The Ins and Outs of Deploying Mobile Devices Across the Supply Chain

How do you use mobile devices and apps in your distribution center or warehouse? What costs do you incur? Does your entire organization use mobile technology properly and securely? Is your voice-picking system up and running at all times?

IT and line-of-business managers have a hard time getting answers to these and many other mobility questions, often because rogue users bring unknown mobile devices and applications into enterprise networks. In my experience, the larger the enterprise, the more difficult it is to gain full visibility into mobility.

Shifting away from Windows Mobile

Businesses face many challenges when it comes to enterprise mobility, from application selection to ongoing support. For organizations that use legacy rugged devices, one current trend is the migration away from Windows Mobile, since Microsoft will soon stop supporting the platform.

In the coming years, organizations will focus heavily on Android, forcing businesses to refresh their hardware to support these operating systems. Updating device technology is a huge capital expenditure that many businesses aren’t prepared for. It can also create issues with custom application development and support, as well as moving to a new operating system. Meanwhile, organizations that continue to use devices from two and three generations ago face mounting support costs.

Each organization must find the best applications and hardware to support its own environment; some businesses require use of legacy Telnet technology, while others run desktop operating systems on their devices to meet their requirements. Selecting the right environment for common capabilities, such as voice picking, requires in-depth knowledge of the available technology platforms and ongoing support.

A growing number of distribution centers and warehouses are also jumping over to consumer-based devices if they can perform in the right conditions. For example, Stratix recently worked with a food distributor to use Apple iPads in an environment where the temperature varied significantly. Bring-your-own-device is not a viable option for these organizations, prompting them to seek alternatives.

Increased control with MaaS

With so many moving parts, many companies are turning to a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) model to increase control over their mobile ecosystems and associated costs. Whether to insource or outsource enterprise mobility is a business decision that involves corporate goals, resource utilization, operating expenses, capital expenditures, and many other factors.

Enterprise mobility involves much more than just managing a myriad of devices; mobile app management, network access, carrier expenses, and identity verification are also critical components of an end-to-end enterprise solution.

When considering the total cost of ownership, organizations should take both operating and capital expenditures into account. MaaS offers organizations the significant benefit of changing device technology mid-cycle while maintaining a consistent cost structure. This allows organizations to refresh their current devices while working on their next-generation plans. Keeping devices current also eliminates many of the costs–and headaches–associated with supporting older technology.

Once enterprise executives agree with a mobility strategy that supports enterprise goals, they have done the heavy lifting to maximize mobility’s promise. The remaining challenges–implementing the strategy and managing the mobile ecosystem–are mostly tactical:

  • Provisioning
  • 24/7/365 user support
  • Device repair
  • Asset management, from procurement to disposition
  • Access management
  • Application development, integration, and deployment

A strategy that pays dividends

With MaaS, organizations can expect accelerated dividends from their mobility investments: better customer experiences, higher productivity, more engaged employees, lower costs, higher visibility into mobility usage, and greater enterprise agility.

For example, a large auto parts distributor created a consistent, cost-effective mobile program across its 58 distribution centers. Each distribution center previously operated its own mobile program, creating an inconsistent patchwork of technology and capex spikes, and preventing the business from implementing system-wide security measures.

To standardize mobile across the enterprise, the distributor purchased a MaaS model that included devices, deployment, and repairs. The distribution centers now operate on a single platform, and upgrades happen consistently across the organization, helping managers at each center maintain their budgets. MaaS also provides consistent service on needed repairs while saving the business time and resources.

Whether you call this type of outsourcing MaaS or MMS (Managed Mobility Services), the key is to use a reputable provider and an enterprise mobility strategy to help you define realistic goals and the best mix of mobility services for your organization.

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