To find out how the industry changed during the pandemic, MVPro Media’s Matt Williams spoke to several innovators in the world of machine vision. Stay tuned for the rest of our exclusive pandemic interviews. Also, to see the full list of our pandemic interviews, click here. 

In this interview, Jim Witherspoon explains how Zebra Technologies was affected by the pandemic. Jim works as a Product Manager and Machine Vision Specialist at Zebra.

 

Jim Witherspoon - Product Manager and Machine Vision Specialist at Zebra

Jim Witherspoon – Product Manager and Machine Vision Specialist at Zebra

MW: How did Zebra adapt during Covid?

JW: Our first priorities were Zebra employees and customers, and we followed government guidelines appropriate to each country. The pandemic brought about an extension of the flexible work practices we already had in place, and we expanded our flexible work options for employees who can do their work remotely, along with the availability of wellbeing support. We have now adopted a hybrid work approach.   

Customers rely on us to help guide them through the discovery, design, development and deployment of solutions. However, lockdowns and social distancing made on-site activity impossible, so we created the Zebra Remote Expert tool, which proved invaluable at the height of the pandemic, and is now utilised today to help us meet customer needs to deliver our professional services.  

 We also have a number of solutions in our portfolio, such as temperature-sensitive vial sensor labelling, healthcare wristbands, mobile computers, scanners and printers, and software for workforce scheduling and task management, so we provided these to help safely transport Covid-19 vaccines and support healthcare staff in providing patient care.  

 

MW: How much has Covid changed the way Zebra is run? 

JW: It comes back to how we meet the needs of customers facing new pandemic-related challenges. Companies in healthcare, retail and warehousing to name a few, increasingly turned to Zebra for solutions to help keep their front-line workers and customers safe by reducing person-to-person contact, as well as solutions that could withstand higher levels of cleaning and disinfection. Automation maturity has accelerated and shows no sign of slowing.   

The pandemic had an impact on front-line worker retention and hiring, resulting in companies turning to Zebra’s automation solutions including fixed industrial scanning, machine vision systems, autonomous mobile robots, software and RFID to help ease the manual burden for employees and fill the gap left by a diminished workforce. Labour shortages continue to be a challenge.  

We also saw a rapid increase in e-commerce. With retail stores closed and people avoiding crowds, online shopping rose significantly. It made warehouses, distribution centres and delivery operations incredibly busy and fast-paced, so again, we have to make sure we keep meeting the needs of customers with solutions to meet the volume and pace of e-commerce.  

 

MW: Did Covid give Zebra the opportunity to reflect and research new ideas? 

JW: Zebra is always innovating and inventing. We have a very healthy R&D culture, with 10% of global revenues invested in R&D, and around 5,300+ patents. We’ve also listened closely to our customers and their needs and responded accordingly. As well as our R&D and new features and products, there have been a number of strategic acquisitions: Reflexis and Adaptive Vision in 2020, Fetch Robotics in 2021, and Matrox Imaging in 2022. We’ve also launched new mobile computing devices, such as rugged tablets especially designed for healthcare settings. We want to make sure our research and innovation keep addressing customer needs and anticipating what’s next.    

 

We at MVPro Media would like to thank Jim for taking part in this interview. Find out more about Zebra.

 

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