Productive
3 Employees Make Fewer Mistakes
Advanced handheld computer technology features such as intuitive touchscreen interfaces,
enterprise scanning functionality, and ergonomic design all contribute to a higher degree
of accuracy. All-touch keyboards are customizable for greater usability, and they can allow
workers to type up to 40% faster than push-button keypads — with up to 60% fewer errors.
Using 2D imaging technology also improves accuracy. The ability to scan any barcode, from
any orientation, even partially obscured or damaged ones, leads to fewer mistakes in picking
and shipping. A 2D imager can also read direct part marks and can provide superior track
and trace accuracy throughout the manufacturing process.
Upgrading your handheld computers can also provide you with new capabilities that further
reduce errors, such as voice-enabled applications. Warehouse picking procedures, for
example, can be done faster and more accurately with voice direction.
Improved accuracy throughout every stage of manufacturing and distribution ultimately
means fewer mistakes, less waste, more profits, and better customer relationships. It also
means greater productivity: The right item is in the right place at the right time, and workers
aren’t spending time correcting errors.
6Informs | 5 Ways New Technology Makes Warehouse Workers More Productive
4 Employees Don’t Lose Time to Device Downtime
Workers who rely on handheld computers to do their jobs will be less efficient if those devices
are constantly failing. Aging or outdated hardware can experience a variety of issues that
result in downtime:
• Loss of connectivity unrelated to the wireless network
• Batteries that no longer hold a charge or last through an entire shift
• Software glitches
• Slow processing speeds or responsiveness
These issues can cause frustration not only for floor workers but for the IT staff responsible
for dealing with the equipment. Upgrading your technology can eliminate these problems
and can provide new functionality to keep workers productive. And new hardware can be
easier to implement than you think. For example, Zebra’s TC8000 mobile computer comes
with All-Touch Terminal Emulation and Workforce Connect Push-to-Talk preinstalled and ready
to go. IT personnel will spend less time staging and deploying new devices like these — and
they will also save the time they are spending keeping out-of-date technology functional —
improving productivity in that department as well.
5 New Tech Will Force You to Re-evaluate Your Workflow
Another benefit of upgrading to new technology is that it requires examining the workflow of
your operation to identify areas where productivity needs to improve. Such an analysis can
help you find the right solution to provide maximum benefit to your processes, but it also may
shed light on aspects of your operation that need to change.
Your technology provider partner is a great resource for helping you identify and diagnose
pain points and recommend devices that will ensure your operations are as efficient as
possible. You and your provider can also look for new functions you can add to gain extra
benefits, such as voice-directed picking or voice data entry. A careful evaluation of your
workflow can also help you to spot hidden productivity drains, such as the “scan-and-tilt”
motion, and eliminate them.
7Informs | 5 Ways New Technology Makes Warehouse Workers More Productive
Holding on to old technology for too long can impede the productivity of your workforce, which can
decrease revenue and give you a disadvantage among your competitors.
If you could save an hour per worker, per day, how many more orders could you fill? When you
reduce errors and waste — of time, resources, and energy — how much will your business grow?
Implementing upgraded solutions with the features, ease of use, and power you need will more than
pay for themselves and streamline processes, increase customer and employee satisfaction, and
improve throughput volume, speed, and accuracy in the process.
It’s Time for Change
At Informs, everything revolves around the customer. We are part of your team, providing insightful
consulting and superior, cutting-edge solutions for data collection, management and tracking—all
uniquely tailored for you. We work with the top manufacturers to offer scanners, handheld mobile
computers, and printer and labeling solutions that fit your business needs. Our experienced team is
available to review your facility and processes, identify issues, and offer significant options to help you
improve efficiency. Contact us at www.informsinc.com.
Zebra builds tracking technology and solutions that generate actionable information and insight,
giving companies unprecedented visibility into their businesses by giving physical things a digital
voice. Zebra’s extensive portfolio of solutions give real-time visibility into everything from products and
physical assets to people, providing very precise operational data not only about where things are,
but what condition they are in. This allows business leaders to use data to make better, more informed
decisions, respond in real-time and ultimately, help businesses understand how they work, and how
they could work better.