November 2012 Integrated Solutions For Retailers
By Erin Harris, associate editor
This discount retailer replaced its outdated trolley-based data management system with a rugged tablet capable of withstanding the unique conditions of the warehouse environment.
Poundland is Europe’s largest single-price discount retailer, with 388 stores and two warehouse locations. Mick Corbett, IT solutions leader at Poundland, was tasked with overhauling the retailer’s legacy data collection equipment, as it was incapable of helping Poundland’s warehouse-based quality assurance (QA) team to keep up with the demands of the supply chain.
Poundland’s QA team is responsible for cross-referencing inventory availability and ensuring timely delivery to all 388 stores. Indeed, the QA team checks the inventory (i.e. type, color, quantity, etc.) against the database in real time. When issues arise, the team must take images of the inventory and upload those images into the database. “The process was fine, but the technology was flawed,” explains Corbett. “The legacy solution included a militarygrade laptop, which was bolted to a trolley with four wheels. Two car batteries were bolted to the bottom shelf with some leads to power the laptop. Imagine driving around in a Chevy with a laptop bolted to the roof. The batteries themselves were an issue for us, because they simply didn’t have a long life. Also, in the warehouse environment, racking extends about 30 feet high. Because space is a premium in our warehouses, as forklift trucks went up and down the aisles at the same time as the QA team, someone had to give way. The QA team member would have to move out of the aisle, wait for the other guy to finish his picking from the locations in the racking, and then get back to his work.” As a result, Corbett uncovered that the QA team experienced a great deal of wasted time just moving in and out of aisles waiting for trucks to shift out of the way before the QA team could begin or finish its work.
Mobile Computing Solution Best For Warehouse Environment
In order to improve productivity throughout the warehouse, Corbett researched a new data management solution for the QA team. Before choosing just any solution, Corbett had to consider the unique factors associated with a warehouse environment. “I did some research online to determine if there were any products that could meet our needs,” explains Corbett. “Warehouses are dusty environments — they can be hot, they can be freezing cold, they can be prone to drafts and moisture, and of course, things fall to the floor. We needed something tough enough to withstand the environment.” Corbett turned to Box Technologies, which suggested a mobile computing solution built on the Motion F5 Tablet PC from Motion Computing. Corbett and the QA team lead tested the Motion F5 Tablet PC and deemed it appropriate. The new Windows-based tablet has extended battery life of up to six hours, a hot-swap battery feature, and remote management capabilities. Corbett explains that the tablet has the same email, camera, and portability functionality as a laptop. The Motion F5 Tablet PC has an integrated camera, digitizer pen, and bar code scanner. “Once one tablet was installed, we had an image built off the old laptop,” says Corbett. “We imported that image onto the tablet, and we got our technical service team here to adjust it to the tablet — a process that took less than one week. Basically, we cloned one tablet to another.”
The QA team’s productivity has increased due to the new tablet solution. “We’re no longer dealing with latency or loss of time,” says Corbett. “Our QA team is not exiting an aisle to wait for a stacker drop to finish what he’s doing. The productivity of a QA team member has gone up substantially, because we’ve eliminated the wait time and constant battery changes. Also, we’re no longer worried about parking the old solution somewhere. QA team members simply put the tablet into a locker, and it’s secure. It’s about the mobility, portability, and productivity this solution has delivered to our team.”
For More Information On Motion Computing Go To www.motioncomputing.com