Keeping the Supply Chain Agile

In the most recent edition of Inbound Logistics, writer Marty Weil takes a closer look at how mobile communication tools are keeping supply chains on the go connected. “Mobile solutions are at work in every part of the supply chain. They are a key part of many warehouse environments, especially in directed picking applications. In transportation, mobile technology has been particularly significant for expedited parcel carriers that use it to improve customer service and continually optimize operations. Private fleets and motor carriers also use mobile devices for tracking shipments and collecting driver performance data.”021_6789_01

In our line of business we see a lot of enterprises who need to manage their operations in real time without impacting their bottom line from an efficiency and cost perspective. Through mobile technology solutions like Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Productivity Platforms (MPP) it really is easy to take advantage of technology that starts streamlining your supply chain operations immediately. As part of the article, Marty spoke with Wavelink customer Goya Foods, who are using Wavelink’s MDM solution, Avalanche and Wavelink’s MPP voice-directed solution, Speakeasy along with ruggedized mobile devices to improve efficiency in and outside the four-walls. Through mobile solutions they keep the goods moving without worrying about making adjustments on the fly.

For supply chain agility, Marty recommends that enterprises look towards four goals as outlined by consulting firm PwC –

1. Integrating the supply chain with other business functions. Companies that acknowledge the supply chain as a strategic asset achieve 70 percent higher performance. Taking steps to connect supply chain operations to functions such as marketing and sales can help strengthen the entire business.

2. Facilitating supplier partnerships and collaboration. Potential supply chain disruptions make it more critical than ever for companies to share data
and strengthen relationships with key suppliers.

3. Enabling companies to adjust quickly to changes. The better the information companies have at hand, the more responsive their supply chains can be. Without mobile devices, supply chain information can be slow to reach managers.

4. Measuring and managing supply chain data. Companies can use mobile tools to collect supply chain data that informs strategic decisions.

Through the use of mobile solutions supply chain operations can be agile, resulting in increased productivity, visibility and efficiency in moving product, saving money and meeting the growing demands of the customer. To read Marty’s article in its entirety click here. Want to take a closer look at how MDM and MPP tools like Wavelink Avalanche and Wavelink Speakeasy can add agility to your supply chain operations? Contact the Wavelink Sales Team.

How About a Top 5 List? 5 Reasons We Like Voice

Speakeasy in Action

Voice has gotten a lot more attention in the last few years. Between Apple’s introduction of Siri to the rapidly growing popularity of applications like Dragon Dictation, voice is more than what crazy people hear in their heads. It’s a valuable tool for productivity, efficiency and even safety. Let’s rundown some of the benefits:

  1. Improve safety in your warehouse.  Distracted driving is a big problem on our roadways. Slogans like “talk, text, crash,” and commercials about the “last text he read before he died” send a powerful message about avoiding distracted driving. There may not be cars in the warehouse, but there are trucks, forklifts and other motorized vehicles that can be just as dangerous. Distracted driving isn’t just a problem on the road, it’s a problem in the warehouse too. About 100 workers are killed and 95,000 are injured in forklift accidents every year, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Voice solutions remove the need for drivers to look down at their devices while driving. Instead, a voice in their headset tells them where to go and what to do when they get there.
  2. Increase efficiency. You can read all about this in an earlier blog post from my colleague, Gemma Randazzo, which details the ways voice can improve efficiency. The bottom line is that adding voice can improve accuracy by reducing mis-picks. With a 99.9 percent accuracy rate, voice decreases the time spent correcting errors and time lost on inaccuracies.
  3. Drive productivity. While the seconds saved looking down at a device, then up at a product, then down at a device may not seem impactful, if you reduce or eliminate those seconds, it adds up fast. Voice is also typically accompanied by hands-free devices, which have a well-documented 15-20 percent gain in productivity associated with them.
  4. Versatility. Voice isn’t just for picking. It can also help with processes outside the warehouse, including mobile inspections, field services and yard management. It offers the same benefits – productivity, efficiency, etc. – to those processes outside the warehouse as it does to picking inside.
  5. Speedy implementation. One of the best parts of voice is that it can be implemented very quickly. Unlike with many other applications, which require a system overhaul, device upgrades, or other time-consuming changes, voice can be added quickly and easily, so the benefits can also be realized quickly and easily. To see what we mean, check out this video where Goya Foods talks about their experience with voice:

