Today’s warehousing professionals face big changes in the way warehouses, distribution centres and the entire supply chain operates – from the increase in customer service requirements to more facilities and larger spaces – but one of the most pressing challenges the sector is facing is Android adoption, with Windows Mobile and Windows CE nearing end of support.
Ruggedised handheld computers have been the ‘de facto’ hardware platform for data collection and processing across a variety of workflows in virtually every industry. Organisations rely on these devices to conduct business-critical applications and operations in real time. However, the dominant OS supporting this ecosystem of devices is quickly approaching its end of life, leaving current customers with no clear migration path. To put it another way, no matter which OS platform an enterprise looks to deploy next, each application will require recoding and rework, as it will not be compatible with modern mobile platforms. Moreover, these legacy devices fall well short of today’s mobile standards across all performance, functionality and usability criteria, hampering business operations.
Mobilising and integrating manual business processes and workflows using modern mobile development platforms and tools is not only complex but can also be costly, as many legacy applications used in warehouse deployments are now being abandoned, and new mobile applications require a high degree of specialised skills and additional software.
One of the most complex elements of modernising and migrating aging/legacy mobile applications typically surrounds the manual nature of the integration work, which frequently involves time-intensive and costly manual coding. Many large enterprises have traditionally supported this through internal teams, and they are now sitting on often millions of lines of custom code with no clear documentation, that ultimately needs recoding, to leverage next-generation platforms.
Is the cloud the answer?
Alternatively, companies are having to engage larger ERP or WMS providers to migrate their legacy applications to more modern web-based applications. This is proving to be an extremely costly and disruptive process, and often these high costs come with a low return on investment as it requires new servers, infrastructure, application modifications, full project teams of numerous people, and lengthy implementation timescales – in some cases, years.
Furthermore, while the end-of-life OS systems are pushing forward the migration to Android, organisations need to recognise a critical component of today’s digital transformation strategies is migrating legacy mobile applications to take advantage of more sophisticated and functional modern mobile solutions and their intuitive interfaces.
“Mobile applications also reduce training time and will be instrumental in helping with knowledge transfer.”
While it may sound like an IT Armageddon, the industry has been aware of the OS end-of-life timeframe so players like Ivanti have developed the tools to easily help organisations migrate to Android.
Speed up the transformation
With Ivanti’s Velocity, rapid modernisation to Android couldn’t be easier. Users simply plug in an existing device running a legacy system and Velocity automatically updates the Windows “green screen” to a touchscreen application using an automated online tool. It’s a quick and clean transition taking a matter of minutes, while preserving the investment in legacy applications. Importantly, both onboarding and training time is reduced.
The experts agree
Skywire, which specialises in delivering and supporting enterprise mobility programs across a wide variety of industries including warehousing and distribution, has adopted Ivanti’s Velocity system and sees it as a key component in its product portfolio.
“With the latest release of Velocity, the migration in the DC/warehouse from legacy windows to Android technology can be implemented with the lowest risk and with the maximum return on investment, without the redevelopment of your applications,” said Skywire CEO James Shepherd.
Modern mobile programs can deliver productivity and greater efficiency to critical processes such as inbound/outbound handling, storage and inventory control, pick and fill. These programs not only offer the opportunity to leverage your present IT infrastructure, but also the ability to gain access to your legacy systems such as “green screen” telnet clients on a modern mobile platform.
Zebra Technologies is another of Ivanti’s key partners and according to Zebra sales engineering manager ANZ Daniel Park, the new Rapid Modernisation tool from Ivanti will enable warehousing customers to quickly migrate operating systems.
“Old telnet and web applications will be converted into a familiar touch-enabled user interface, further unleashing the prowess and innovative designs of Zebra’s range of Android mobile computers with Android. This will be a game changer for our distribution centre and warehousing customers who are looking to modernise their mobile computing fleets.”
As millennial workers become the dominant age group in warehouse environments, they will expect modern mobile applications and companies with the latest systems will attract a higher calibre of talent. Mobile applications also reduce training time and will be instrumental in helping with knowledge transfer, a key advantage in a sector with high turnover and an above average number of seasonal workers.
Cohesio Group, another of Ivanti’s partners, helps companies build a roadmap for their technology upgrades. CEO Nishan Wijemanne said companies should view the transition to Android as an opportunity.
“We encourage companies to take a strategic approach to upgrading technology and consider how they can fully optimise their processes and workflows beyond the move to Android,” says Wijemanne.
With today’s warehouses more complex than they were ten years ago and customer service requirements on the increase, optimising warehouse performance is critical. The right technologies offer opportunities for efficiency gains across the spectrum of daily warehousing workflows including inbound handling, storage and inventory control, pick and fill and outbound handling.
This is where voice technology can make a big difference. While voice has been in use for about 30 years and has been evolving more quickly in recent times, Android OS will accelerate the speed of adoption and late adopters may pay the price.
“What will be required for seamless integration with your warehouse management and control systems, or other software?”
Closely watching this evolution has been Ivanti, which has developed its Speakeasy voice technology that sits on top of the Ivanti Velocity application and can be implemented in 30 days. Voice lets workers interact with apps while keeping their hands free to pick product and their eyes focused on navigating safely the environment around them.
Ivanti’s APAC area director Simon Storey said: “Voice technology has been around for a number of years but with Android, voice adoption hasn’t been as aggressive as expected. Building on the foundation of migration and rapid modernisation, Ivanti Speakeasy offers the capability to add voice wherever voice makes sense. With Ivanti Speakeasy, there’s no longer a requirement to have dedicated voice hardware and software when implementing Android voice programs with Android.”
While historically voice has struggled beyond warehouse picking, with the advent of Bluetooth headsets, the value of voice is only going to be greater in the very near future.
Make the move
So what advice does Ivanti have for those companies looking to make the move to Android?
Consider the processes involved with integration with your existing systems. What will be required for seamless integration with your warehouse management and control systems, or other software? What are the ramifications of changes to any of these systems? And finally, make sure you can easily integrate systems now and in the future and are not limited by custom integration software.