Falcon Heavy rendering.
The United States is known for its pioneering spirit and its push to innovate. Americans push the limits, dream the impossible, and imagine the improbable. It’s not surprising that the Silicon Valley started here. Or that Elon Musk is there building amazing rockets including the Falcon Heavy and the upcoming BFR – “Big Freaking Rocket.” It’s also not surprising that the rest of the world is trying to simulate that creative push in their own context.
I recently saw this spirit in action at the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), an incubator within the Georgia Tech Campus here in Atlanta. A delegation from Thailand came to learn about the program with the idea of creating a similar ecosystem in their own country. Several big corporations have visited the ATDC to get schooled on fostering innovation within their organization and some have even moved headquarters to be near the center. For example, NCR has built an all-glass building right next to us and are moving employees in right now.
In that spirit, I believe that the warehouse should embrace a mobile, digital reality. We need to put tablet computers in the hands of warehouse managers, so they can walk around rather than be chained to their desks. In this new reality, managers can spend more time with their employees, troubleshoot issues, and help resolve problems ranging from printing labels to resolving data problems.
Of course, it is always not easy to get people to adapt new technology. There’s an element of change management. Further, you have to help them understand how the new technology adds value. When making any supply chain change, you need to be able to clearly quantify return on investment (ROI) and savings. As a technologist, I also always consider how others have succeeded or failed with the technology. Sometimes, we can learn something that we can apply to our next project or initiative.
Along those lines, I recently saw mobile workstations in a couple of warehouses I visited. I saw a couple at the outbound dock doors. One distributor had mounted big screens on the workstation and used that, rather than an RF device, to scan products. Basically, these looked like slightly smaller desks with wheels and a battery mounted on it. In theory, it allowed the warehouse manager to have everything normally on a desk, but also allowed the manager to locate the workstation at an optimal location. It seemed to me that the desk solution had the potential downside of lots of moving parts that could leave to breakage. At the same time, the managers seemed to like it. It made them mobile to some extent. At the same time, to my mind it doesn’t match up to having all the necessary information in their palm with a mobile device.
So, what has your experience been with these mobile workstations? Do you like the concept? Do you use them in your distribution centers? Are they adding value? Let us know in the comments section below.