Category: Supply Chain
We could all use a year of perfect order after the unexpected happenings in 2016. “Surprises” don’t seem to describe 2016, and no one likely made all these predictions one year ago. Around the world: political upheaval has been rampant, global economies have been on a rollercoaster ride, Chicago, Cleveland, Leicester were among the unusual winners of sports championships. Closer to our industry, shipping saw a rising tide, though at least one major firm sank into bankruptcy. Supply chain technology continued its march forward, evidenced most recently with Amazon’s first commercial drone delivery.
Reset the productivity clock: Yes, it happens again. You achieved your operational productivity metrics this past year. Now, it’s time to set your sights on achieving this year’s target. But there is good news: 2016 brought a number of exciting advances in mobile productivity – both in the form of new mobile devices running “smart” operating systems, and the expansion of mobile app modernization (yes, that’s a shameless plug for our Velocity platform). As we roll into 2017, Velocity is available on a number of devices from Datalogic, Honeywell, Panasonic and Zebra, to name a few).
Plan now for future efficiency: Many economies are running hotter, especially now that some of 2016’s political questions have been answered. Now is the time to plan for the unknowns that lay ahead as these expectations meet with reality in 2017. Businesses should be preparing now for the potential of leaner times ahead by making sure their workers equipped to be as productive as possible.
Supply chain IoT becomes real: The Internet of Things has been explored throughout the supply chain. We’ve seen robotic shelving concepts and more over the past few years. This year, prepare for use cases to extend into areas of business not previously on your radar. This will be a fun and interesting area of innovation our markets, so stay tuned.
Every year is bound to bring us plenty of unexpected surprises, and 2017 delivers its share, we’re excited to explore them with you! What expectations do you have for mobile productivity in 2017? Email me with your predictions and we’ll track them throughout the year.
From all of us at Wavelink, we thank you for partnering with us for your mobile productivity needs. We wish you the best for perfect order during the holidays and many perfect orders fulfilled in the year ahead!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Last month I wrote about some of the reasons driving warehouse modernization and two of the big motivations focused on the age of existing mobile computers, coupled with the end-of-support timetables for legacy mobile operating systems offered by Microsoft. There are a significant number of good reasons to stay focused on Windows for your future mobile deployments (and some of those reasons are the exciting new devices we’ve seen recently from our device manufacturing partners). For this post, we’ll cover some barriers that you may be facing if you’re looking at Android for your next generation mobile deployment. Among the selection criteria many businesses prioritize when looking at their next generation solution, here are four I hear about often, and how to make these successful on Android:
- Deploy without disruption: This has been a common requirement even without choosing a significantly different operating system. So, when faced with making a big leap such as from Windows CE to Android, the fear of disruption is understandable. This is where many get caught up in app migration, and the cost and effort that comes with it. Good news: you can move to Android and ensure business continuity by keeping the systems you already have in place.
- “State of the Art” user experience: If you’re going to embrace a new generation of mobile hardware that offers a beautiful, bright screen and touch interface, you don’t want to give workers a text-heavy application to work with. Terminal Emulation or “green-screen” applications have been trusted for decades. To get the most out of their proven success in a new generation, modernize these existing telnet clients so your workers get an experience similar to what they get on their personal smartphones.
- Deliver more than just “green-screen”: Terminal Emulation has certainly been the most common method for connecting mobile devices to host-based applications. But, what about all the web-based enterprise systems out there? If you’re running SAP, Oracle, Manhattan, or any of a variety of other browser apps, you’re equally in need of a solution to bring those apps to new touchscreen devices. With our Velocity platform, you can modernize the user experience for both – telnet and web apps – using a common mobile enablement solution.
- Flexibility to make it our own: You already have established tasks that workers navigate. Now, you want to further optimize them with scripts so that workers can move through tasks faster. An example would be automating steps in the task workflow that perform a calculations. Further enhancement to your apps may include custom onscreen keyboards that present the user with only the keys appropriate for a specific data field (no need to show alphabetic characters for a quantity field, for example). Finally, modernized apps offer an opportunity to promote your brand. Whether these apps are seen only by warehouse workers, or in customer-facing environments (read: retail floor), you can add branding elements to really make your apps look your own.
Bottom line: choosing a new mobile hardware platform is a big consideration. Making that decision with a new operating system in the mix raises even more questions. Here’s an opportunity to learn more and eliminate some of the barriers to Android adoption. I’m shamelessly plugging our upcoming webinar, Mapping Mobile Solutions to Meet Warehouse Modernization Trends Presented by VDC Research. Hope to see you there, where you’ll be able to hear expert analysis on app modernization and more!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
There is a lot of pressure on warehouse operators to improve productivity – no surprise there. With many reporting a push for annual productivity increases of 5% or more, modernization of mobile warehouse technologies is becoming more of a mandate than a wish. Common reasons to modernize come from various angles, so here are five that I’ve been hearing most often:
- Aging mobile devices: The lifecycle of rugged mobile computers is significantly longer than consumer devices. Many companies have rugged devices in use for five, seven, even ten years, or more. However, technological advancements (everything from processing power to data capture options) in the mobile computers that have been introduced since their last hardware implementation are inspiring a new wave of device refreshes.