It’s been 40-years and what a 40-years: The DynaTAC, the beginning of a game changer cell phone

Today Mobile Enterprise reminded us that on April 3, 2013, the cell phone celebrated its 40th birthday. It’s gone through many cosmetic facelifts since the first day the Vice President of Communications Systems at Motorola walked “down the streets of New York City, talking on a large, clunky yet portable phone,” that weighed almost three pounds, operated on radio frequencies and had about twenty minutes before the battery died.

It would be another ten years before the Motorola DynaTAC was commercially available and would bring with it a new era of the way we define business and success. If you The Motorola DynaTACsaw someone back in the late 80s or early 90s on the street with a cell phone you knew they had to be someone important just because of the level of status the cell phone had achieved at that point. The Motorola DynaTAC was a game changer and as other manufacturers entered the mix, organizations began to see the potential cell phones would have in the business world. With a cell phone you could be anywhere in the country assisting a customer or meeting a potential customer and immediately report back to headquarters with an update. That single ability to call as soon as you walked out of building changed the course of business.

Back in 1973 Motorola knew that cell phones would change the way we lived and did business. Whether they could have predicted the exact way in which they have changed our lives is anyone’s guess (we also thought we would be driving cars in the sky by now). Through the addition of the Internet it further created a new generation of cell phone technology. This later addition cemented cell phones (smart phones) as critical components of our daily life. You think about all the ways you use your cell phone from staying on top of work, to checking in on friends and loved ones, to ordering pizza. Even how we are able to relay information in an emergency has changed just in 15-years. They are not just convenient tools in our daily lives but they changed the way we respond to emergency even as something as relatively minor as your car breaking down. 20 to 15-years ago unless you were fortunate enough to have one of the first generation car phones, you would have to hike to the nearest house, hope someone was home and call a tow service.

Cell phones changed and continue to change the course of business. By our growing consumer need to use cell phones/smart devices we are single-handedly dictating how we then do business. BYOD isn’t a phenomenon. It has become very much a real business changer. Consumers want to be able to use their cell phones at work in multiple ways, dictating then that an Enterprise really has to take a closer look at how they secure and manage these devices. Given the potential productivity gains from consumer devices it makes sense to consider integrating them in a DC, in government, transportation, healthcare and on the retail floor. According to the Yankee Group “half of all companies find it very difficult to manage software upgrades on mobile handsets and to manage the costs associated with mobile devices. Almost the same proportion finds distributing mobile applications to devices very difficult.” In just 40-years cell phones have become business changers, strategy changers and productivity changers. Happy 40th birthday to the cell phone.

Making Money off Mobile Outside the Four Walls

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Can deploying mobile outside the warehouse can save you time and money?

Having a great deal of visibility within your warehouse has obvious benefits. With better insight into when your inventory needs to be replenished or by using a system that can tell you where to store new product, greater visibility can reduce costs associated with lost or wasted product and can also decrease time spent manually picking or putting away.

While mobile systems are often used in today’s warehouses to reap the efficiency and cost rewards of having greater visibility, it is also important to mobilize processes outside the four walls to strengthen the productivity and profitability of your entire supply chain. By employing a mobile unit in the field, connectivity and additional visibility gains can help your organization realize even greater cost and time savings.iphonebusinessuser

The single greatest opportunity for making money with mobile outside the warehouse is with your field sales teams. With mobile systems in place, you can make it easy for your reps to take orders and send them in via smart device. This instant processing can allow your salesperson to turn product back over to customers quickly, as well as easily look up order histories or statuses. Having this instant access to customer purchasing history also provides your field sales with opportunities to upsell or cross-sell new products, based on that customer’s buying patterns. Without having to manually log orders in or tread to and from the warehouse, this allows your reps to meet with many more customers each day and reduce transport costs.

