Here’s a look at a few of the most compelling benefits that the intelligent enterprise will drive.

Automating Manual Processes

Increasing operational visibility with innovative technology and analytics is a very important part of creating value and driving efficiencies. In this pursuit, the industry vision is to increase the number of barcoded items received at a warehouse or distribution center from 67% today to 84% by 2018. It is also to ensure that supplier and partner processes meet the requirements—and properly utilize the capabilities—of GS1, GDSN, ASN and RFID. This helps support more highly prioritized picking and storage processes and enables stronger collaboration across the supply chain.

But for it all to work as intended, operations and IT leaders must be on the same page with regard to technology systems and business processes. And in most organizations, differences abound. However, bringing both disciplines together with a common vision is one of the most crucial goals over the next five years.

Maximizing Efficiency in Packing, Staging, Loading and Shipping

In the new warehousing world, customer satisfaction is seen as a major corporate objective and differentiator. Fast and accurate customer-driven requirements are playing a more important role in the packing, staging, loading and shipping functions, taking advantage of processes such as load optimization and performance monitoring. A wide variety of technology solutions are poised to help warehouse operations provide outbound material handling to maximize efficiency, reduce costs and enhance customer satisfaction.

Packing stations can be equipped with mobile wireless computers, scanning and RFID devices, and fixed-mount kiosk solutions to increase speed and efficiency while reducing errors and damage. Packages and containers will be marked with intelligent and active tags. Workers will utilize wearable devices to see real-time updates on the next steps in their workflow. These advanced capabilities will help meet aggressive targets. Robust wireless outdoor coverage of RFID and WLAN will integrate dock and yard operations with the warehouse, providing end-to-end efficiency. Integrated video capabilities will be used for quality control and proof of compliance.

Better Visibility Creates New Efficiencies

Today, many manufacturers are asking for holistic solutions to address supply chain challenges. Companies in the logistics sector, for example, are highly sophisticated and very complex, so simply inserting a piece of technology here or there is not nearly as impactful as delivering a solution for an entire supply chain, end-to-end.

One of the challenges customers face in logistics or large-scale transportation of materials is packing efficiency. How do you optimize a trailer load, for example, to improve both worker efficiencies and logistics costs? With advanced analytics, companies now have the ability to accurately assess the state of a trailer, how well workers are loading vehicles and identify errors in real-time to prevent any downstream impact. All this information is immediately available to managers—and in some cases, front-line workers—so decisions and adjustments can be made in real-time. The potential impact on organizations of all sizes and industries? Revolutionary.

Planning for Change

These are exciting times in an exciting space. With the next-generation technologies, a solutions-based architecture will effectively turn the enterprise into a platform used to drive outcomes. Information will be captured in real-time from warehouses, distribution centers, hubs, depots and delivery networks and coordinated with humans who will be connected via traditional devices and emerging wearable systems to enable new levels of operational efficiency.

As technology allows for better quantification of the environment, and the context and location of workers, we will see the adoption of various wearable technologies in the enterprise space enabling a “frictionless” workflow. Workers will waste no time interacting with technology. It will become integrated into their experience and will seamlessly direct and inform them, increasing productivity, reducing errors and streamlining training.

Manufacturers are investing in a wide variety of technologies and solutions to upgrade existing systems throughout their operations—to gain the visibility they need to transform how they work. They must address a number of growing business issues, from changing market dynamics, heightened competition and shorter product lifecycles to a demand for the faster delivery of increasingly customized products. To succeed, they need to find a way to cut costs and increase efficiencies without impacting quality, customer service or product availability. The intelligent enterprise—and the visibility it provides—will be a defining enabler.