- Improving mobile application experiences: With a huge push toward faster shipments, many companies are evaluating how to help workers more quickly and intuitively navigate task workflows. This means mobile applications have to be more intuitive and easy to learn – especially for businesses that employ a sizeable seasonal workforce.
- Changing workforce demographics: A growing number of workers entering warehouse operations have never before seen a “green screen” terminal emulation client. But they grew up with tap-and-swipe user experiences on their smartphones and tablets. Giving them a familiar experience in their work applications essentially flattens their learning curve and speeds their productivity.
- Fading support for legacy mobile operating systems: Several versions of Microsoft’s mobile operating systems will be unsupported by 2020. The choices among Android-based mobile computers are starting to reach deeper into supply chain use cases, while the first Windows 10 products are now joining this market.
- Getting more from existing systems: Modernizing your mobile deployment should focus on exactly that: the mobile computers and mobility apps that your workers use to get their job done. You have already invested in and spent time optimizing your host application (whether your WMS, ERP, etc.). By modernizing your mobile technology, you can get more out of your existing host systems for years to come.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Your business has most likely been running Windows Mobile or Windows CE for a device generation or two. From the introduction of PocketPC in the rugged device market in 2001, Microsoft delivered a stable platform that brought mobile productivity to manufacturers, retailers, and the entire supply chain in between.
However, the last five years have really forced a reevaluation of where to look next.
At first, there was the discussion of consumer devices moving into the hands of workers who traditionally carried rugged mobile computers. While the lines determining where consumer-grade fits and where it fails became clearer, the operating system landscape was significantly altered.
Since its first introduction to the rugged mobile computing market in late 2011, Android has grown in both the number of rugged devices shipped and the number of device form factors for which it’s available.
Since 2015, analyst firms such as VDC Research have pointed to statistics that prove Android is reaching “critical mass” in the market.
With industry experts recognizing Android as a viable candidate for your next mobility hardware refresh, your focus may be shifting to the remaining barriers to choosing this OS. That’s good.
A major area of concern: the expense of a migration.
App migration is expensive
When the first Android-based rugged devices entered the market, the most common objection concerned the mobile apps, with questions like, What am I supposed to do with my applications? Are there equivalent apps already available for Android? Will my application vendor build me an Android version? How much will all of this cost me?
It’s a huge jump—probably not seen since the days of moving your applications away from DOS around the turn of the century. And just like then, a big benefit of making the leap is an application experience that’s significantly more user-friendly.
That’s all nice, but at what cost?
Since the first rugged Android devices, many application providers, including Wavelink, have brought their apps to Android. Vendors have faced two choices:
1. Bring the existing application, in its current form, over to Android
2. Rewrite the whole application for this new operating system
The first option was a relatively quick solution, but wouldn’t fully take advantage of all that the Android OS offered. The second option—while it could allow developers to optimize the app for Android—was a much larger development effort (read: more expensive to create).
Wavelink brought Terminal Emulation (TE) to the Android operating system in late 2011, just in time for the first rugged Android devices.
With TE, early adopters of Android devices could stay with their trusted mobility client and begin to roll out new devices. TE has been a proven platform for decades, and the ability to adopt new hardware without the risk of new software at the same time has been a relief for many customers. However, with its “green screen interface,” TE left something to be desired by those looking for a more Android experience.
Android—and fellow consumer operating system, iOS from Apple—really changed the mobile experience. Finger-tapping, swiping, pinching and panning are all new ways to navigate on a smartphone.
Aside from the way we interface with apps, the devices offer bright, beautiful screens. Display technology advanced with incredible clarity. How does one take advantage of all of this—the full Android experience?
In the same way that application vendors were reluctant to fully rewrite their apps for Android, companies around the globe discovered the same pains of cost, risk, and effort to migrate from their existing applications to new alternatives on Android.
To solve this, Wavelink created the Velocity platform.
Velocity takes your existing telnet client or web application and modernizes it for a touchscreen experience. What does that mean? Your existing, trusted “green screen” client becomes an Android app—complete with screen-tapping navigation; a clean, intuitive user experience; and the ability to offer full color and graphics so workers can easily read and interpret task workflows.
You don’t need to migrate to a new application when you can modernize with Velocity. Underneath that elegant interface is the tried-and-trusted telnet client performance you’ve relied on for years. You can continue to depend on your Android application with confidence.