Another way to improve your organization’s efficiency outside the four walls and increase overall supply chain profitability is with your service teams. With real-time response capabilities, your team can respond quickly to job requests and address more service calls without having to drop in and out of the warehouse for updates. Making your service operations more productive also produces increased satisfaction among your customer base, as customers can get real-time updates on the status of their requests and teams are better able to expedite delivery.

Deploying mobile not only limits your field teams’ need to return to the warehouse or office, but you’ll also see that through mobilizing operations your organization will start cutting back on paperwork. Additionally, your overall customer experience – from sales to service – will drastically improve and become more efficient and profitable.

How do trucks go missing?

Packages being loaded

History Channel’s latest reality TV creation, Big Rig Bounty Hunters, has brought a little-known underground industry into the limelight. This industry involves hired contractors working to track down missing cargo or 18-wheelers that have simply vanished off the map altogether. The show follows a number of colorful characters, the “bounty hunters,” as they attempt to find these trucks and/or retrieve their cargo so that trucking companies aren’t out heaps of money. And the hunters make a pretty penny in the process too.

As an employee of a transportation and logistics solutions provider, this show got me thinking, how is it even possible for a truck or its cargo to go missing in today’s modern era of transportation logistics and fleet management technology? I did some research and it turns out the current era isn’t as modern as one might think…Packages being loaded

According to Kimberly Knickle, practice director at IDC Manufacturing Insights, just 26 percent of respondents in IDC’s supply chain mobility survey reported using smartphones and media tablets for logistics. Dwight Klappich, a research vice president at Gartner didn’t fare much better in his industry analysis. Klappich recently asked an audience of carriers and private fleet operators how many of them had mobile-enabled fleets. About half of the audience responded that they did so. Klappich then asked how many of the vehicles were equipped with GPS systems and the response was significantly lower. “So, basically they’re driving around in $300,000 units, but still using paper to track their activities,” he told Logistics Management. So according to industry experts, many trucking companies are keeping track of their expensive rigs (and cargo to boot) with a paper trail – kept by the trucker – inside the truck? The premise of this show is starting to make a lot more sense.

But the industry is slowly changing, says Klappich. As drivers are using more technology in their personal lives, they want to move away from antiquated techniques, such as paper logs, while on the job. Due to a current driver shortage and an increased incentive to comply with driver requests, along with reduced costs, trucking companies are taking note and rolling out mobile solutions to their fleets. And with good reason; the benefits of mobile technology on big rigs are many: drivers can capture signatures as proof-of-delivery, communicate with their company, receive permits, reconcile fuel taxes, photograph damage to deliveries and navigate where they are going. In addition, tablets and other mobile devices enable two-way communication between the driver and dispatcher.

While it may be some time before tablets are widely used across the trucking industry, one technology that is much more commonplace is the use of a “black box” or electronic on-board recorder device that not only enables the driver to log his miles, but also allows the distributor or trucking company to keep tabs on the driver’s routes and track his status in real-time. Leveraging this kind of technology is a no-brainer according to Anne Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Farro states that most companies that switch to electronic logs do so “very effectively and very profitably.” She also states that those who leverage this technology are “finding it’s a very, very efficient mechanism for tracking on-duty status.” According to Commercial Carrier Journal, electronic logging technology is not just a beneficial service for drivers and their respective owners but it may soon be the law. Farro predicts that a rule mandating the use of electronic onboard records will be proposed by September 2013.

Until tablets become widely adopted across the industry, or electronic on-board recorders are federally mandated, it seems the big rig bounty hunters can keep their day jobs.

