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Between new consumer expectations for faster service and several labor shortages across the nation, field teams face pressures from virtually every angle. In 2022, the US trucking sector lacked an estimated 78,000 drivers; however, studies show that 68% of consumers cited same-day delivery as the deciding factor driving purchases after the COVID-19 outbreak. Demands for service are only increasing, yet resources remain scarce. Surveyed field teams have cited the following five challenges they expect when navigating in today’s fast-paced supply chain:
Inclement weather – Besides being dangerous to the driver, extreme weather impacts connectivity signals, alienating teams from each other and crucial data.
Late or missed dispatch calls – Poor communication with dispatch teams further complicates routing and enables delays since updates are not relayed in a timely fashion.
Device outages – While devices may be built for outdoor use, battery power must also accommodate long shifts. Sudden outages keep teams from accessing the tools they need, stalling productivity.
Complex integration plans – Although new technologies are widely available to optimize mobility, complex integration discourages businesses from modernizing.
Nevertheless, connectivity researchers remain optimistic since challenges push technology into making great leaps. As field teams travel farther, new connectivity solutions such as 5G and WiFi 6 are leading the charge in digital transformations, with the GDP expecting them to generate up to $280 billion by 2030 as they enhance mobility systems.
How is Technology Adapting to Overcome Challenges?
Modern-day expectations demand agility, adaptability, and durability from today’s technology solutions. As teams learn to manage workflows with fewer resources and personnel, versatile devices and IT support become indispensable. To meet challenges, tech players design solutions leveraging:
Intelligent, durable design to mitigate operational costs and repairs. Shatter-proof, waterproof, and dust-proof casings come in handy on the field as they maximize device availability. For example, rugged mobile printers empower teams to create labels and receipts from anywhere without cables or extensive setup.
Flexible connectivity that connects field teams and dispatch. As new connectivity options become available, devices should incorporate them to deliver faster and stronger signals. Push-to-talk features and secured texting are also useful in creating secondary communication channels similar to consumer-grade devices, thus accelerating hardware adoption.
Real-time battery management to pinpoint aging batteries and prevent downtime. By monitoring battery performance and charge status remotely, teams can predict when devices will become unusable, empowering teams to quickly charge and/or swap batteries for unbroken uptime.
Versatile functionality to streamline multiple workflows through one terminal. Rugged tablets and mobile computers best exemplify this by streamlining data capture, push-to-talk communication, and data processing all through one device. Perhaps, that is why 80% of businesses plan to deploy rugged tablets in their field operations before 2025. Furthermore, versatile devices simplify integration by consolidating workflows in a user-friendly interface. Popular operating systems like Android have been shown to decrease training times, so teams can become productive faster.
As consumer expectations evolve, technology solutions should evolve beside them. In addition to adaptable systems, a proper modernization plan must include ongoing support to ensure future scalability as challenges change. For more information on how to enhance mobility, reach out to our modernization teams, and turn challenges into opportunities with solutions built for enterprise.
While most states have laws against distracting driving, it is generally agreed that public safety officials should have access to timely data and communication channels. Consequently, today’s patrol cars may serve as a high-tech mobile office, empowering officers to quickly respond to emergencies, update teams, and protect communities from virtually anywhere. However, while new technologies such as radios, cameras, and mobile computers are crucial for everyday work, they can also distract officers and put them at risk. In 2020 alone, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund recorded 156 vehicle-related deaths, which is over a third of all line-of-duty fatalities. To continue empowering police officers while keeping them safe, many agencies now seek to consolidate disparate mobile technologies. By decluttering the patrol car with versatile systems, officers can expect multiple benefits such as:
About 25% of traffic-related fatalities occur on the roadside. E-citation reduces time spent outside the vehicle, thus maximizing officer safety. Moreover, e-citation systems decrease the likelihood of errors since it does not require manual data entry. Instead of pen-and-paper, mobile terminals and printers like Brother’s Rugged Jet 4 accelerate ticketing, reducing a 15-minute ordeal to as little as 2 minutes. Furthermore, rugged mobile printers are lightweight and compact, taking up very little space in the patrol car.
Real-time personnel tracking
Police recruitment and retention have been cited as a prevalent issue in law enforcement facilities. Therefore, to best serve communities, dispatch offices need clear visibility and counts on deployed personnel. Mobile devices and 2-in-1 tablets running on Android for Enterprise can accommodate tracking visibility applications within Android’s open application ecosystem.
Faster device adoption
By consolidating several devices into one platform, officers no longer need to learn multiple workflows, accelerating deployment for faster productivity. Rugged Android tablets accomplish this successfully by translating workflows and reporting onto an easy-to-use touchscreen device. More modern devices go further by streamlining photographic documentation, reporting, and secured push-to-talk communication with dispatch, all in one device.
