How a Track and Trace System Can Optimize ROI (In 6 Steps)

How a Track and Trace System Can Optimize ROI (In 6 Steps)

In logistics, the visibility of your product in transit is essential to promote your brand’s reliability and capability. It is an expectation, not an added benefit, for a consumer to know where a product is and when they can expect it.

We’ve previously talked with you about supply chain management, and the strengths of your track and trace system can directly influence the available impact of your supply chain by increasing transparency around your products in transit; if you lose sight of your products between order and fulfillment, then delivery speed, loss prevention, and, most importantly, your revenue are data points needing to be gathered after the fact rather than real-time.

1. Decrease your computing footprint, Increase your mobility

Realizing the capacity of inventory and the effectiveness of your logistics infrastructure is not a function only needed in an office or in a space where a desktop computer can be present, it’s something you need on you all the time. With over 4 and a half billion smartphone users worldwide, a handheld computer that is low cost, scalable, and widely compatible is the ideal track and trace terminal. Reduce the cost of maintaining the hardware and peripherals of a desktop solution and by focusing on the devices currently used by employees, and equipment costs and the operational costs of training can be reduced drastically.

2. Visualize your products in transit

Understanding exactly where a delivery vehicle and associated shipment is at any point in time can help both distribution and client project payment and inventory, but to understand where the delivery vehicle needs GPS. While GPS in vehicles is typically reserved for luxury or premium vehicle packages, GPS in smartphone devices is an expectation in 2018. Avoid the additional cost to provide GPS for delivery resources, and rely on the GPS available from the phone of a driver. By adding the data provided by other smartphone and GPS users worldwide using the APIs of Google Maps, Bing Maps, and other affordable solutions, you can gain access to real-time traffic data to better analyze expectations around delivery.

3. Centralize your data and integrate legacy systems

Knowing the multitude of systems needed to manage inventory and resources, whether enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management (EAM) field service management (FSM), warehouse management system (WMS), or inventory management system (IMS), there are often more individual interfaces available that can be managed by one person or one team. With a mature user experience informed by business goals, bring the data and interactivity of the systems housing your data into a simple and accessible mobile solution via APIs and integrations, reducing the need to rely on different interfaces and compatibility models. Bringing all of the data around your track and trace system together can help build comprehensive business intelligence reporting needed for your business, helping you build a clear, real-time understanding of your capacity in the palm of your hand.

4. Use machine learning to project costs and capacity

Historically, resource projection and calculation would require analytics software on a powerful desktop computer in the organization, and are susceptible to human error from manually maintained functions. With the strength of cloud computing in your hand, leverage complex AI and machine learning models to build accurate and informed projections based on historical, competitive, and real-time data to be able to make decisions for the future of your resources through services like Google’s Tensorflow and Microsoft’s Azure ML. The cost of intelligently anticipating the needs of your product are increasingly affordable, and the benefits are available from your phone.

5. Ditch peripherals. Scan and tag products from your smart device

To measure and manage your inventory quickly, less is more: less mobile terminals, barcode scanners, and extra peripherals needed to validate barcodes and identifying information to update inventory. With a mobile device, you can scan your barcode, look at a QR code using your smart glasses, detect RFID or NFC tags on boxes, or even have your phone recognize your product based on its appearance with machine learning. Your bank recognizes your check when you use mobile deposit, so why shouldn’t your track and trace system be able to understand a barrel of your material based on an OSHA label? Whether by using visual recognition software on the device or by checking a label against a library of images stored in the cloud, reduce the cost of managing inventory by focusing on your mobile device.

6. Start your mobile track and trace system with Shockoe

By leveraging the power and proliferation of mobile interactions, your track and trace system can be more visible and more all-encompassing to keep up with demand and to promote profitability real-time. In bringing your track and trace system to mobile, you elevate your business goals and realize your logistics footprint from your pocket.

For more on how we’ve helped our partners implement a successful track and trace system, read about our Drive app built for J.B. Hunt.

Cameron Hall

Cameron Hall

Mobile Strategist

Cameron uses his experience in app and analytics strategy for healthcare, finance, government, and logistics apps with a focus on emerging technologies to deliver on customer-centric product development. When not devouring research on the latest and greatest, you can find Cameron hiking, playing soccer, reading a book, or continuing his education.

