As we wind down the year, and songs about Santa Claus begin to fill the air, The Bar Code News spoke with executives in four different corners of the bar code industry to learn about their perspective on 2018 and find out what they thought was in store for 2019.
Executives from Zebra, ScanSource, Code and Teklynx shared their thoughts. Readers will be glad to know that all four are enthusiastic about the potential for a good year in 2019. Jenna Wagner from Teklynx points out that rising compliance requirements are driving companies to acquire more sophisticated labeling systems; Mike Poldino of Zebra speaks about the shifting scanning needs and the growth of RFID. Garrett Russell of Code Corp touches on the challenges of designing around Apple products, and Casey Huffling of ScanSource has some advice on which markets have the best opportunities for resellers in the year ahead.
Good reading, and thank you to our contributors.
TEKLYNX' Global Marketing and Sales Director, Jenna Wagner
We have found 2018 to be a successful year (double digit growth again) and anticipate 2019 to be successful as well.
There were many contributing factors:
- We continue to see a rise in adoption of subscription-based software licensing
- Enterprise label management continues to grow - this is due to many factors including, but not limited to: companies looking for scalable solutions, more globalization of organizations and the supply chain, more demand for automation, centralization, and ease of IT management.
- With workforce being harder to find in manufacturing, more companies are looking to automation and leaner/smarter labeling solutions. Our users are getting smarter as well - which is resulting in more sales and adoption of some of our higher end products that offer more automation.
- Merger and acquisitions are on the rise as well - resulting in companies being faced with decisions on how to consolidate and standardize their technologies and solutions. Companies have been leveraging our thought leadership and education to help them when faced with the need for change management and how to navigate the convergence (especially as it relates to their labeling and print management operations).
- Compliance standards and regulations are also on the rise which is requiring companies to be agile and responsive to quick changes (which is not always easy); this is resulting in companies being more selective in their solution providers to ensure scalability, flexibility, and future-proofing their businesses. This is why we continue to develop solutions for all labeling complexities (very basic to global complex labeling) to allow companies to be able to grow and scale up with us, at their pace, without having to face common challenges with scaling up, like redesigning all their labels.
- There is demand for increased productivity - everyone wants everything to be quicker, faster, better which is resulting in all of us having to "up our game" and to develop/maintain support solutions that can cater to higher demands. This speaks to our product strategy, this is why we changed our support center to answer all calls live, why we focus so much attention to hiring great talent, and why we continue to look for opportunities to educate our prospects/end users in labeling best practices.
Garrett Russell, VP Sales and Global Marketing for Code Corp
2018 was an interesting year for Code in that we spent the year transitioning from our previous generation optical and image processing platform to our next generation platform for many of our core products. This transition is an exciting time for the Product Team because we get to redesign, add new features, add new tech, etc to our product line. For the sales team, it is a balance between satisfying customer demand and making sure we continue to hit our sales targets as usually new products don’t hit the market when the product team says they will. Since we also produce sled based products for Apple, the recent discontinuation of their iPhone5 and iPhone6 models, a few of Code’s legacy products were affected and will be discontinued. This is the nature of the beast, unfortunately, but it also gives some clarity on what products they will keep. We have found, historically, that most of our customers rarely buy the latest and greatest Apple phone for use as an enterprise device. This gives Code the opportunity and the time to develop a solution around the Apple’s phone that will meet the market needs, without rushing to simply get something in the market.
On the barcode software front, our TachyonIQ brand had an excellent 2018. TachyonIQ is Code’s business unit that focusing on the sale and licensing of our suite of barcode decoding algorithms. Long story, short – if you have a device with a camera and a processor, and you want to scan barcodes, you can license the technology from TachyonIQ and your off to the races. Code/TachyonIQ has been licensing the technology for years, however, 2018 was our first year where we put significant resources on the program, and we had a fantastic year.
With respect to the tariffs, Code & TachyonIQ are unaffected. Quite simply, our products are not built in China. So Code’s customer will NOT see any price increase.
Code’s products primarily serve the Healthcare, Retail and Manufacturing markets. Demand for barcode scanners was similar to 2017 in the markets we serve, with Retail showing the largest growth.
Code expects to hit 2019 with all cylinders firing. We have 2 major product launches on the docket that should accelerate our business in one of our key verticals. TachyonIQ built a strong foundation in 2018 and we expect the business to continue to accelerate into 2019. We expect spending in Healthcare & Manufacturing to be strong with Retail experiencing some softness after a strong 2018 and the recent volatility in the stock market.
