From Warehouse to Point of Purchase: Zebra's Innovative Inventory Solutions Enable Retail Visibility and Customer-Driven Fulfillment that Delights
3.9.18 Innovative Technologies

From Warehouse to Point of Purchase: Zebra’s Innovative Inventory Solutions Enable Retail Visibility and Customer-Driven Fulfillment that Delights

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: More than 90% of the top 100 global retailers have relied on Zebra Technologies over the last decade to enhance their competitive edge, improve their operational agility, and elevate the shopping experience for their customers. The company’s game-changing hardware and software solutions provide visibility into both customer-facing and back-room operations. Zebra boasts an extensive portfolio of easy-to-use mobile computers, tablets, scanners, and barcode printers that can be deployed at every step of a company’s supply chain to improve data collection. And through software and services available from Zebra and its partner ecosystem, companies can gain valuable insights to make more informed and efficient decisions based on real-time customer and business data.

Like many modern-day businesses, Whirlpool was suffering from a lack of visibility in its supply chain. A spreadsheet-based system was not adequate to keep tabs on all of its inventory in real-time, meaning orders were missed and associates were sent to retrieve merchandise that wasn’t there.

So, Whirlpool turned to Zebra Technologies and its Operational Visibility Service (OVS) to iron out its inventory issues. That included putting sophisticated devices in the hands of associates to track both real-time inventory and productivity.

“We can track actual utilization by device, that can be mapped back to an associate so we can understand the productivity of that particular associate,” said A. Scott Baiers, Manager of Supply Chain Logistics for the Whirlpool Corporation.

That type of instant impact is why Zebra’s visibility solutions are used by more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies and are applied to every step of the supply chain — from distribution center to point of sale. Industries across several verticals rely on Zebra, which simplifies operations, equips mobile workers with game-changing technology, and serves up more data about products and customers.

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Zebra accomplishes that through its innovative hardware and software solutions. Mobile computers, tablets, barcode scanners, and printers are just some of the many products in the company’s portfolio.

On the software side, Zebra offers applications with the next-generation analytics businesses need to grow and outperform their competition. It’s all about working more intelligently and efficiently, and Zebra gives companies visibility into their own processes so they can be more productive.

“We enable our customers across the globe to transform their physical assets into digital information. We provide them the ability to sense what’s happening in their operations, analyze generated data to deliver insights, and act on those insights to make smarter decisions and reach higher levels of growth, service, and productivity,” said Rob Armstrong, Zebra Senior Director of North and Latin America Marketing.

Companies in retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and travel have already benefited from Zebra’s wide range of solutions, including mobile computing, printing, data capture, radio frequency identification (RFID), and location solutions — among others. More than 45 years after its inception, Zebra continues to supply its broad base of customers with an array of products and solutions, doing so from nearly 120 offices in more than 40 countries.

Mobile Hardware Acts in Real Time to Ensure Omnichannel Retail

Zebra has earned its stripes as a global market leader with its rugged mobile computers, barcode scanners and barcode printers, and has brought similar levels of innovation to its radio frequency identification (RFID), card printing, visibility services, and integrated solutions portfolio. And all of that tech is enhanced by software from Zebra or its more than 10,000 global partners that serves as a window into a company’s customers, inventory, and other valued assets. Some products are tailored for use in one or more industries that range from retail — Zebra’s largest vertical market — to healthcare, hospitality, transportation, and manufacturing.

Mobile computers can be handheld, wearable, or vehicle-mounted to suit various use cases and Zebra has expanded its leadership within the tablet market as well for both Android and Windows operating systems. Barcode scanners come in handheld, hands-free, on-counter, or in-counter varieties, many of which allow workers to capture 1D and 2D barcodes on any type of surface, whether it’s paper, plastic, or on a mobile device screen.

Zebra also leads the industrial, mobile, and desktop thermal printing industry and counts card printers, RFID printers, and kiosk printers as part of its expansive portfolio.

The broad portfolio captures business-critical information that provides insights into the integrated supply chain — from distribution centers to shop floors to checkout. And these insights become action by putting relevant information in the hands of on-the-go associates enabling them to answer customer questions on the fly. That’s significant when considering today’s shoppers tend to be more informed, often having done their homework – like scouring for the lowest prices and comparing specifications — before even entering a store.

Our data-centric world forces companies to continuously innovate to keep pace with their competitors and their customers, and Zebra’s tools act as running shoes for those companies.

“Retailers require real-time visibility across all purchasing channels to ensure they have what the shopper wants, when, and how they want it,” Rob said, “or shoppers will buy somewhere else and may never come back.”

