Warehouse employee scanning goods using Zebra solutions in an intelligent warehouse

Intelligent Warehouse: Stage 5 of Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model

Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model helps warehousing industry leaders enhance the efficiency of their operations through modernization. Based on their current management systems, this 5-phase framework breaks the journey toward an intelligent warehouse into manageable steps.

We’ve reached the last installment covering the Warehouse Maturity Model by Zebra Technologies. See the bottom of this page for links to the articles that cover the first four stages of the Warehouse Maturity Model.

Stage 5: Achieve Predictive and Adaptive Operations

It’s never enviable when outside forces dictate the way your warehouse operates. However, if we’ve learned anything about business during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that disruptive forces often give us no choice but to react. Therefore, the effectiveness of our actions is often dictated by the groundwork we’ve laid in advance. Now, it is our ability to predict how systems and operations will react to changing circumstances.

Stages 1 through 4 drive insights and analysis that lead to proactive improvements in our warehouse management processes. Thus, they accelerate order fulfillment rates, drive down costs, enhance product storage and logistics, and more.

Meanwhile, Stage 5 leverages the fundamentals and real-time data that were built into our warehouse systems in the previous stages.

This isn’t to say that Stage 5 will lead us to a place where we never have to react to forces outside our control. Just consider how ongoing and ever-changing supply chain disruption affects every warehouse operation today.

You’ll understand that reactivity will always be part of our business. However, being more proactive will better prepare us to anticipate and adapt in real time to the ever-changing supply chain and customer needs.

Stage 5 is an advanced step that involves intelligent warehouse operations. If your company isn’t truly ready, you won’t capture the potential return from the investments in intelligence tools that Stage 5 brings along. So, as we did in Stage 4, we suggest evaluating your operation to determine if you’re ready to embark on Stage 5.

Evaluating Your Warehouse Processes

There are several questions you should ask in your evaluation, for example:

  • Are you using automated data capture tools and best-in-class mobile devices to collect location data on key assets throughout your operation?
  • Which challenges would benefit from automated decision-making?
  • Are you underutilizing the real-time data you’re collecting, still relying on manual analysis or interpretation?
  • Are your existing business rules heavily structured and would operations benefit from the use of algorithms that make complex decisions in real time?
  • Do you have access (either in-house or via technology partners) to AI and machine learning app development expertise?

You’ll know you’re ready for Stage 5 when the answers you provide to such questions reveal valuable data that’s not being fully utilized. You’ll also need more tools to help you extract, analyze, and proactively apply that information to optimize your processes.

Intelligent Warehouse Automation Solutions

The primary goal is to build intelligent warehouse automation solutions that rely on your sensor-based data collection and other systems. They drive algorithms that make key decisions about warehouse operations in real time. This is where the long-heralded benefits of AI and machine learning begin to impact your warehouse.

You can expect to expand the use of real-time location systems (RTLS) and fully integrate industrial automation solutions. They include fixed industrial scanners, machine vision cameras, and other intelligent edge sensors. They’ll drive data to behind-the-scenes intelligent automation systems that evaluate inputs from multiple systems in real time to decide how operations should proceed. For example, let’s consider some simple questions that an automated intelligence system could ask:

  • Have food products or pharmaceuticals stayed within a safe temperature range throughout the trip to a distribution center?
  • Does the weight of a carton in shipping match its expected weight?
  • Do package dimensions correlate with the shipping system?
  • Does a pallet or carton contain the correct number of items?

As these questions are evaluated, your Stage 5 AI systems will automatically detect exceptions. It will also direct next steps based on a range of inputs.

These are somewhat simplified examples of the types of automated intelligence you’ll be building in the final stage. As you advance, you’ll be looking at a range of solutions with the goal of tying your automated decision-making to a range of systems. They will range from your own WMS and ERP systems to the systems of your customers and suppliers.

Leverage Data to Achieve Resiliency

Ultimately, in Stage 5, your goal is to utilize every piece of data collected throughout your operation to automate decision-making. As a result, you become more proactive in your operations. This will enable you to become more efficient in your day-to-day operations. It will also give your business the resiliency needed to respond to outside challenges.

Moving into systems that rely on AI and machine learning is a big step for most companies. So, make sure you have a technology partner like ScanTexas ready to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us

Discover Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model

Find out more about the other stages of Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model: