Boost logistics productivity with mobile devices

Just-in-time supply chains are dependent on the flow of real-time data as well as goods. This makes managing a growing array of mobility devices – from barcode scanners to in-vehicle routing systems and smartphones – a business critical task. But all too often employees are plagued by crashing apps, fast draining batteries and unstable connectivity. How can unified endpoint management help?

Mobile supply chain management

Worldwide retail e-commerce sales grew 27.6% for the year, for a total of $4.280 trillion according to eMarketer. The importance of highly efficient supply chains has never been so great. Same or next day delivery windows are now a consumer expectation. In addition, just-in-time inventory is the norm in sectors ranging from automotive to food and beverage, and electronics to fashion.

Today, frontline workers right across the supply chain are dependent on mobile devices that enable them to capture business-critical data “from the edge” and to funnel it up to the central network. The physical flow of goods needs to be accompanied by a digital flow of information to keep all stakeholders across complex systems aware of the status of each delivery.

According to RFGen, a provider of mobile data collection software and warehouse automation solutions, “Mobile hardware systems are critical to tracking the thousands or millions of items in stock at any given time, especially across multiple locations, or as these items make their way through the supply chain. Amazon’s innovative use of mobile devices, such as barcode scanners, is not only an integral part of their stock control system, but also part of the reason why Amazon has grown to be the world’s largest online retailer.”

Barcodes and scanners provide track-and-trace capabilities for warehouse staff, delivery drivers and retail staff, helping to greatly reduce errors and deliver a quick ROI. Information captured from the barcode is stored in databases that are synchronized with cloud-hosted inventory management and asset-tracking systems that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

But there are a multitude of other “rugged” mobile devices beyond barcode scanners – from smartphones, tablets and kiosks to wearables, vehicle-mounted or fixed-position units in warehouses and other handheld readers. A study by Zebra Technologies on the future of fulfillment notes that these are vital for “quick, automated inventory and cycle counting.”

While these purpose-built devices have afforded significant gains in efficiency, their business-critical role in keeping the supply chain fluid means they require special management.

Each device along the supply chain is business critical

Two-thirds of frontline workers experience mobile issues each month that impair their ability to do their jobs, according to a recent survey of 1,505 companies across seven countries. A further 58% of IT and frontline workers reported that mobile issues (apps crashing, drained device batteries, unstable connectivity) had caused their companies unnecessary expense. The report estimates these costs are likely to account for 80% or more of an enterprise’s total cost of ownership of mobile devices. Unified endpoint management (UEM) is an essential solution to address these challenges.

Device failure adds to mobility TCO, not to the bottom line

Take the barcode scanner. Supply-chain bottlenecks due to device failures negatively impact productivity and are stressful for the personnel who are responsible for the movement of goods. In most cases, a barcode scanner malfunction at a fulfillment center is likely to have a greater financial impact than an office worker’s smartphone. Despite the costs, however, many organizations are not thinking about managing manufacturing and logistics mobile devices with the same rigor as smartphones and desktops in an office to ensure their functional continuity.

UEM as a service to ensure continuity, minimize disruption and maximize productivity

How does Orange UEM as a service respond to these challenges?

First of all, unified endpoint management enables organizations to properly manage a diverse fleet of mobile devices used by knowledge and frontline workers. This is regardless of the device’s operating system (OS) or form factor (smartphone, tablet, desktop, laptop, ruggedized device).

Secondly, in today’s world, rugged devices are increasingly Android-based. UEM can be leveraged to set up devices, distribute the required OS version, install applications and enable device-specific settings in combination with Android Enterprise (a Google-led initiative to enable the use of Android devices and apps in the workplace). Orange works with customers to validate a new OS version on test devices before distribution and installation across the entire device fleet.

Thirdly, Orange proactively ensures device compliance and operability. After all, a barcode scanner with a dead battery is not going to be much use when the delivery truck shows up at the loading dock and starts to unload the shipment! We deploy a vendor-specific monitoring platform to continually check and monitor a number of device parameters, including battery health and charge level for timely recharging and replacement. We can even monitor Wi-Fi strength and detect when a device is likely to go out of range.

In addition, we track device activity, location and status (active/non-active), vital to optimizing device use. This is important because warehouses and logistics service providers often employ a large number of staff on shift rotations and temporary workers at peak times.

Last, but not least, mobile devices are protected from cyberattacks with Mobile Threat Protection from Orange Cyberdefense. And, since supply chains operate around the clock and around the globe, Orange provides UEM and security services with global 24/7/365 coverage and support.

Read our case study on how Solvay, the international chemicals and advanced materials company, is enhancing collaboration and productivity with UEM by Orange.

Patrick de Trez
Patrick de Trez

Patrick is Head of International Mobility Services at Orange Business Services. He leads the development and delivery of international mobile connectivity services for the enterprise sector as well as new, value-added managed mobility services, including Multisourcing Service Integration (MSI) for Mobility, for our multinational enterprise customers. In his downtime, he enjoys horseback riding on the beaches of the Belgian coastline.