Mobile devices are everywhere. Every aspect of the supply chain, from the supplier to the consumer, has been impacted by mobile technology. There is a good chance that you are already using mobile in your supply chain but is your mobile strategy keeping up with the needs of your operation?
Not only is mobile hardware changing quickly, with new phones being released constantly, but the software that runs on these devices is also changing. Device manufacturers are continuing to add more and more features into the operating system of mobile devices as well as giving developers the ability to quickly take advantage of these new features in their mobile apps. In addition to the devices and software improvements, manufacturers have also been producing rugged cases for mobile devices that add superior durability while still being able to take advantage of the latest mobile technology and features.
While barcode scanners have been used with mobile apps for a very long time, there have also been many hardware and software improvements that have increased both reliability and ease of use. A good scanner can make the difference in the adoptability of your app and can make your business more efficient from source to customer. Reducing the time it takes to actually scan an item and adding support for many more barcode types can make tasks like asset tracking and inventory management much more efficient. It complements voice features well by allowing identification of products in environments where speech recognition might not work well. Our recent experience was with AC Moore’s employees.
- Scanning a product in warehouse for inventory count
- Identifying a package being transported by scanning barcodes at delivery checkpoints
Voice and speech recognition have probably have made very rapid advancements in the past few years. All the major players including Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Samsung, have worked on optimizing and perfecting the ability to recognize and process speech. Not only will you find it in mobile devices, but this past year has seen a large adoption of devices such as Amazon’s stand-alone Echo and Dot products. What used to be a novelty years ago has now transformed into an valuable feature available on almost all modern mobile devices. Speech recognition is able to easily complement technologies like barcode scanning in areas such as inventory management. It also has the flexibility of being as adjustable and powerful as you need by tying a recognized vocabulary with data from suppliers, transportation, sales, and consumers.
- Using voice to document quality control inspections
- Improving safety by not requiring workers to take eyes off equipment and instead use voice to enter/read data
GPS technology has also improved over the years giving mobile devices much quicker and more precise location information. While traditional mobile uses of GPS like navigation are quite mainstream, features such as geofencing are not as widespread. Geofencing creates a virtual geographic boundary that mobile software can react to. It can trigger a check in when a truck arrives with a shipment or optimize and adjust workflows based on estimated times of arrival. When combined with a smart mobile app, it can also give receiving terminals detailed information about drivers and shipments (eliminating possible paperwork) as well as giving feedback back to drivers about possible gate changes or wait times. Here’s how Shockoe has helped JB Hunt in accomplishing a similar project. All of these not only make supply chain flows more efficient but also increase satisfaction of the people involved at all points of the process.
- Efficient routing of trucks and personnel based on real-time location of goods and equipment
- Tracking package deliveries for optimizing route and fuel efficiency to save time & money
With the introduction of Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) beacons, companies have been able to improve the logistics of their business in a much more efficient (and affordable) way than what was delivered with RFID. Early adoption of beacons was often used for indoor navigation, where GPS signal was unreliable. Shockoe has tackled this through a great personalized tour experience app with Anheuser-Busch. Uses have expanded to allow workers to efficiently navigate and locate items in storage, as well as being able to give a customer the ability to find the product they are looking for in a retail store. In addition to location proximity, beacons can also be fitted with additional sensors for light, humidity, and temperature; which expands their many uses to areas such as storage and transportation. A beacons low cost, enhanced battery lifetime, and the fact that they can be used with mobile devices (bypassing the need for specialized equipment), makes them particularly ideal for supply chain operations.
- Alert personnel that humidity levels for monitored goods are above acceptable range and direct them to the location using their mobile device
- Navigate grocery customers looking for a certain product to the correct aisle for the store
Mobile technologies are being used in all aspects of supply chain management from manufacturing to the consumer. At Shockoe, we are building smart mobile apps that leverage the latest features available. We work to give suppliers, truck drivers, dispatchers, receivers, retail stores, and customers real-time insights and collaboration using an app they love. What are your thoughts on supply chain mobility benefits? Leave a comment – we’d love to hear how you’re incorporating mobility in your day-to-day.