(There must be) 100 Ways to Manage iPhones

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The following comes from Robert DeStefano, Product Marketing Manager for Wavelink/LANDesk:

In-house estimates suggest that roughly 140 companies claim to offer Mobile Device Management (MDM). Most of them lead their messaging by waving the iOS flag and images of Andy the Android to highlight their ability to support consumer operating systems in the face of BYOD initiatives.  What’s interesting is that when it comes to mobile device management, drawing attention to the iOS and Android platforms makes most MDM solutions indistinguishable from one another.  Apple, for example, doesn’t allow MDM clients to take control over the device remotely.  Therefore, all these MDM solutions have the same limitation.  Give or take a few specification bullet points, 140 solutions provide about the same capabilities when it comes to managing a smartphone. stockxpertcom_id858210_jpg_09a185e593d94fa570c653bd96bdb622

According to Gartner, 65% of enterprises will adopt an MDM solution for corporate-liable users over the next four years, and 90% of enterprises will be supporting two or more mobile operating systems in their environment.  With so much attention drawn to the BYOD-specific needs (not to suggest these aren’t important) of a Mobile Device Management solution, there is something even larger that enterprises should be taking into consideration: Managing productivity throughout the enterprise.

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RBTE Preview: What we’re looking forward to at RBTE

Retail Business Technology Expo Banner

The following comes from Willem Beets, Director of Sales EMEA for Wavelink

The Retail Business Technology Expo kicks off tomorrow, Tuesday, March 12 at Earl’s Court in London. This is our third year (visit us at Stand 342) at the event and each year it continues to expand and showcases the constant innovation retailers and retail solution providers are making. We really enjoy the time we spend talking to existing customers and meeting new people and hearing about their areas of concerns and of course areas of success.

Something that continues to be on everyone’s minds is BYOD. It isn’t going anywhere and there are no shortage of opinions of where it is going and the potential headaches Retailers face when bringing it into their environment. In a recent study by Retail Systems Research they found that “In three years’ time, retailers expect mobile and digital payments to catapult from almost nothing to a major piece of their payments environment.”

While we don’t see this as necessarily “new” news, after all BYOD is on everyone’s minds, what continues to be a concern is the prevailing message of uncertainty BYOD brings and in this specific case the format payments will take in the future. For example, as Retailers work towards bringing these consumerized devices on to the shop floor as part of their payment system they need to also need to account for securing them. While we all love shiny and new technology, implementing it throughout the retail environment can feel overwhelming especially on tight budgets. How do you keep ahead? We are excited to share our views on BYOD and areas where simplification is possible.

Also front and center on our mind is Voice and how not only can higher productivity easily be achieved with Voice solutions, such as Wavelink Speakeasy, but how it can be achieved simply and with immediate ROI. Adding voice to your existing applications such as WMS, ERP and/or CRM can be achieved in as little as 30-days and without the need to purchase new rugged mobile devices, servers or even modification or replacement of the host application. Stop by Stand 342 and watch a demonstration on just how easy it is to add voice to your retail strategy. You can even enter your name for a chance to win a Kindle Fire HD.

See you in London!

Addressing the Increasing Adoption of Consumer Devices in the Warehouse

Smart Devices

The following comes from Mike Temple, Product Manager for Wavelink.

We recently introduced our latest mobile device and wireless infrastructure management solution, designed to solve the challenges associated with managing today’s wireless ecosystem. While this newest solution, Avalanche 5.4, performs the vital functions that we’ll mention later in this blog post, we believe it’s important to call out some trends and industry movement we’ve noticed and our customers have reiterated in discussions with them about their current needs and pain points. In fact, these customer discussions and industry movements were inspiration behind the new features available with Avalanche 5.4.

  • Integration of iPads and other consumer devices on factory or retail floors: You might have noticed while you were doing your holiday shopping a couple months back that there was a noticeably greater amount of iPads ringing you up, in place of the traditional POS systems or cash registers. Organizations are looking to reap the productivity and employee satisfaction benefits associated with mobility. While many field tasks still require special ruggedized devices, some companies are choosing tablets that their employees might be more familiar with. For this reason and because of the conversations we’ve had with customers beginning iPad or Android-based device deployments in 2013, we knew it was important to optimize the support for iOS6 and Android platforms for the new version of Avalanche. (more…)

Securing the First Responders: With today’s critical infrastructure threats, how can you ensure your city’s response team’s rugged devices are secure?

