Trend Watch: 7 Reasons Logistics Providers Are Moving to Android

Handhelds and barcode scanners have been used by supply chain organizations for years to collect and process data. But mobile tech has evolved rapidly, and there’s a big shake-up on the horizon for companies that haven’t kept up with the pace. With Microsoft’s support for Windows CE 6 ending this year and Windows embedded handheld 6.5 expected to sunset in 2020, many companies must migrate to new mobile operating systems.

We are seeing many manufacturing and supply chain customers make the move to Android, not only because of end user familiarity but also for easier IT device and application management. They’re not the only ones. In a similar conclusion, a recent VDC Research report found that Android OS share grew from 24 percent to 37 percent of all rugged handheld devices from 2015 to 2016, while Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5X/Windows Mobile fell from 49 percent to 39 percent during that same period.

Here’s why supply chain and logistics companies are migrating to Android to replace their existing mobile operating systems:

  1. Android plays well with other applications. Android’s open source nature means it integrates well with voice, Bluetooth, touchscreens, and the near-field applications currently used in modern-day warehouses and other logistics operations. Android also is being used as an OS by providers of smart watches and smart glasses, according to Logistics Management. [Explore Panasonic’s Warehouse of the Future to learn more about tech innovations in fulfillment centers.]
  2. Android enables access to a large ecosystem. From applications to development tools to other resources, the Android OS allows supply chain and logistics firms to access a large ecosystem to round out their technology stables. In some cases, these capabilities can help companies “extend” their existing, antiquated software (e.g., those 15-year-old warehouse management system [WMS] we come across more frequently than you’d think) with newer, more advanced capabilities.
  3. Help kissing those “green screens” goodbye once and for all. Your OS is getting a major upgrade, just in time for a workforce that expects a solid UX. “For the supply chain and warehousing sector, the burgeoning millennial workforce means an increased need for providing more sophisticated and functional mobile solutions,” Robert DeStefano writes in Inbound Logistics. “Many of these workers have never encountered a ‘green screen’ terminal emulation client. Instead, they expect intuitive interfaces, such as the tap-and-swipe user experience of modern smartphones and tablets.”
  4. It provides an affordable way to rev up warehouse productivity. Warehouse operators are increasingly looking to upgrade their mobile devices as a way to satisfy demands to rev up productivity while reining in costs, DC Velocity’s Ben Ames writes. “And because current mobile operating systems will be out of service soon, managers must minimize disruption while making that change.” Mobile apps — and technology — in general have helped to improve picking efficiency by measuring inventory levels, managing orders, processing payments, analyzing daily activity and allowing warehouse managers to view other important data — and all in real time.
  5. Fewer security concerns. In a recent VDC survey, respondents were asked about their OS selection criteria: IT security emerged as the number one consideration. Why does this put Android in the lead? Android’s recently released Oreo update includes various security updates designed to evolve with ever-expanding digital threats. One example is the introduction of Google Play Protect, which scans devices for suspicious app activity.
  6. It opens up new technological capabilities. Upgrading to a new OS will allow you to take advantage of next gen technology. For example, many next-generation wearable devices such as smart glasses and smartwatches are based on the Android operating system, making them incompatible with Windows-based applications. 
  7. Employees already know their way around consumer-grade devices and operating systems. With a labor shortage kicking into gear just as warehousing operations are under pressure to speed up, being able to get employees trained and working quickly is a critical advantage. This is where Android’s familiar, customizable, and consumer-oriented features prove especially useful.

How Android Drives Modern Mobility  

According to a recent VDC Research study, 56 percent of organizations plan to upgrade their existing fleet of mobile devices as their current devices near end-of-life. Of those, 35 percent said that the upgrades are being driven by the imminent end-of-life of existing mobile platforms.

“Stepping up to modern mobility with Android can provide retailers and logistics organizations with an edge over the competition by driving productivity gains through speed and agility,” DeStefano writes. “However, migration can also be challenging, and it requires careful planning and consideration.” And here at Panasonic, we have teams of experienced experts ready to help you through migration and deployment planning.

Learn more about how rugged handhelds can support your field teams.