The Warehouse Management System of Tomorrow: Faster, Leaner, and Mobile

The Warehouse Management System of Tomorrow: Faster, Leaner, and Mobile

The Warehouse Management System of Tomorrow

Imagine this: you show up at your place of work, look out onto the warehouse floor, and see all your employees hard at work making sure inventory is being stocked and orders are being fulfilled. But these are not your normal employees, instead, they are robots automatically and seamlessly performing the work previously assigned to countless humans.

Some warehouses are already adopting these technologies, and it won’t be long before others do as well. With the ubiquity of mobile and greater access to the latest technology, it’s not surprising to see more manufacturers incorporating emerging devices into their processes.

Warehouses once relied exclusively on paper for production orders, dispatch notifications, and as a means of managing asset and inventory. Fast forward to today and you’ll see an increasingly paperless industry. Warehouse Management System software, scanning solutions, and other applications are now in place to enable data to be entered directly into digital or cloud storage. This has reduced the number of errors caused by readability issues or lost paperwork, while also reducing the operating costs of the companies.

So how do warehouses become more efficient between the world of today and the future world of automation? Well, the transition is becoming increasingly achievable with all the evolving technology. The key is evaluating the current infrastructure and technology, coming up with a strategy based on key objectives, and starting to make the investment.

Over the last couple of years, we have been working with Arrow Electronics to do just that – improve efficiency through mobile solutions. When we first started working with Arrow, they had a WMS system in place but were using older technology that limited the efficiency of their employees. Shockoe created an overhauled WMS using mobile tablets, wireless handheld scanners, and a revamped user interface. The new process and interface allow operators greater flexibility and maneuverability, increasing pick speed efficiency. Supervisors can now make necessary decisions away from their desk through the mobile interface allowing them to review reports, manage inventory and processes, and communicate directly with the operators.

As we continue to grow our relationship with Arrow, we are exploring means to provide further functionality to operators and immersing them in the mobile experience. This will include wearable technology which enables operators to work hands-free and eliminate the need to bring a cart down an aisle.

As we move forward, other technology will be considered to improve the efficiency of the warehouse operations. For example:

Integrating with Smart Glasses

How about integrating the core functionality of a smartphone into a pair of glasses? The main difference is the display technology: images are projected directly in front of the field of vision, freeing-up user’s hands for other tasks. When working in a warehouse, having free hands and ready access to information is hugely progressive for both ergonomics and efficiency. Using this kind of device in the picking process will ease the work for operators and can help increase picking performance. It is also a flexible solution to implement since it doesn’t need any other specific equipment in the warehouse.

integrating with smart glasses

 

Voice as a guide

Adding voice-guidance to different WMS functionalities can also increase the efficiency of warehouse operations. Instructions can now be heard rather than cumbersomely viewed. This can be integrated into both smart glasses or a traditional mobile app, further allowing the operators to function hands-free and increase focus on their tasks.

Integrating Virtual & Augmented Reality Into Processes

Augmented and mixed reality ‘picking’ uses smart glasses to merge virtual images and information with an operator’s surrounding environment. The operator would wear the glasses, follow any on-screen instructions, and scan product barcodes all within the glasses’ display. The combination of real-world and virtual information provides speed and accuracy beyond previous warehouse picking technologies.

integrating virtual reality

Training with Virtual & Augmented Reality

Did you know only 40% of information is retained when people observe versus 90% when they experience it themselves? So, how about leveraging VR or AR to train employees so they can become productive quickly, while also improving the quality of the work and reducing training costs? Using smart glasses, VR headsets, or other simulators allows both new and current employees to get immersed in the work to learn without having to shadow other employees. This keeps productivity high across the board as you don’t need to pull someone away from current work to train someone.

The state of warehouse management has evolved over time as companies continue to evolve to keep up with consumer demands. Fully automated systems will take time and money. Yet, with the ubiquity of mobile and existing WMS software, an affordable cutting-edge solution might not be so distant. By employing a combination of mobile solutions, smart glasses, AR/VR/MR, or voice, warehouses can become exponentially more productive — improving not just cost, but also overall quality and safety.

training with virtual reality

Note from Editor: 
With mobile technology, employees are no longer confined to their static cubicles, bulky PCs, and disorganized file cabinets. If you’d like to learn more about what it means to have a truly mobile workforce, check out this page.

Also, you can read about “A Mobile Workforce: What Customers Want” in our previous post.

What to Expect in iOS 12 and Android 9 ‘Pie’

What to Expect in iOS 12 and Android 9 ‘Pie’

Organizations in the market for new mobile solutions should find plenty of ideas to play in the recent introduction of Android 9 ‘Pie’ and the release of iOS 12. But what really stands out are the UX improvements which elevate your app’s potential to delight the end user with greater depth, efficiency, and personalization. Here’s a breakdown of some of our favorite features.

