New Zebra CEO Sees Alternative for RFID Expertise Development

The cellular computing and printing tech firm is now led by Invoice Burns, who says growth is underway in adjoining areas like robotics, enabled by RFID.

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Zebra Applied sciences‘ subsequent CEO, Invoice Burns, intends to information the corporate by a interval of development in cellular scanners, printers and options, by layering in additional choices round further applied sciences. As he considers the corporate’s technique going ahead, Burins sees radio frequency identification (RFID)-based merchandise and options serving to to allow functions together with retail stock administration, but additionally being leveraged for automation and intelligence in a number of industries.

Along with all kinds of cellular computer systems, printers and scanners, Zebra produces UHF RFID printers and cellular and portal readers, in addition to RFID reader software program. It additionally supplies lively RFID real-time location system (RTLS) applied sciences, corresponding to its MotionWorks Enterprise software program platform, with ultra-wideband (UWB), WhereNet or Bluetooth Low Power (BLE) programs.

Anders Gustafsson (left) and Bill Burns (right)

Anders Gustafsson (left) and Invoice Burns (proper)

Anders Gustafsson, the corporate’s current CEO, has been on the helm for 15 years, and he’ll step down from the function on March 1. At the moment, Burns will turn out to be the third CEO of the 50-year-old firm. Burns has 30 years of expertise in know-how, seven of which have been at Zebra. Beforehand, he was the CEO at Silicon Valley startup Embrane, acquired by Cisco in 2015. He additionally served because the CEO of take a look at and measurement know-how firm Spirent Communications, and he supplied gross sales administration and in the end govt management at Tellabs.

When he joined Zebra in 2015, Burns remembers, the corporate was a market chief in specialty printing, together with labels used for e-commerce, in addition to for hospital wristbands and specialised labels leveraged inside electronics. The agency was on a development trajectory, he says, following the acquisition of Motorola Options‘ $2.5 billion Enterprise Enterprise unit, initially known as Image Applied sciences previous to 2007.

Machine Imaginative and prescient and Imaging, Robotics and Retail Software program

For the previous seven years, Burns was Zebra’s chief product and options officer, overseeing new product innovation, and he guided the corporate’s motion into new markets. That effort will proceed, Burns says. Zebra intends to proceed innovating and driving options in its core markets, however with consideration to adjacencies in know-how that can assist the corporate increase into new areas.

“Zebra is basically about its folks,” Burns says, together with companions and prospects searching for technology-based options to evolving challenges. “We proceed to construct these robust buyer relationships, and the way in which we do that’s by attracting, growing and retaining the most effective expertise we will across the globe.” That expertise is concentrated on reaching new audiences and addressing buyer challenges, he says.

With that in thoughts, the corporate got here up with three new areas that Burns considers adjoining markets—machine imaginative and prescient, robotics by warehouse automation, and retail execution software program—for which RFID is a key enabler. “Zebra is at some extent in its historical past the place it is going to start layering extra merchandise and options centered round these adjoining markets,” Burns explains.

Whereas Zebra continues to supply its product portfolio, Burns says, new applied sciences are opening up different alternatives as effectively. Machine imaginative and prescient, corresponding to image-based data, may help with monitoring provide chain and manufacturing occasions, he says, with the intention to enhance efficiencies. Robotics can help in warehouse processes to scale back reliance on human labor, whereas retail software program may help corporations handle stock, workers assignments and different in-store duties.

RFID’s Function in New Sectors

Machine-vision options are being adopted for manufacturing to make sure correct meeting earlier than a product reaches prospects. The know-how may help corporations establish, for example, if a brake pad was constructed to the highest-quality specs, or if the fill ranges in bottles are all the identical. Zebra is providing software program and {hardware} that might allow such automation, Burns says.

RFID supplies one other manner during which a system can robotically establish modules being assembled onto a product, corresponding to a printed circuit board. With RFID tags on components, and with readers deployed at manufacturing websites or leveraged at packing or inspection stations to scan these tags’ distinctive ID numbers, customers then establish every half and guarantee all merchandise leaving their facility meet high quality necessities.

Burns says robotics inside a warehouse surroundings additionally creates a chance for RFID. For example, robotic or cobotic options take a number of the extra mundane duties from human employees, corresponding to touring to places all through a warehouse to select merchandise for an order. Using retail execution software program opens up new alternatives, as RFID tags are extra generally in place for merchandise, particularly clothes, by the point they arrive at a retailer, offering an automated ID for each distinctive merchandise when the tag is learn by way of an RFID reader.

For the previous decade, RFID know-how has been used for in-store stock administration to scale back the chance of out-of-stock occasions, and more and more to allow omnichannel gross sales. Nevertheless, Burns sees new functions for which RFID is offering advantages lengthy earlier than items arrive at a retailer, together with in provide chains. “RFID is a type of fastest-growing segments of our enterprise,” he states. “So whereas our core continues to develop, these growth markets are rising even quicker.”

Monitoring Productiveness and Effectivity By Provide Chains

RFID tags and readers may help to convey visibility to what’s occurring on the level of manufacturing, by figuring out merchandise on the manufacturing facility as they’re created or packaged. Zebra Applied sciences presents software program that permits knowledge analytics to immediate enterprise selections with the intention to enhance effectivity or foster different outcomes. And Burns has been a part of the journey RFID has taken from its early days of in-store stock counting.

The know-how has been generally employed for detecting out-of-stocks, or for figuring out, for instance, the sizes of a stack of denims on a retailer shelf. “I feel there are extensions of functions inside retail,” Burns says, that can now leverage RFID for different functions, with loss prevention being one instance. Nonetheless, his expectation is {that a} key development space for RFID can be as a driver for provide chain enhancements. He cites UPS‘s adoption of RFID to achieve extra efficiencies by the sorting, transportation and supply of packages.

Energetic RTLS options are utilizing MotionWorks software program for software such because the NFL’s player-tracking system to energy its on-field statistics (see The NFL’s Subsequent-Era Statistics, Extremely-wideband Scores Contract Extension from NFL and What You Can Study From the NFL). Burns says the know-how could be utilized along side passive RFID as effectively. One instance is a passive UHF RFID system to trace every bit of kit used or worn by gamers.

By putting in an RFID reader at a locker room door, for example, in addition to making use of RFID tags to gear, groups and leagues can accumulate knowledge each time a participant leaves the locker room, whether or not for apply or a sport. That may embody such data as what cleats, knee brace, helmet or shoulder pads that participant is sporting. This knowledge can then be analyzed towards accidents to make sure gamers have the most secure gear.

Fast-serve eating places can be one other rising software for RFID, Burns speculates, to robotically observe contemporary meals stock and thereby guarantee merchandise are utilized in a well timed method earlier than they’ll spoil. “I feel that we’ll proceed to see RFID be extra ubiquitous all through our prospects’ environments of retail, transportation, logistics, manufacturing and healthcare,” he says. Considering the years forward, he provides, “I simply see the acceleration of RFID and lots of extra functions than ever earlier than.”


Key Takeaways:

  • Zebra Applied sciences is offering a broadening portfolio of merchandise and options for tomorrow’s challenges, together with machine imaginative and prescient, robotics and retail software program, a few of which is powered by RFID.
  • Invoice Burns, the corporate’s new CEO, sees the RFID sector as a excessive development space for enabling automated knowledge seize.

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