Only now, the user experience for your workers is much more intuitive and familiar, and it replaces multiple keypresses with single screen-taps.
Learn more by downloading our free white paper below!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Making an investment in technology isn’t about developing or buying a product, but a problem that the technology solves. Here at Wavelink, our investment in voice enablement has been focused on solving the problems our customers face: What problems with their current workflows can be addressed with voice? What problems with traditional voice applications can be solved with a fresh approach via voice enablement?
The answer varies by business, and you can see some of the more common challenges driving voice adoption in the accompanying infographic. It is always interesting to hear a personal story from a decision maker explaining why they chose Speakeasy. Just as impressive are the metrics by which they measure the ROI on their voice enablement implementation – which can range from dollars and cents, to the less obvious employee morale, etc. All these show why voice adoption is projected to grow significantly over the next several years.
The goals all yield some commonality in the problems solved: Improvements – whether measured by accuracy, safety, training, and others, all tie back to making sure the optimal amount of product moves to the next stage in the supply chain. That’s productivity!
Speaking of productivity, are you planning to attend Oracle OpenWorld next month? Wavelink will be there to talk mobile productivity. Stop by and get a demo of Speakeasy in booth #3537.
Posted by Brent Bluth
I’m old enough to remember when the U.S. Postal Service introduced the “Zoning Improvement Plan” or ZIP codes in 1963. And a memorable slogan from an early ad campaign introducing this new process-efficiency plan has stuck with me ever since: “Mail moves the country. ZIP codes move the mail.”
In the areas of warehouse and distribution center modernization, there’s an ever-increasing need for process efficiencies to boost both productivity and accuracy. The margin for error is being scrutinized and warehouse operations present opportunities for competitive differentiation.
Achieving the “perfect order” (encompassing picking accuracy, on-time delivery rate, shipping without damage, and order entry accuracy) is increasingly the goal.
Terminal Emulation—an enterprise mobility staple since the 1990s
Though not nearly as old as the first ZIP codes, Terminal Emulation (TE) has been a staple for enterprise mobility solutions since the 1990s when wireless mobility gained traction. TE made it easy to see and capture the data from the server-based supply chain management systems.
Wavelink TE has a proven 20-year track record of meeting business needs. Without question, it’s a task worker “productivity catalyst” for enterprises across industries.
And as product marketing manager Rob DeStefano explains in “The Android Expectation” white paper that you can download below, Wavelink brought TE to the Android operating system in late 2011—in time for the first rugged Android devices.
“With TE, early adopters of Android devices could stay with their trusted mobility client and begin to roll out new devices,” DeStefano says. “The ability to adopt new hardware without the risk of new software at the same time has been a relief for many customers. However, with its ‘green screen’ interface, TE left something to be desired by those looking for a more ‘Android experience’”.
DeStefano explains that Android—and fellow consumer operating system, iOS from Apple—really changed the mobile experience. Finger-tapping, swiping, pinching and panning are all new ways to navigate on a smartphone. “Aside from the way we interface with apps, the devices offer bright, beautiful screens. Display technology advanced with incredible clarity. How does one take advantage of all of this—the full Android experience?”
According to DeStefano, in the same way that application vendors were reluctant to fully rewrite their apps for Android, companies around the globe discovered the same pains of cost, risk, and effort to migrate from their existing applications to new alternatives on Android. To solve this, Wavelink created the Velocity platform.
“Velocity takes your existing telnet client or web application and modernizes it for a touchscreen experience,” DeStefano says. “What does that mean? Your existing, trusted ‘green screen’ client becomes an Android app—complete with screen-tapping navigation; a clean, intuitive user experience; and the ability to offer full color and graphics so workers can easily read and interpret task workflows.”
DeStefano says you don’t need to migrate to a new application when you can modernize with Velocity. “Underneath that elegant interface is the tried-and-trusted telnet client performance you’ve relied on for years. You can continue to depend on your Android application with confidence. Only now, the user experience for your workers is much more intuitive and familiar, and it replaces multiple keypresses with single screen-taps.”
Here are some additional key points about Wavelink TE:
Modernize the host application automatically
Velocity handles the conversion of your host application’s text interface automatically, so you can devote your software-development resources to other projects. Your workers gain a mobile application that is contemporary and familiar, while your business avoids the costs of having to develop one.
Skip the middleware
The Velocity platform consists of the mobile app/browser and administrative console. Complexity doesn’t get between your mobile devices and your host application.
Many of today’s touchscreen devices have few, if any, physical keys for data entry. Velocity lets you create customized onscreen keypads, so you can present workers with the data entry keys appropriate for the task at hand.
Raise productivity with an optimized mobile experience
Powerful scripting and reformatting capabilities let you automate data parsing and customize your workers’ mobile experience like never before.