At the 2018 NRF Big Show, Zebra unveiled new products such as the MC3300 handheld computer series and the VC80x vehicle-mount mobile computer. Also at NRF, Target Corporation demonstrated how it was using Zebra’s Android-based TC51 mobile computer to elevate the in-store shopping experience for its guests. By using Zebra’s device for multiple applications that compute at the edge, both in stores and distribution centers, Target has elevated their team member experience with a high-level of connectivity that improves productivity and guest satisfaction. And as many other retailers and other businesses look to upgrade their mobile devices and transition to Android, Zebra is enjoying a wave of popularity.

“Zebra currently has more than 60% global market share of all enterprise-class Android-based mobile computers,” Rob said. “And we continue to innovate in this market to meet the needs of our customers as the migration to Android accelerates.”

Software and Integrations Leverage Data for Decision-Making

The real backbone of those industry-leading hardware products is the Zebra software that drives them. The company has focused on developing software that enables its portfolio of mobile computers, scanners, and barcode printers to be reliable differentiators for associates at the point of activity. In the last two years, Zebra has invested heavily in its DNA suite — Mobility DNA, DataCapture DNA, and Print DNA — which helps retailers deploy, manage, and secure their Zebra hardware and ensure optimal performance every day.

Those technologies define the cutting-edge mentality that the company is known for, and it has become a sought-after integration partner. Zebra’s PartnerConnect channel partners represent more than 80% of the company’s global revenue. Its comprehensive base of value-added resellers, integrators, independent software vendors, distributors and original equipment manufacturers enable flexible and scalable enterprise success on a global scale, with partners present in more than 100 countries.

“Customers and channel partners are embracing these new software capabilities to reduce the risks of deploying solutions across their operations and to increase their return on investment when migrating from legacy technologies to a modern portfolio,” Rob said.

At the 2018 NRF Big Show, Zebra also announced the results of its Retail Transformation Study, which was conducted with the IHL Group. The study found that Zebra’s retail customers “are growing faster than the industry and are investing more in technology to improve operations and enhance the shopping experience than their peer set.”

Zebra also boasts total asset intelligence with Savanna, an Internet of Things (IoT) platform for enterprise applications. With Savanna, businesses can collect, analyze, and apply data from sensors and devices in real time.

Savanna integrates raw data from devices and sensors that, among other things, record the location, movement, and even the condition of assets, and translates it into actionable intelligence for businesses. This is one of many ways Zebra is achieving its goal to create a smarter, more connected global business community.

“Zebra makes businesses as smart and connected as the world we live in through visionary products, software, and services that let customers see the big picture. And we provide instantaneous connectivity that only comes from reliable hardware designed to be used all day every day by frontline workers operating at the edge of the enterprise,” Rob said.

New Zebra Products Will Benefit Industries Beyond Commerce

In Whirlpool’s case, Zebra was the answer for a manufacturer that needed updated inventory data. RFID handheld readers enabled associates to quickly check and retrieve merchandise, leading to increased employee productivity. And the same drive that has propelled Zebra to be trusted by 95% of the Fortune 500 also fuels its desire to help organizations outside of commerce.

The company has already expanded its influence to the most popular professional sports league in North America — the NFL. With its patented location solutions portfolio powered by Savanna, Zebra became “The Official On-Field Player Tracking Provider” of the NFL after beating out competition from top global technology vendors in 2014 with its Zebra Sports Solution.

Photo of Rob Armstrong, Zebra Senior Director of North and Latin America Marketing

Rob Armstrong, Zebra Senior Director of North and Latin America Marketing, spoke with us about the company’s portfolio of hardware, software and service offerings.

Zebra’s recently introduced 2022 Hospital Vision Study identified the rising adoption of clinical mobility — the use of mobile devices such as handheld mobile computers, tablets, cordless barcode scanners and mobile printers — in hospitals around the world. Seventy-two percent of surveyed decision-makers say that mobile devices are improving the quality of patient care, giving clinicians actionable intelligence at the bedside with the effect of increasing time with patients and reducing errors.

At Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Zebra helped deploy a positive patient ID system to cut down on the chance of human error and improve patient outcomes. The medical center, located in Bennington, adopted Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA). BCMA involves scanning medications being administered as well as a patient’s ID wristband and a clinician’s ID badge to ensure the right medication is being administered in the right dosage to the right patient, at the right time, through the right route.

The results, over a five-year period, showed the partnership was worth it. Errors related to medication dose administration dropped 80% at the hospital. All of that translates to an improvement in patient care and safety.

And Zebra’s culture of inventive collaboration will encourage even more organizations to deploy its solutions to gain a performance edge in the marketplace, while existing customers and partners leverage Zebra’s enhanced software and services capabilities to unlock greater value from their technology investments with the company. Retailers and non-commercial entities benefit from Zebra hardware and software solutions that provide data and insights when they need them — now.