Mobile Apps for the Supply Chain

Mobile Apps for the Supply Chain

Don’t Limit Yourself

While computing in the supply chain is nothing new, many of the existing systems and platforms are typically running on bulky and dated equipment, limiting the flexibility and efficiency of employees. This issue isn’t confined to one segment of the supply chain. Everyone from suppliers to retailers is often conducting day-to-day operations with outdated supply chain applications and hardware. With the ubiquity of mobile technology, introducing apps into the supply chain can be beneficial and seamless. Mobile supply chain apps can lead to improvements at every step, often in similar ways across segments. For example, inventory management apps allow suppliers to track their raw materials, manufacturers to decrease the time to manufacture and ship, and retailers to more effectively track their stock.

Companies frequently focus the majority of their mobile technology investment on consumer-facing apps, often at the expense of mobilizing their supply chain operations. Shockoe has partnered with several big box retailers, as their supply chain app developer, to create apps that support supply chain workforce and processes. The infographic, below, outlines examples of how these supply chain apps can support desired customer experiences by improving processes such as inventory management, production planning, material management, and resource planning processes, to name a few.

See The Potential

As a supply chain app developer, we work with our clients to help them gain insight into points along the supply chain that will benefit from mobile app investment in order to get customers their product faster, more efficiently, and more effectively. This leads to a better customer experience, which maximizes their existing investment in consumer-facing solutions and increases customer loyalty.

How Suppliers Benefit:

  • Accurate sourcing: track and distribute raw materials anytime, anywhere. Mobile apps connect manufacturers to the first step of the supply chain, the raw materials supplier.
  • Easier inventory control: inventory management with the tap of a finger. Warehouse management apps give you 24/7 control of inventory
  • Simplified logistics: order fulfillment that’s simple, intuitive, and on the go. Track the transit of materials from anywhere in the field.

How Manufacturers Benefit:

  • Faster production times: supply chain apps integrate with legacy systems to cut down on the overall production process, decreasing the time to manufacture and ship.
  • Recall/damage control: simplify field assessments and integrate data captured in the field from mobile apps with back office applications. The faster a customer complaint is resolved, the more likely customers are to become repeat customers.
  • Better final product: tighter quality control means better oversight. All of this amounts to a higher quality product.

How Distributors Benefit:

  • Improved warehouse management
  • Smarter communication
  • Increased “on-time” delivery

How Retailers Benefit:

  • Better stock management
  • More efficient front-line employees
  • Less shrinkage

How Consumers Benefit:

  • Faster shipments
  • Accurate order tracking
  • Great customer experience

Increase Your Bottom Line

Partnering with an experienced supply chain app developer to digitize the supply chain means organizations can have the best of both worlds by increasing efficiency to decrease costs and making sure customers become ambassadors for the brand, leading to repeat business and long-term revenue growth.

 

Apps for the Supply Chain

 

Product Management in App-griculture

Product Management in App-griculture

Back in the day, when life was simple and technology was limited, dairy producers would keep track of their herds by using journals or notebooks. As time as passed, adoption of computer software increased where data could be entered, but only after jotting it down on the farm first. Nowadays, there is mobile technology everywhere and there are apps out there to support all kinds of activities – including dairy farming.

How convenient is it for a dairy producer to take his phone or tablet anywhere to keep track of his/her herd? Well, to keep to a one-word answer – “extremely”. Not only is it a time savings by not having to log something on a piece of paper and go back and enter it onto a computer, it’s the convenience of having the information with you all the time.

Here at Shockoe, we have had the opportunity to work closely with a couple of clients to build apps for the dairy farming community. As part of the process, we had conversations with the future users of the app (dairy producers, veterinarians, and animal technicians) to learn how they use their existing software and what was missing.

As we traverse through the mobile development lifecycle with our clients, our product management practice focused on a few key main areas to ensure we meet our client’s needs:

1. User Experience

If users open the mobile app and don’t feel like there is any value for it, they will quickly delete and continue to use something else. The app needs to have the functionality to allow the users to accomplish their tasks, but also be structured in a way for easy navigation and reliable performance.

2. Simplicity

Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This and the principle, KISS, that has been around since the mid-1900’says it all. If a mobile app is not intuitive and easy to use, it will not be used – even if it on a device being carried around all day.

3. Security

If data or user information is not protected, the app is a huge failure. Users need to know the mobile application they are using is safe to use. This means securing the code, securing the device, securing the data, and securing the transactions.

4. Analytics

What is the most common functionality used in the mobile application? Which functionality is the least used by users? How long are the sessions for a user? Answers to these questions and feedback from the users, help determine what enhancements can be made for future versions. It just doesn’t stop after the mobile is pushed out to the stores, monitoring and evaluating needs to occur.

Dairy producers, vets, and technicians need the ability to access information about their animals, update data, and also perform various functions throughout the day. Following these key elements and working closely with the users, allows us at Shockoe to deliver a high quality mobile experience.

The Buzz Around Beacons

The Buzz Around Beacons

Business Insider recently published an article exploring the world of beacon technology. Many companies from airports to retailers are already using beacon technology. Being app developers ourselves, we pay close attention to anything that presents opportunity in mobile.

If you’re new to the concept, a beacon is a small device that broadcasts a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) signal. That signal contains the beacon’s unique identifiers, called a UUID, and a few other data points about it.  Beacons don’t record data, store information or send push alerts. All of that happens through an app.