Get the white paper now!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Perhaps the greatest concern when doing any sort of upgrade or tech refresh is summed up in this question: “What will this do to the systems I’ve already invested in and have optimized?”
Your supply chain management systems—whether your WMS, ERP, etc.—are serious investments, and the resources (dollars, man-hours, and more) spent perfecting them make you hesitant to touch them unless you absolutely must.
The problem with third-party vendors
It’s even worse when you must allow a third-party vendor to get in and touch those systems. You worry about what they’re touching, and then you worry about how much it will cost you in the long run.
A third party making changes to your system means multiple expenses (and risks).
The first concern is about what their initial changes will do. Next (and often a larger expense) is the cost to bring the vendor back in to retest its software every time you want to make a change to your system. Even if your changes are for a completely unrelated reason, you’re paying that vendor to come back and retest, just to be sure.
We’ve witnessed this type of business model from many vendors over the years. It can be painful.
Choose an Android device and modernize your telnet or web application with Velocity
Choosing an Android device—and modernizing your telnet or web application with Velocity—means you can make the leap to Android without having to touch your host apps. Velocity modernizes the mobility clients you already have installed and that are already working with your host.
Even if you choose to voice-enable your Velocity-based applications with the Wavelink Speakeasy solution, the same promise holds true.
Speakeasy runs completely on the mobile device, meaning that everything that takes the spoken phrases and turns them into text for fields within your application is handled within the mobile device. As far as your host application is concerned, there’s no difference between data entered via voice and data scanned from a barcode, or keyed in by the user.
You’ve made a significant investment in your host applications. There’s no need to compromise that investment to get the latest mobile tech for your workers.
The next generation platform
Palm OS, and PocketPC/WindowsCE/Windows Mobile—right through today’s leading operating systems. The touchscreen experience is bringing mobility into its next generation.
With the mass-market accessibility of smartphones, your workers are more ready than ever to willingly (and possibly, thankfully) adopt a new mobility platform. Best of all, when you choose Velocity as your platform for Android applications, you can make the transition easy while preserving the investments you’ve already made.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
As you consider the implications of introducing Android devices to your supply chain workers, you’ll see two camps emerge that represent the majority of your team.
One group has been using your telnet clients and is very familiar with how it works. The other group is generally your younger workers and new hires—many of whom have never seen a “green screen” app in their lives and have no idea how to use one.
How Android benefits younger/less experienced workers
The more obvious group who will benefit is the younger crowd who doesn’t have to learn how to use a telnet application. This will save countless hours on its own.
Remember, these workers (mostly late Gen X’ers through millennials) have grown up during rapid changes in technology and don’t fear diving into something new. For them, the only new thing will be the workflow.
They’ve grown up with Android over the last several years and will tend to embrace your modernized application because it works just like the smartphone they carry.
How Android benefits more experienced workers
As for the more experienced camp of users, they will also embrace your Velocity modernized app on an Android mobile device, but for very different reasons.
First off, while they’re very familiar and comfortable with their telnet client app, they’re not unfamiliar with the Android user experience. While change can be scary, delivering their familiar workflow in a modernized application is actually what this crowd has been hoping for.
They look at the smartphones in their pockets and have recognized opportunity. They want to be able to work faster.
While they know your current telnet-based workflow with their eyes closed, giving them the Android experience is a win for personal productivity. These are your more mature workers who realize that the current devices and apps may be limiting all they can accomplish before their shift ends.
In both cases, the user experience offered through a modernized app is an opportunity to increase productivity for all your workers. It’s an unusual opportunity wherein the question isn’t who will resist, but rather which group will embrace the experience faster.
But wait! There’s more…
Beyond the familiarity of the experience, as well as the productivity that Android can unlock, there is more you can do to influence the intuitiveness of your workflow directly.
The Velocity administrative console gives you control over how those modernized screens are presented to the user.
Color-coded visual cues
One common practice that companies are embracing is color-coded visual cues. Users of a text-based client like telnet would key in a “Y” for “yes” and key in an “N” for “no”.
Now, however, these two responses are tap-able responses on the application screen. To help address speed and even language challenges, color coding responses such as these (the “yes” box is green, the “no” box is red) can make it even easier for workers to accurately choose their response.
Others have taken to color-coding entire task navigation—making each type of task workflow a different color. In this scenario, all the screens in your Picking workflow may have a green background, while Receiving screens would be presented on a blue background.
Adding elements such as color-coding make at-a-glance navigation even faster for workers, which can accelerate the training of new workers, among other things.
One additional customization element that can improve worker productivity significantly is custom keyboards.
Many Android rugged devices, like their consumer-grade cousins, are designed with few physical buttons or keys. While standard keypads for QWERTY and numeric data entry are useful, you can create custom keyboards that present users with only the on-screen keys they would need for a specific data field. This reduces the potential for typographical errors that can impact data accuracy.