Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model establishes automated warehouse systems that boost worker productivity

Stage 4 of Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model

Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model is a five-phase approach toward warehouse modernization that drives productivity and lowers costs. The framework breaks the modernization process into manageable steps. It helps warehousing industry leaders introduce automated warehouse systems based on where their management systems are today.

In this article, we explore Stage 4 of the Warehouse Maturity Model by Zebra Technologies and its benefits. You can also find resources on the other stages of the framework at the bottom of this page.

Stage 4: Target Use of Real-Time Visibility

The first three stages of Zebra’s five-stage Warehouse Maturity Model focus on the fundamentals of warehouse operations. As a result, they lay a foundation to increase the productive capacity of individual employees and the efficiency of common workflows.

As we enter Stage 4, we’re building on those efforts to embrace large-scale changes and game-changing technologies. Thus, the goal is building resilient automated warehouse systems that are fully capable of meeting changing customer demands.

In Stage 3, we talked about using technology like radio frequency identification (RFID) and fixed industrial scanners. Their purpose was to automate data capture and deliver enhanced visibility into operations.

Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS)

Stage 4 is all about expanding visibility with real-time locating systems (RTLS). They give you an end-to-end picture of operations and allow you to make full use of that real-time data to impact the entire operation.

This is a big step for most businesses, so it’s worth taking a careful look at your operations to decide if you’re ready. Here are a few things that will tell you it’s time to consider the capital and resources required for Stage 4:

  • Do you need more comprehensive data to anticipate changes and improve decision-making?
  • Is a lack of visibility of devices, assets, and workers resulting in poor utilization rates or excessive downtime?
  • Are your current systems consistently able to support the automation of frontline tasks?
  • To make further operational improvements, do you need more data and information than you’re getting from your existing systems?
  • Are there additional workflows that you can automate to lower costs or boost efficiency?
  • Are you able to easily coordinate warehouse activities with other operations, including supply chain partners?

Do your answers reveal a need for more real-time information? Have already tackled Stage 3 basics? Then, your company is ready for Stage 4.

This is where we’ll focus on automating the visibility of resources. It will help your organization better manage and optimize critical assets, streamline operations, and create more efficient workflows.

Factors Affecting Your RTLS Hardware Option Choices

To do this, you’ll need to consider a complete portfolio of industry-leading RTLS hardware options. The technology you select for a specific application is generally dependent on two main factors:

  • Location accuracy: Some technologies can track items within a zone. This is helpful when you need to track simple events but don’t need precise location data. An example of such an event is the arrival of a pallet into the warehouse. Other technologies can track an item’s location with great precision, down to a meter or less. This is necessary in situations where precise location data is required.
  • Update rates: Not all systems require real-time information. For example, once a pallet is known to be stored in a specific rack location, you don’t need to continuously update its location. But other situations will require frequent updates to track the exact location of assets or inventory as they move through areas of your operation. Your business may require it hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, or even continuously in real time.

As you evaluate your RTLS needs, you’ll be looking at a range of technologies. They include active and passive radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solutions, and others. So, let’s take a brief look at some of these technologies.

Active & Passive RFID

RFID is an automatic identification technology where digital data is encoded in an RFID tag or “smart label.” The, a reader captures this information via radio waves. RFID does not require the reader to “see” the tag to read its stored data. This is one of the key characteristics of an RFID system. RFID is also dynamic, meaning you can update the data on the tag, unlike a conventional barcode which cannot be changed. 

Active RFID tags have their own power supply (usually a battery) and transmitter to broadcast a signal to the RFID reader. Compared to passive tags, active tags can store more data. They also have a longer read range and are an excellent choice for high-accuracy solutions that require tracking in real time. Of course, due to the need for a battery, active RFID tags are generally more expensive.

Passive RFID tags have no power source; they’re powered by radio waves when they come within range of an RFID reader. Passive RFID tags are generally limited to providing basic identification information. However, they can be very small, are relatively low cost, and have a life span of up to 20 years or more. 

Ultra-Wideband (UWB) Technology

UWB tags can provide a high level of location accuracy over a medium range with a high number of transmission times. As a result, they enable the exact location in real time. They can provide basic identification, as well as position and other sensor data.

Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE)

BLE is built on the universal Bluetooth standard, which you are probably familiar with. These affordable beacons and tags are good for low-power applications and are readable from Bluetooth-enabled devices or smartphones. Beacons transmit location data to dedicated gateways or mobile devices, which use wireless networks to forward the information to enterprise applications.

ISO 24730

This is a 2.4 GHz wireless protocol. Its most common use is for asset tracking with a relatively slow update rate. Think minutes rather than seconds. It delivers better performance than standard Wi-Fi in industrial environments that have lots of barriers or equipment that interfere with wireless signals.

Regardless of the specific equipment, you end up using for your RTLS solution, you’ll need to pair it with enterprise software. The latter provides tools for configuring, managing, and troubleshooting the system.

This application will serve as the central hub for real-time location data captured by the RTLS infrastructure. It will also provide data to your other enterprise applications. You can even configure many RTLS applications to share data with supply chain partners or customers.

As you move through Stage 4 of the Warehouse Maturity Model, you’ll be implementing more significant changes. They will be on a larger scale than the ones you encountered in previous stages.

That’s a good reason to bring a partner with the specific hands-on experience needed to successfully implement RTLS solutions. So, consider giving ScanTexas a call to learn how we can assist you.

Learn More about Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model

To learn more about the other phases of the Warehouse Maturity Model, check out the links below: