Supply chain efficiency has become a competitive differentiator for manufacturers and retailers as companies feel growing pressure to give consumers the merchandise they want, faster. Mobile technology, such as ruggedized tablets, has strong potential to make the supply chain more efficient from start to finish.
On the Production Floor
In manufacturing facilities, engineers and supervisors can use rugged tablets to review data, access applications, and track work in progress (WIP). This enables managers to keep the supply chain running efficiency. The ability to keep management, suppliers, and customers informed of the status of specific orders in real time also allows potential problems to be handled before they can escalate and become significant enough to disrupt operations.
In the Warehouse
Rugged tablets are a more flexible alternative to forklift-mounted and fixed-station computers for the warehouse. They support barcode scanning, radio-frequency identification (RFID), and wireless LAN communications, permitting easier, real-time tracking and processing of assets that are stored on or move among trucks, trailers, containers, pallets, and racks in the warehouse. Inbound and outbound shipments and their contents can be processed or found quickly. All of this, of course, means greater supply chain efficiency.
Furthermore, rugged tablets are designed to resist damage from temperature extremes as workers move from inside to outside in all seasons. They are also built to withstand exposure to water and dust, and falls to hard surfaces. The less damage to equipment, the less downtime in the warehouse and the fewer the delays in moving merchandise from the warehouse to its next destination.
In Transit and During Delivery
It’s no secret that paper-based processes take time to complete, leading to delays as merchandise is transported and processed on arrival. With rugged tablets, recording of hours of service (HOS), maintaining driver logs, and recording data from pre-trip inspections, can be automated. This adds up to significant time savings and, in turn, improved supply chain efficiency.
Rugged tablets can also provide drivers with onboard global positioning system (GPS) capabilities and turn-by-turn driving directions, along with dispatch and scheduling information. Additionally, rugged tablets’ built-in GPS component permits shipping companies to track the progress of their trucks and shipments in real time, as well as to update customers about the vehicles’ arrival at or departure from their facilities.
In the Retail Environment
There are several ways in which rugged tablets support greater efficiency in retail stores. With these devices — which operate for longer periods of time and are less likely to break down than their consumer-grade counterparts — retail staff can quickly read bar codes and RFID tags. This can replace manual shipping, receiving, and inventory management processes including logging the receipt of shipments and inventory counts.
Rugged tablets are also valuable for mobile point of sale (mPOS), enabling sales associates to assist customers in the aisles and accept payments, including EMV chip card and contactless, NFC transactions.
Achieving improvements in supply chain efficiency will continue to be important to both retailers and manufacturers. With the ability to improve efficiency within every link of the supply chain, rugged mobile tablets rank as a valuable and worthwhile technology investment.