Category: Supply Chain

Remote Control

At a time when budgets seem ever tighter and every last dollar counts, arming your sales force with the latest mobile technology tools can be critical to driving increased profitability. The key to a good enterprise mobile solution, which can include mobile computers and printers, is to give beverage sales forces out in the field real-time connectivity and visibility.

With the latest mobile devices, salespeople can place orders on the spot, keep track of inventory and print receipts, even with a signature attached to it, thanks to the latest in data capture technology, as well as leverage route accounting solutions to improve efficiency and productivity on the delivery side.

The increasing use of consumer devices, such as iPads, smartphones and tablets, in the workplace is one major trend that is shaping sales force automation in a big way.

“There are more device types than ever before available and this has been driven by the explosion in consumer-based devices that are powerful, functional and inexpensive. There is a growing population of merchandisers that are comfortable with that technology,” says Ken Currie, vice president of business development with enterprise software and hardware supplier Barcoding, Inc.

To keep up with this trend, HighJump Software released a version of its Mobile Sales Advantage software for use on full-screen Windows-based mobile devices like Panasonic Toughbook tablets and laptops.

While the trend of Bring Your Own Device to the workplace may be convenient for office-based employees, there are still some kinks to work out for enterprise business environments like beverage distribution sales teams. For instance, beverage distribution salespeople using devices like the iPad have found that sales force automation apps are usually web-based, requiring a constant Internet connection, which can be difficult when a route salesman is working in warehouses or coolers.

Software provider AI2 offers a solution to this problem with its ProSel sales force automation application for use on the iPad. With ProSel, salespeople have online and offline access to order entry and sales data.

This ongoing consumerization of enterprise mobility means enterprise software and hardware designers are faced with the challenge of contending with different operating systems, says Chris Nelson, director of product strategy at HighJump.

“Our traditional applications have worked in Windows-based mobile, ruggedized handheld devices,” Nelson says. “People want to use the applications that work on these other operations systems, such as iOS from Apple and Android from Google, and that’s a dynamic that has changed our business and that’s why we are coming out with new products to address this.”

Many enterprise software providers are developing what’s called in the industry MEAPs, or Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms, which allows the development of a mobile application that can be deployed to various mobile devices with different operating systems.

Using its own MEAP, HighJump is developing a mobile field sales application for use on iOS and Android operating systems and the company plans to unveil the application later this year, Nelson says.

There also are some security issues with employees using so many different mobile devices as IT managers have to manage and control wireless access.

In many cases, beverage distributors and bottlers are outsourcing their mobile device management to third party vendors. A company like Enterprise Mobile, for instance, offers mobile device management solutions (MDM) that supports all the major mobile platforms—Apple iOS, Android, RIM, Windows Embedded Handheld and Windows Mobile, while also assisting with device repair services.

For a fully integrated solution that connects mobile field applications with back-office systems, Currie with Barcoding Inc. points to the eoStar route accounting software package.

Bronx, New York-based Manhattan Beer Distributors is one of many beer distributors that use the eoStar technology, as it offers “the scalability that the company needs as it expands it business,” according to Manhattan Beer COO Bill Bessette.

Developed by Rutherford & Associates, eoStar enables real-time visibility, according to Currie, from pre-sales to warehouse operations to cases on the truck.

Hardware Solutions
The popularity and appeal of consumer devices has led salespeople to increasingly want the performance, sleekness and user-friendly features commonly found on smartphones.

To this end, Psion recently released its latest handheld device for field sales and delivery operations, the Psion Omni RT15, which, the company says, combines modularity, performance and durability. Features of the Omni RT15 include extended battery performance, multiple data capture modules, such as imaging and laser scanner options, and expanded wireless capabilities.

In the tough DSD field environment, durability continues to be an important feature for ruggedized mobile devices. For instance, delivery drivers and merchandisers need handheld devices that can withstand the frequent bumps, drops, spills and movement that makes up their daily routine.

Addressing this need, Zebra Technologies’ third generation of QL thermal mobile printers, the new QLn series, extends QL-platform benefits like drop-resistant durability. The QLn printer can boost productivity through an easier-to-navigate display and faster, higher-quality printing.

Intermec recently introduced what its touting as the smallest, lightest durable receipt printers for mobile field professionals. The two-inch PR2 and three-inch PR3 work well for merchandisers and route account salesmen as its light enough to be worn all day on a belt clip and has a fast printing speed, the company says.

SKU proliferation and product complexity is an ongoing challenge within the beverage distribution environment and Intermec’s 70 Series mobile computers can be an effective tool to help beverage sales teams manage this complexity, says Brian Schulte, marketing director at Intermec.

“The 70 Series has by far the most processing power and are the most rugged and dependable of anything we’ve had out there. The processing power helps companies dealing with large databases and complexity as far as all the SKUs and the pricing and promotions that go with that,” Schulte says.

Image capturing capabilities is an increasingly in-demand tool for field sales and Intermec offers the Integrated Remote Deposit Capture solution on many of its mobile computers. This tool enables salespeople to scan check deposits and transmit the electronic files of the check image to their banks, which helps with early detection of fraudulent checks and faster payment clearing.

Visicom offers a number of DSD mobile solutions, including hands-free voice recognition to improve productivity out in the field. This feature allows merchandisers to have both hands free to handle inventory. Visicom also offers real-time alerts to update sales teams about new deliveries or route changes.

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