Modernization is, to pardon the pun, a somewhat old phrase. Derived from French in about 1770, there really is nothing new about it! In your professional experience, you might be thinking you’ve been modernizing for your entire career. But in the context of modern logistics and DC processes, it refers to a specific “trend,” if you will, of not just updating specific systems with new equipment and software, but a more significant step of evolving from a set of legacy technologies to an entirely new type of system.
It Used to Be Easy
Perhaps the defining characteristic of Modernization is the conversion from using green screens on devices like mobile computers to using a modern GUI like a touchscreen. The reason that this single update is central to Modernization lies in the fact that it is one thing that in many cases can be accomplished without upgrading the actual equipment (i.e., scanners).
Today, we’ll focus on the green screen migration as it is central to any plan to update your facility and its equipment. There are also many examples of new equipment that are part of defining Modernization. So, yes, you can always bypass updating old equipment with new interfaces by investing in new mobile hardware like new handhelds and tablets (i.e., the Zebra TC8000 Mobile Terminal) that offer additional productivity benefits, but justification process works best from the “lowest-cost-of-entry” approach.
Why Modernize Now?
There are a lot of reasons to modernize. Unlike past efforts to update your equipment with incremental improvements that provide marginal returns, these are about creating potentially major process changes and generating larger returns much faster. This is not surprising, as green screen apps rely on emulators originally devised back in the 1970s. In the almost 50 years since then, interface advancements have improved usability, reliability, responsiveness, and ergonomics of mobile computers while green screens have remained essentially unchanged.
- No Coding Required. For many businesses, the time and expense of creating new interfaces (or hiring someone else to do it) have often been an obstacle, one that doesn’t exist any longer. Without the need for any middleware or a custom interface, screens can now be converted quickly and easily.
- Lower Training Costs. While younger people you hire will likely have never seen a green screen before (let alone used one), nearly everyone you hire will already be very familiar with new interfaces common with their personal experience with their laptops, tablets, and The archaic scrolling, tabbing, and key entry necessary to use older solutions are not only completely unfamiliar to them but might even be a barrier to hiring them. Save yourself training time and costs by implementing the type of user interface that is already familiar to them.
And for existing employees, the newer interface will also improve adoption and acceptance of new applications, reducing training time for those updates and upgrades too.
- Efficiency and Accuracy. Because green screen apps usually require multiple keystrokes and actions to enter data, replacing them simpler button-driven interfaces can save you several seconds per transaction. Multiplied over thousands of transactions during the 30-days before Christmas adds up to a Christmas gift to your bottom line. For example, take the picking process in a warehouse shipping 5,000 packages a day with an average of 2.5 items per shipment where picked items are manually scanned when picked:
5k packages x 2.5 = 12,500 scans x 3 seconds = 6.5hrs x 30 days = 195 hrs saved.
Assuming you are paying a burdened rate of $15/hour, that comes to nearly $3,000 in a single month. Apply the same rigor to measuring all of our processes and the starting point for your conversion process to modernization will make itself evident. And a contextual, menu-based workflow will not only make your employees more productive but probably happier too.
- Upgrades Made Easy. By virtue of being a browser-based solution, GUI apps give you the best of both worlds as the end user interface is not installed on the client PC. Updates and new features are immediately available to every device, and it translates into faster deployment and easier maintenance.
- Consolidation and Customization. The browser-based solutions now allow for centralized monitoring tools and dashboards that can be customized to provide relevant information to each type of end user depending upon their role – e., a staffer on the floor sees detailed data for their process area while a supervisor sees summary data and individual performance data for the whole facility. Because GUI displays can provide a central console for single-pane-of-glass management, users can filter options according to their needs or preference and easily right-click to drill down for details on specific metrics, tasks, etc. Finally, teams can even be broken up and list filtered, so some users only see jobs starting with XYZ, while other users only see jobs starting with ABC, making assignments by process area, wave, or other designations possible.
Where to Start in 2018
If you haven’t already made plans to begin modernization in 2018, how do you start now when budgets are already in place, and everyone is focused on outcomes, benchmarks, and objectives already? Like any major improvement that requires investment, start with documenting and measuring your current processes. If you don’t know what different tasks and processes cost you nor have analyzed them for things like repetitive touches, wasted movement, etc. then you have some low-hanging fruit to work with. Doing that will be the foundation for building a case for yourself that includes understanding what you would save in regards to labor costs, mistakes, etc. Measuring and understanding the steps and costs in each of your process areas is both the source of your starting point AND your ability to fund anything new you have not already budgeted for – with the variable costs saved above the line.
Finally, consult with your suppliers in this space. Ideally, they will have ample experience in modernization that includes the ability to assist with process analytics in addition to sourcing, implementing AND rolling out your new interface – and any new equipment that may turn out to be desired as part of the upgrade as well.
A well-thought-out analysis of your current systems and processes will spell out very clearly what the cost of modernizing is, AND what the cost of NOT modernizing will be – from wasted motion, employee turnover, extra training hours, less accuracy and higher maintenance costs.