Voice Recognition and Shortcuts

  •  Siri Shortcuts (iOS 12)

Such personalization will be a hallmark of the new capabilities of Siri, by now a comfortably ubiquitous name yet historically an unfortunate mixed bag of wonkiness and frustration for Apple and their customers. Fortunately, Siri Shortcuts will analyze individual user behavior within your apps to add highly visible shortcuts in lock screen and spotlight. App owners can elevate the visibility of their product by donating shortcuts, increasing usage and platform efficiency. And a much-beleaguered, highly overdue addition – voice commands can now perform multiple tasks in one dictation.

  • App Actions (Pie)

Android introduces a feature to help position your app’s capabilities where and when the user needs them.  With App Actions, each function of your app meets an immediate want or need, upping your value proposition and visibility.  Plug in your headphones, and see your audio app come to life. Search for a film, and see your app shortlink to purchase tickets.

 

Notifications

  • Notification Grouping and Deliver Quietly (iOS 12)

With the barrage of attention-hoarding notifications our modern devices can parade, some of us might be wishing for a bit more organization in the all the chaos. Cue iOS 12’s ability to group notifications from the same person/app/source together, with the lead notification/message tappable to display the rest of the notifications neatly lined up behind. A further touch is the ability to ‘un-group’ by app through tagging specific notifications with a thread-ID, letting the user control more than ever the who, what where and when of their mobile experience. ‘Deliver Quietly’ scraps the home-screen and banner clutter altogether, making the notification center home base for the user’s desired alerts.

  • AI Auto Response and Notification Drawer (Pie)

Greatly enhanced machine-learning capabilities in both iOS and Android’s updates have allowed for some nice touches. AI-generated auto responses, gleaned from user behavior, will appear in the notification drawer on lock screen suggesting intelligent replies to messages (without even opening the app!). Those who dream of a device that knows their whims will revel in largely finger-free messaging on the fly when a quick yet accurate response is all that’s needed. Furthermore, hurried or unfinished replies in the drawer are saved and archived for sending at a later time. Images, stickers, and past messages will all be drawer-accessible with the ability to both send and receive them.

 

Augmented Reality

  • ARKIT 2 and CORE ML (iOS 12)

Apple is seeking to maintain pace with Google in AR and machine-learning improvements, unleashing their new tools for a higher level of development of AR apps and games as well as an increased efficiency in machine-learning. 3D objects now predominate in built environments, with shapes and sizes of furniture, toys and other items detectable. Universal Scene Description (created with PIXAR) allows the sharing of AR objects across multiple platforms. CORE ML’s enhanced machine learning facilitates developers in making their own machine-learning models more customizable and tailored to the app owner’s unique needs. Apple’s ‘Natural Language Framework’ bolsters natural language processing tasks even further. These enhancements are fueled by A12 Bionic, Apple’s next generation Neural Engine chip (powering their sleek new X-line below), which promises to intelligently increase speed and functionality to a whole new level.

 

Notch Support

  • Android P Notch Support (Pie) and Watch (iOS)

By maximizing the user interface, Android P Notch Support gives your app an edge on modern phone displays. A mainstay since Apple’s iPhone X (and now the new standard with Apple’s X-line, above), Notch display support for Pie cuts your app’s content to it’s most visually appealing layout on the latest phones. Developers can test a display cutout on any device, giving your app seamless, personalized integration into the user interface. What’s more, the new 4th gen iWatch from Apple with iOS 5 will deliver an expanded display for your app to flourish as wearables continue to evolve and dominate the mobile landscape.

The array of imaginative tools and improvements from both Apple and Android’s latest present a great case to update your apps.  If you’re in the market for a new product, or just want to seize the moment to leverage some seriously cool new features, consider these updates your impetus.  The most valuable asset in a UX is the user, and by putting them in the driver seat with your app’s new personalized capabilities and intelligence, you’ll edge them even closer to going mobile, first, every time.

 

Alejandro Otanez

Alejandro Otanez

COO

Alex has more than 10 years of international experience in Strategic IT Transformation and Custom App Development. His expertise in various industries ranges from Consumer Goods to Retail to Finance while assisting clients in the areas of Business Strategy & Development, Security & Compliance, and Technology Transformation. As one of Shockoe’s founding members, Alex is focused on business strategy, security & compliance, digital innovation, mobile management, and operational transformations.