Better situational awareness
Intelligent mounts can keep data at a better eye level, allowing officers to utilize peripheral vision and maintain situational awareness. Not only does this maximize officer safety, but it also keeps officers ready to respond immediately to emergencies.
Modernized systems now leverage voice commands, accelerating workflows while keeping drivers’ eyes on the road. Electronic assistants can retrieve data and activate the radio without jeopardizing driver safety.
Manual systems have been found to increase the likelihood of errors and accidents. In contrast, automated systems like Wasp’s Equipment Tracking empower agencies to quickly locate essential tools, from handcuffs to police cruisers, on a digital platform. Equipped with real-time asset tracking, teams can reallocate resources to where they are needed the most and replenish any items in low quantity.
As technology continues to make great strides, public safety agencies can no longer afford to overlook patrol car optimization. To best identify how to start your optimization plan, assess your current technology with a mobility expert. After carefully evaluating your fleet’s needs, your team can follow a scalable plan that maximizes safety without disrupting workflows.
Today, as ecommerce booms, consumer expectations for rapid, accurate delivery are soaring. Despite all the technology and work that allows businesses to pick and pack orders efficiently and rapidly move shipments through distribution, it’s often the performance over the “last mile” that dictates customer satisfaction. As a result, there aren’t many applications where the performance of mobile devices is more critical than last-mile delivery services.
Once orders are staged for loading, the ability to get them to their destinations depends largely on the performance and reliability of the software applications and mobile devices that drivers are using to make deliveries. It’s an amazingly simple equation when you break it down: no device, no delivery.
That equation puts a tremendous amount of pressure on logistics business owners and operations managers to select mobile devices that can deliver the performance and reliability required to keep packages moving every day, shift after shift. They’re looking for devices that can deliver reliable return on investment and proven bottom-line performance. Specifically, they’re looking for:
Devices that offer enterprise-level performance to keep deliveries on track and keep pace with rising demand
Durable devices that can withstand drops, exposure to weather, and other mishaps that inevitably happen on the road
Devices that are easy for the business to manage and even easier for drivers to use.
These customers won’t find the performance, durability, or features they need in consumer-grade devices. But they will find everything they’re looking for in Zebra’s enterprise mobile computers and rugged tablets. That’s because Zebra specializes in data capture technology that’s designed for the most demanding environments, whether that’s a cold storage warehouse or a delivery route with more than 200 stops every day.
Zebra offers a full range of mobile devices—from handhelds and tablets to wearables and vehicle-mounted computers—to equip distribution center workers and delivery drivers for any task. Whether they run on the Windows® or Android™ operating system, every Zebra mobile device takes advantage of the industry’s most robust administration utilities and comprehensive app development tools.
Here's a brief overview of just two Zebra mobile devices that provide a perfect platform for custom solutions designed to meet last mile delivery challenges.
Zebra TC58 Mobile Computer
Zebra’s latest handheld mobile computer platform really allows last mile delivery apps to shine. It combines the rugged design that Zebra’s TC5x series is known for with support for the latest wireless protocols and new innovations that redefine mobile computing performance. Like every Zebra device, the TC58 includes proven technology to capture 1D/2D barcodes quickly and accurately. It also includes Zebra’s Dimensioning™ Certified Mobile Parcel—the industry’s first dimensioning solution that’s fully integrated into handheld mobile computers, making it easy to capture accurate parcel dimensions and instantly calculate shipping charges.
Zebra ET45 Enterprise Tablet
The ET45 tablet is the perfect tool to help keep drivers on schedule through even the busiest shifts delivering and picking up packages. It features 5G wireless for the fastest, most reliable connections on the road. Barcode scanning is fully integrated to speed loading and deliveries. And it includes a high-resolution camera to support proof-of-delivery applications. Most importantly, the ET45 is priced for businesses that have a laser focus on the bottom line, allowing them to step up to true enterprise performance, durability, security, and support while maximizing ROI.
To learn more about custom last mile delivery solutions and Zebra’s rugged mobile devices, contact your AllBiz representative.
The legalization of cannabis products in various states across the US has raised important compliance-related issues for growers and retailers who are tasked with tracking and reporting the movement of their highly regulated products. The challenge for suppliers and sellers is to track item-level inventory movement accurately and efficiently from seed to sale. Many, of course, have turned to technology solutions to keep pace with the patchwork regulatory requirements of the growing industry.