A real-world example:
I’m attending SXSW, one of the hottest interactive, film and music festivals in the world held in Austin, TX. The official SXSW mobile app was enabled by beacons which significantly improved my registration experience by getting an alert containing my Registration QuickCode when I was in the vicinity of the SXSW registration booth. They also placed 50+ beacons at various event venues in and around the Austin Convention Center allowing SXW to welcome me to a session, encourage me to join discussions about a session within the SXSW app, see which other attendees were at that session and view tweets related to that session.

For a smartphone to be able to detect and make use of a beacon, it must meet four criteria.

(1)  the end user must have an app installed that recognizes beacons
(2)  the device must be Bluetooth enabled
(3)  the user must opt-in to share location with the app
(4)  the device must be running iOS 7 or higher or Android 4.3 or higher

The initial lure and marketing hype around beacons centers on real-time notifications. Installing beacons in merchandising areas enables you to send shoppers location-aware, targeted notifications, branded content and personalized offers. Within seconds or less of detecting a beacon, the app decodes the signal and delivers a push alert to the device: “Welcome to Starbucks. Free Mini-Scone with Purchase of a Drink. Today Only!”

Perhaps you’re taking the family to Marvel’s “Heroes on Ice” tour. The app detects a beacon at the venue, then serves up content relevant to that context. The user opens the app and sees “Best Restaurants Downtown.”

Additionally, the app sends push notifications alerting you to content relevant to your current location, or nearby advertisers. This more active approach builds upon the first two examples, but uses a combination of beacon technology and push notifications to prompt action from the user.

As more companies around the globe deploy beacons, we end up with a network of physical places that each have their own digital bookmark. A beacon gives a location its own real-world “URL,” or a way to identify and connect the physical and digital realms.

Knowing this digital footprint of locations empowers companies to understand how an opted-in audience navigates through the world. What are people shopping for? How often? When do they typically visit?

Data built over time is the key to unlocking valuable audience understanding, which companies can use to improve local, regional, and national sales. Better audience data equals better products, happier users, more engagement, more effective campaigns, and ultimately more revenue opportunities.

Testing and innovating with beacons is absolutely worth pursuing in 2015 in parallel to using proven sources like Facebook, Twitter, Google.  Bridging the mobile revenue gap is top priority, and requires new tactics and audience understanding. Beacons offer potential solutions to both.

Image Credit:  Estimote Beacons

Beginner’s Titanium: UI Layouts Using Nested Views

Making user interface elements display how you want them is not always a simple task. The Titanium 2.0 SDK changed the way the ‘auto’ sizing keyword is handled. These changes may require some existing code to be modified in order to produce the same output. So, we’ve put together a simple iOS example to show the use of nested views with the new values Ti.UI.SIZE and Ti.UI.FILL.

We want to make a layout that looks like this:

 

First, let’s create our window.


var window = Ti.UI.createWindow({
    backgroundColor:'lightgray',
});

Next, we want to create an outer view container for our layout and add it to our window. This container’s layout property is set to horizontal so that our content will be added from left to right.


var outerView = Ti.UI.createView({
backgroundColor: 'blue',
layout: 'horizontal',
height: 100,
width: 300,
});

window.add(outerView);

We’ll create an ImageView, set its photo, and add it to our outer view container.


var photo = Ti.UI.createImageView({
width: 7
height: Ti.UI.FILL,
borderColor: '#444',
borderWidth: 2,
borderRadius: 2,
backgroundColor: 'white',
});

photo.image = 'http://www.shockoe.com/media/shockoelogo_web.png';

outerView.add(photo);

Since we don’t want our labels to go directly next to the photo, we need a small buffer. We’ll create a view to use as a buffer and add it to our outer view container.


//5 pixel buffer between photo and nestedViewContainer

outerView.add(Ti.UI.createView({

width: 15,

height: Ti.UI.FILL,

backgroundColor: 'green',

}));

We want a container with a vertical layout so we can add three rows of labels from top to bottom. We create another nested view and use it as a container for labels.


var nestedViewContainer = Ti.UI.createView({
layout: 'vertical',
height: Ti.UI.FILL, //fill remaining height of parent
width: Ti.UI.FILL, //fil remaining width of parent
backgroundColor: 'yellow',
});

We create our Labels and add them to the nested view container.


var topLabel = Ti.UI.createLabel({
text: 'I am topLabel',
width: Ti.UI.SIZE,
height: '50%', //make the top label taller than the others
backgroundColor: 'cyan'
});

var middleLabel = Ti.UI.createLabel({
text: 'I am middleLabel',
height: Ti.UI.SIZE,
width: Ti.UI.FILL,//make this label as wide as its parent view
textAlign: Ti.UI.TEXT_ALIGNMENT_CENTER,//center the text in the width of the label
backgroundColor: 'red'
});

var bottomLabel = Ti.UI.createLabel({
text: 'I am bottomLabel',
width: Ti.UI.SIZE,
height: Ti.UI.SIZE,
backgroundColor: 'purple'
});

//add our labels to the nestedViewContainer
nestedViewContainer.add(topLabel);
nestedViewContainer.add(middleLabel);
nestedViewContainer.add(bottomLabel);

Finally, we add our nested view container to the outer view container and open our window.


//add our nestedViewContainer to the outerView

outerView.add(nestedViewContainer);

//open our window

window.open();

The UI views are colored to indicate the output of each element.  Comparing the code to the output should provide some idea of how the properties affect the outcome.  Please let us know in the comments section if this example was helpful!