As businesses seek to adapt to customer expectations for greater speed of service, many warehouse managers are looking to upgrade their legacy mobile solutions to provide greater flexibility. A rising number are either considering a move away from legacy Windows systems, or have definite plans for such a move, according to a recent survey from Ivanti and VDC Research.

The growing selection of Android-based devices is spurring such considerations, with warehouse work conditions requiring rugged mobile devices that can withstand harsh environments. According to the report, the potential for device damage in warehouses is great, with non-rugged devices receiving a failure rate of 19.8 percent, compared to 3.8 for rugged devices. On average, the report stays, workers experienced 30-40 minutes of downtime due to device failure. At the same time, many warehouse professionals are motivated by lifecycle concerns, as legacy systems are nearing the end of their meaningful life. This creates an important opportunity to reconsider and re-evaluate options on the table.

Technology solutions provider Ivanti asked VDC Research to poll over 100 professionals who are responsible for choosing mobile solutions for use in warehouses and distribution centers.

Among those seeking to upgrade, lifecycle concerns were a driving force. Approximately 34.8 percent noted that their present mobile solutions were nearing end of life. Many Windows CE or Windows Mobile devices “have already reached their end of meaningful life and are rapidly approaching their end of extended support,” the study notes.

Evaluating Mobile Solutions

This requires a thorough re-evaluation, as in many cases there is no clear migration path forward, with each OS option requiring significant rework to legacy applications. “For a user base that has been traditionally risk averse … addressing this represents a critical decision for organizations focused on minimizing disruption,” the authors write.

This is a critical issue in the warehouse and distribution center environment, where legacy devices are ubiquitous in inventory and material management applications. These uses support everything from digital exchange to parcel delivery verification.

As existing platforms reach their end of service life, warehouse professionals say they will be looking for replacements that deliver an enhanced user interface. Many existing warehouse mobile solutions are built around very basic text and keyboard-centric design. Almost 25 percent of respondents say the next iteration will need to have a more modern, visual interface; nearly 35 percent say they want the ability to customize the solution.

Security also ranks high as a consideration. Nearly half of respondents (49.1 percent) say security features are among their top considerations for warehouse mobile applications, while 55.1 percent say security will be a driving factor in the selection of an operating system.

Unlike in the past, when Windows was the primary operating system in the field, warehouse professionals today have multiple operating systems to consider as they ponder their options for upgrades. “Each platform choice offers distinct capabilities and end users will need to determine which offers the best option to support their requirements,” the authors note.

In this context, researchers say that Android as a warehouse OS option is on the rise. “[W]ith the growing availability of Android powered devices targeting Warehouse applications — in particular wearable solutions — Android adoption is in position to scale,” they write.

Looking for other ways to boost supply chain efficiency? In addition to robotics, retailers are also using wearables and mobile technology to keep the supply chain moving.