In an emergency first responders need to be focused on their number one priority – be it saving lives, protecting citizens and preventing crimes. Worrying about the security of the technology they have with them shouldn’t be of concern. In fact keeping onboardPolice Car laptops and smartdevices that are the make-up of numerous fleet vehicles, such as police and fire vehicles secure shouldn’t even be a secondary thought. It should be simple and should just run in the background. With technology changing rapidly it is vital to ensure information that is sent to public servants, law enforcement officials and military personnel is secure. But while technology is changing rapidly it doesn’t mean that budgets are increasing to account for all these new devices or the changing climate of new threats.

Simple to use, simple to manage device management that protects the infrastructure of every city’s government is possible and in most cases requires very little in way of investment.

What should a city or government entity look for in a mobile device solution?

  1. 802.11 provisioning with industry standard encryption and authentication protocols
  2. Access Point (AP) detection and reporting with various IDS-oriented enhancements to assist with identification, alerting, monitoring and reporting of potential threats and a holistic view into the state of the agency’s security
  3. Ability to remotely manage configurations and updates of all Access Points across a city from one location
  4. Encryption of all communication channels and database encryption
  5. Device location mapping; enabling the lock down and wiping of devices when needed
  6. Push down all device software updates over the air without the need to physically bring in critical devices that are needed 24/7. Industrial laptops are powerful tools but they can be rendered virtually useless in an emergency if they are not kept up-to-date. Push down a security patch from a central location and save critical time and money
  7. Device management that doesn’t take up valuable bandwidth. Send out a software package in seconds without it hindering GPRS that is being used not only to update software applications but basic data communications with officers and firefighters out in the field
  8. Security for all wireless data transmissions that includes a seamless handoff between the various wireless network infrastructures in operation

Remember you don’t need to buy the latest and greatest device with the pretense that because it’s newer it’s going to be more secure. By making simple IT infrastructure changes using existing devices it is more than possible to stick to the budget without sacrificing security. A simple to use centralized mobile device management solution that plans, deploys, secures, monitors and maintains enhances the reliability and security of the tools first responders need to use.

The IT-ization of the End User: Coping with Self-Helping Users

Smart Devices

The consumerization of IT gets a lot of attention these days. BYOD is being seen as a headache by that virtually every IT department is struggling with it, and it the problem is quickly escalating. Users are doing more than bringing in their own devices; they’re downloading applications and using services – some free, some not – without IT’s permission, or even knowledge.

Smart Devices

What has gotten much less attention but is equally important is the reverse trend: the IT-ization of the consumer. Employees may be bringing their own phones and laptops onto the network, but they’re also doing more to address issues they would have taken to be addressed by IT in the past. Gen Y is blasting into entering the workforce with a vengeance. They grew up with computers, and many prefer to fix their issues themselves. And they’re not the only ones. The pervasiveness of smartphones and other tech has made everyone from baby Johnny to Grandma Sally more familiar and comfortable with technology.

There are upsides and downsides to this, but the bottom line is that these two trends – consumerization and IT-ization – are presenting IT with a golden opportunity to transform their value to the organization and move from a firefighter role to a business enabler that provides value to the bottom line.

The primary downside that keeps many organizations from embracing the IT-ization trend is the loss of control. When users are in charge of fixing their own problems, finding their own applications and installing their own solutions, who knows what they’ll end up installing? However, empowering your end users doesn’t have to mean totally giving up control. There are solutions on the market that will enable you to provide easy and pre-approved solutions to your end users, ensuring that workers they find the tech they need without resorting to potentially insecure software. LANDesk is one provider of such solutions, with their shopping cart feature.

On the other hand, the upside for IT is big. By empowering the end user through IT-ization, IT folks free up much of their own time. Instead of focusing on closing tickets or fighting fires, IT can is able to work more closely with the business units to determine where there are inefficiencies, redundancies and opportunities areas for improvement.  IT can use that “extra” time to develop custom applications to solve fulfill the unique problems of your organization.

IT is on the cusp of a major change. Even though many fear that BYOD, consumerization and the increased self-reliance of IT-ized end users may eventually cost them their jobs, the exact opposite is true. Now is the time for IT to make itself an indispensable business partner by giving workers access to what they need when they need it.