Casey Huffling, Vice President, Sales for ScanSource POS and Barcode
Moving into 2019, there are a number of trends that resellers should keep on their radar in order to stay ahead of their customers’ needs and provide the most efficient solutions to grow and strengthen their business. First, resellers can look to offer more mobility solutions to fit their end users’ needs, especially as businesses upgrade their operating systems, and 2G/3G CDMA is phased out and replaced by faster and more efficient LTE technology. Resellers should proactively speak with their customers to ensure a seamless transition.
Another area resellers should consider prioritizing is within the realm of distribution. Warehouse and distribution centers have been, and always will be, an area of growth, especially driven now by the uptick in e-commerce. According to VDC, the average number of employees at each distribution center (DC) has increased from 249 last year to 287 in 2018. Meanwhile, the average size of each DC is 42 percent larger than in 2000, while mega-sized DCs greater than one million square feet have increased in prevalence across several markets. This increase in physical size and number of employees allows a tremendous opportunity for resellers in 2019 to offer DCs more efficient inventory and processing equipment, such as voice integrated products – ensuring that labor productivity is at its highest.
An additional way that resellers can offer solutions to increase productivity is by utilizing kiosks and self-checkouts. The average customer is becoming more comfortable with using the technology, and we’re seeing an increase within retail stores and supermarkets, both seeking to cut down on lines and make the purchasing process easier for their customers. Moving beyond barcode, RFID will also likely see a significant uptick in prevalence across all industries, particularly retail. Whether it be for managing and tracking inventory, or completely eliminating the traditional checkout process, RFID shows great promise for 2019 and beyond by increasing efficiency and offering faster read time than barcode scanners.
Overall, we believe 2019 provides a great opportunity for partners to think beyond barcode, mobility or the products they are most familiar with. Being able to offer a total solution, from barcode to Wi-Fi, networking to services, security to phone systems will enable resellers to better meet their end-users’ comprehensive business needs.
Mike Poldino, Vice President of Product Management for Data Capture Solutions, Zebra Technologies
In 2018, two-dimensional (2D) barcode scanning continued to gain acceptance globally and outpace the market as the preferred technology for track and trace solutions. In the handheld barcode scanning space, the transition from 1D to 2D imaging comprised more than 70% of total handheld scanner sales across the industry. Zebra saw continued demand for scanners offering ever-increasing levels of ruggedness and reliability as the technology grew in importance across the T&L and manufacturing industries. During 2018, Zebra fulfilled this need by expanding its portfolio of ultra-rugged DS3600 scanners to 13 models to address the wide variety of use cases within these segments. A more diverse segment of customers now demand 2D scanning across a wide spectrum of applications including accepting mobile coupons in retail, shipping labels in industrial environments and tracking lab specimens in healthcare. Zebra has responded by offering customers and partners a broad portfolio of differentiated 2D handheld scanners to support their application, environmental and pricing needs.
UHF RFID continued to expand beyond item-level inventory further back into the retail supply chain and manufacturing space. According to VDC, more than 10 billion UHF RFID tags will be used throughout the retail, manufacturing and transportation industries by the end of this year. Healthcare use cases have also started to emerge and are showing promise in clinical and hospital settings for track and trace scenarios. Zebra continues to refresh its full line of UHF RFID products in this segment by offering new handheld and fixed RFID readers to address various business needs.
With respect to 2019, the world continues to become more data-driven and complex and businesses are looking for a performance edge to help those at the front line succeed. Customers want a better way to navigate and automate the complexity without throwing human capital at their problems. Successful organizations will rely on real-time data and insights to run their businesses more efficiently and beat their competition. Our products, software, services, analytics and solutions are increasingly being used to intelligently connect company assets, data and people in collaborative workflows, giving businesses the ability to sense what’s happening, analyze or anticipate the implication, and make best-action decisions in real time. Zebra will continue to design AIDC solutions with front line users, workplaces and workflows in mind, building in ease of use, reliability and ruggedness.
Businesses are asking us to expand the capabilities of data capture and the way they employ it to track and trace assets and business-critical data in an automated fashion. They want us not only to take data capture to the next level, but also integrate it with analytics that make it easier to understand the data and act on where real-time decisions can be made at the point of activity. The rise of 2D imaging (more data in a bar code) and RFID (more data that can be read faster without line of sight) will help drive increased interest in our innovative intelligent edge solutions like SmartLens and SmartPack that leverage integrated advanced analytics software to help businesses gain real-time operational visibility to improve omnichannel fulfillment and loading operations.
The Bar Code News thanks these executives for sharing their perspectives!