How Mobile Automation and Digital Resilience Will Drive Growth: 4 Trends to Consider in 2023

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Key Takeaways

⇨ Streamlined technology and proactive planning will be essential components for resilient, growth-focused organizations

⇨ Mobility, robotics, and cloud software are all top of mind when it comes to cultivating agility in the face of supply chain disruption

⇨ By streamlining processes and automating data flow, smart manufacturing companies can make strategic supply chain decisions

As we enter the new year, enterprise companies will need to prepare for many ongoing inventory management challenges and embrace new opportunities for optimization. Streamlined technology and proactive planning will be essential components for resilient, growth-focused organizations.

Here are four key trends to consider for 2023.

Trend 1: Digital Tools and Automation Are the Key to Supply Chain Obstacles

Supply chain issues, although improving, will still be top of mind in the new year. A survey by SAP found that 51 percent of U.S. companies expect the supply chain to remain challenging into 2023.

Supply chain disruptions can cause immense challenges for inventory operations and customer fulfillment. Take, for instance, the current shortage of children’s Motrin and Tylenol. A combination of several illnesses and a surge in demand left many retailers without necessary products in the marketplace. Although such external circumstances cannot be controlled or prevented, organizations must take proactive steps to mitigate global supply chain issues in operations.

Prioritization of digital automation can help organizations reduce or even eliminate supply chain challenges. More than half of organizations believe they need major supply chain improvements, and a majority are planning significant increases in digital adoption efforts to streamline supply chain efforts. Turning a critical eye toward supply chain capabilities and arming the organizations with the right automation tools and solutions will be necessary to gain agility.

For example, at Graphic Packaging International, legacy systems coupled with operational deficiencies were causing significant challenges. By prioritizing automated and mobilized data collection across 25 North American sites with RFgen Mobile Edge for SAP, the company is now looking at increased opportunities. The new functionality unlocked a 25 percent gain in efficiency and a 30 percent increase in productivity for critical supply chain processes.

Digital tools, like mobile barcoding, robotics, and cloud software, increase speed, transparency, and timeliness. According to the Digital Inventory Report, 58 percent plan to invest substantially in new supply chain technologies, regardless of business size. These tools enable real-time data flow and optimized decision-making so organizations can pivot whenever they need to address supply chain disruptions.

Trend 2: Mobile Barcode Scanning Will Continue to Expand

The mobile automation journey for manufacturers ranges from fully automated to completely manual, and everything in between. However, only 16 percent of participants in the Digital Inventory Report stated their current mobile solution is meeting their changing needs.

Mobile barcoding presents a significant growth and expansion opportunity. It is one of the most widely used tools for enterprise inventory management, with 83 percent of Digital Inventory Report respondents citing it as a necessary technology solution.

But can its use truly impact business outcomes? At DSM, an aging barcode scanning solution was no longer supported, hindering the production process. By onboarding a new mobile barcoding system with real-time connectivity with SAP, DSM was able to streamline production processes and cycle counting. The result was a 20 percent gain in speed and productivity across the company. This achievement led to enhanced traceability of inventory and significant increases in data accuracy.

In 2023, mobile barcode scanning should become the modern standard for all supply chain operations. Those who implement mobile barcoding will reap significant benefits. Its integration with SAP and Industry 4.0 devices allows for flexibility and a modernized approach to growth and profitability.

Proactive Planning Is Key to Inventory Management

The biggest challenge for manufacturers and inventory management professionals is that there are too many challenges. Manufacturers are facing intense pressure to achieve production goals and meet customer demands. They also struggle to obtain the raw materials necessary for their manufacturing operations.

For instance, a recent study found that 62 percent of B2B end user customers want the ability to reorder digitally and 60 percent cite buying online as more convenient. Yet only 13 percent of industrial manufacturers offer the ability to do so.

Central to these challenges is the role of inventory. Digital Inventory Report respondents cited the following inventory obstacles:

  • Over/understocking issues that impact revenue and the customer experience.
  • Inaccurate inventory data hindering decision-making.
  • Incorrect picking and shipping, leading to revenue and customer service problems.

These challenges can only be dealt with proactive planning and new ways of thinking about inventory management. This is why digital automation is critical. 62 percent of Digital Inventory Report respondents have integrated some degree of mobility into their day-to-day operations. Of those using mobile technology, 59 percent plan to expand the use of mobile devices and related software applications.

This type of expansion can yield big results. For Schwing America, focusing on picking methods, combined with streamlined automation and mobile barcoding led to an increase in picking accuracy of 42 percent. By continuing to use automation technology, Schwing has achieved a best-in-class 99.83 percent picking accuracy, boosting productivity, and speed.

New Technology Innovations Must Interact with Current Digital Strategies

Mobility, robotics, and cloud software are all top of mind when cultivating agility in the face of supply chain disruption. With other automation technologies impacting mobile barcoding like RFID tags and Near Field Communications, executives can quickly become overwhelmed.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), automation, warehouse robotics, and predictive maintenance can all work together to create interconnected devices delivering accurate, up-to-date data to the organization. Connected devices and automated processes keep information and processes moving forward, resulting in greater efficiencies and overall customer experience.

But this only works if technology is integrated into everyday processes and across all business areas. Currently, 47 percent of respondents in the Digital Inventory Report expressed a need to integrate multiple systems. A lack of common data platforms and the need to upgrade legacy equipment are all factors impacting supply chain and other operations.

Data communicated through mobile devices keeps information and processes moving forward, leading to greater efficiencies throughout the product life cycle. The report also reveals that 70 percent of respondents use technologies like barcode scanning, mobile devices and warehouse management solutions to boost production and manufacturing efficiencies.

Applying These Trends to Your 2023 Initiatives

The above new year trends show us an enterprise inventory landscape rife with familiar challenges. Supply chain issues and surging customer demand are just a few of the many obstacles companies face. While some of the external factors affecting organizations are outside of their control, organizations can take proactive steps to increase agility for achieving growth initiatives.

Key among these is the need to embrace digital transformation. By streamlining processes and automating data flow, smart manufacturing companies can make strategic decisions in the face of ongoing challenges and change. Mobile data collection allows for increased accuracy and reporting, resulting in new opportunities and streamlined operations.


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