By Steve Mulroy, EMEA Portfolio Marketing, Services, Zebra Technologies: The Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for warehouse expansion due to increasing online demand. Essential warehouse operators, manufacturers and logistics companies have been under pressure to rapidly expand their operations.
They need their technology systems online and running optimally to keep up with customers’ demands. Technology providers such as Zebra have found ways to support deployments and service equipment without being physically on site at customer locations.
A new value added ‘virtual assistance’
Customers globally rely on us to help guide them through the discovery, design, development and deployment of very complex technology systems. However, pandemic lockdowns and social distancing requirements made on-site activity impossible – but businesses still needed us and our solutions to help them adapt and drive new ways of working. These actions are very strategic, requiring input from multiple stakeholders with varying skill sets, experience and knowledge.
That’s why we created the Zebra Remote Expert enablement service tool, which proved invaluable at the height of the pandemic, and is now utilised today to help us meet customer needs. We want to be all hands-on deck anytime we were called in to help, whether the experts are from within Zebra or our global channel ecosystem.
‘Being there’ remotely has enabled better insight into our end users’ requirements and challenges, benefitting customers, partners and teams. In a typical day, we will:
•conduct discovery workshops with warehouses who want to deploy workflow solutions
• facilitate solution design sessions that factor in the people, places, processes and systems impacted by the technology platform within the scope of numerous safety, security and performance criteria;
• complete site surveys needed to properly architect real-time location systems (RTLS), anticipate potential execution issues and address prior to pilot starts;
• consult with customer and partner stakeholders regarding return on investment, from RFID and automation platforms to prescriptive analytics and task management software;
• collaborate with partners to on-board autonomous mobile robots in warehouses
• collect data to inform recommendations on solution and process refinements, resolve issues, and improve performance.
Zebra Remote Expert tool means executing on all the above, wherever our customers have offices or warehouses.
A new way to recruit talent
It wasn’t just services that adapted to Covid requirements. As social distancing limitations lift and we return to a less virtual way of working, the pandemic has also made companies rethink how they recruit talent. A key learning has been how to integrate professional services with the agility and flexibility to support warehouse expansion to meet customer demands.
One way to manage this has been to adopt a gig economy approach to the Professional Workforce Model. This phenomenon has been gaining popularity recently across the world. Hiring temporary workers in a project-based or on-demand capacity instead of building a workforce solely comprised of permanent employees can offer numerous benefits for both employers and ‘gig’ contractors.
Applying the gig economy model to professional services
Professional services consultants are now being integrated as temporary “team members,” even though on paper they are still technically freelance contractors or third-party service providers. In other instances, current talent is being given the opportunity to pick up ‘gigs’ within their own companies but outside their traditional roles.
Some might say the professional services sector was implementing a gig economy model before the term ‘gig economy’ was even uttered. That’s because consultants – whether individuals or teams – are typically project-based professionals whose expertise and support is solicited in an “on demand” fashion. With acceptance around the wider use of professional services consultants, companies no longer see this as an exclusive, outsourced discretionary budget line-item function.
If your company would like to take advantage of the gig economy model, here are two approaches for consideration:
1. External gig. Identify the gap in a project’s resource requirements – perhaps one that’s difficult to fill internally or better optimised with a specialised external skillset such as consultants’ knowledge or experience with a new technology. You may need a broader geographical coverage provider or resources for transactional, standardised and easily controllable functions where the gig economy model is more cost effective. This gap can then be fulfilled by hiring contractors with the required skills. Zebra professional services consultants can support customers with ongoing project development for continuous improvement.
2. Internal gig. Create internal gig opportunities for permanent employees across the company to participate in short-term project assignments. It’s highly cost effective to leverage an existing talent pool within the company, and this approach promotes cross-team collaboration. It’s also a great way to provide career enrichment opportunities for employees who aspire to develop themselves while keeping their core job responsibilities.
There is no one specific approach that fits all. The consultative business is very dynamic and, depending on the types of projects and needs, the above gig approaches can be used together or individually.
The pandemic has taught us the importance of being ready to change and adapt to external circumstances. Harnessing virtual assistance technology such as the Zebra Remote Expert enablement service tool can help professional services teams design, implement and maintain complex technology solutions. It’s amazing to think you can have an expert show up ‘on site’ at a warehouse in a matter of days or even minutes.
The gig economy will be an integral part of our global economy, continuing to grow in the future as it gains traction across all businesses, including the professional services segment. The key is to combine the right mix of resources to deliver the best outcomes and customer experiences at the right time.
To explore how Zebra professional services can help optimise your warehouse expansion needs, visit: zebra.com/gb/en/services.html