At every level of the industry, it’s essential to have systems in place that allow for precise tracking of inventory. In the highly regulated cannabis industry, anything that creates inventory discrepancies—poor inventory practices, human error, employee-related shrinkage—can lead to punishing fines. Large-scale errors and repeated problems even have the possibility of leading to the loss of a business’s license. That makes it essential for growers and retailers to use track-and-trace technology that delivers a high level of accurate inventory information.
One technology solution that fits the bill perfectly is radio frequency identification (RFID). With RFID, businesses can establish processes that track and report inventory information at a granular level without requiring excessive amounts of labor. RFID tracking systems are also far more accurate than other inventory solutions, routinely achieving 99% accuracy in warehouse, transportation, and retail operations.
What sets RFID apart is the use of radio signals to transmit data and record product movement. Using radio signals means RFID tracking doesn’t require line of sight like a conventional barcode scanner.
There are two basic pieces in every RFID system, a tag and a reader. The tag stores data and information about the tagged asset, while the reader captures the data and transmits it to various applications such as a warehouse management system or point-of-sale system.
Often, the data stored on an RFID tag is much more detailed than the limited information that can be stored in a conventional barcode. This makes RFID ideally suited for applications like cannabis product tracking, which require granular data at every step of the product journey.
To understand RFID, it also helps to know that there are two categories of RFID tags: passive and active. Passive RFID tags have no power source of their own; they’re powered by electromagnetic energy emitted by a nearby RFID reader. Active RFID tags have their own power supply (usually a battery) that they use to power transmissions. The lifespan of an active RFID tag is limited by the lifespan of its battery, but the useful life of passive RFID tags is essentially unlimited. The battery vs. no battery distinction also leads to passive tags being less expensive than active tags.
The specific type of RFID used for any application will depend on a variety of factors. So, it’s best to consult with an expert to determine which solution best meets your requirements.
Whether you end up with an active or passive RFID solution, one of the key benefits will be your ability to track a high volume of detailed product information with very little associated labor cost. Depending on your workflows, you can even build a system that tracks cannabis product movement automatically, with no human intervention at all.
For example, imagine a worker moving cases of products off a delivery van into a retail cannabis store. The cases and the individual products within can each be labelled with a passive RFID tag. As the boxes go through the loading dock door, a nearby RFID reader can be configured to automatically capture detailed information from every tag that moves past, allowing managers to track each case and product in detail without any manual intervention.
And, even when manual processes are used to track inventory movement, RFID still offers the potential for significant labor savings. With conventional barcode scanning, each label must be visible to the scanner beam. But RFID does not require line of sight to capture data from a tag RFID, and it can capture data from hundreds of tags with a single trigger event, so much less time is required to scan a batch of products. With the right system, instead of conducting a painstaking item-by-item inventory, a cannabis retailer could scan the entire RFID-tagged contents of a display case or storage shelf in seconds with a single scan using a handheld RFID reader.
While RFID can be complex technology, it’s relatively easy to get started. AllBiz offers a complete lineup of Zebra RFID printers, tags, and readers to help you get started. So, if you’re looking for an inventory tracking solution that will help you comply with the regulatory and compliance requirements of the legal cannabis industry, contact AllBiz today.
ISVs who work with small- and medium-sized field service businesses frequently run into customers whose field technicians are using consumer-grade mobile devices. Or, if they’re haven’t already authorized the use of consumer smartphones or tablets, they may be considering it because they think it might help them save money.
Of course, over time, relying on consumer-grade mobile devices to support technicians in the field is far more likely to cost a business money than it is to produce savings. Enterprise mobile computers and tablets offer significant advantages in durability, battery and power management, and security. Enterprise devices are also much easier to manage, reducing the workload on the IT person or manager who is charged with tracking a fleet of devices and keeping them updated. Those factors almost always make enterprise devices a better investment over time.
As professionals who create and support mobile solutions every day, we understand how the short life cycle that is built into consumer-grade devices makes it impossible to maintain consistency in operations. We understand how features like user-replaceable batteries extend the lifespan of enterprise devices two or even three times longer than that of a consumer device. And we certainly understand how consumer devices simply aren’t engineered to withstand the inevitable drops, spills, and other accidents that occur in the field.
But how well do our customers understand the value equation?
Imagine a company that has three dozen field technicians providing pest control services. When the company turns to us for a solution that will empower their techs with the latest mobile technology, how do we convince them that enterprise devices are worth the investment?
That challenge is much easier when we can offer solutions that deliver the benefits of enterprise devices at the cost of consumer products.
Often, we can make the case for enterprise devices with Zebra mobile computers and tablets that are purposely positioned to meet the needs of value-focused businesses. These are true enterprise devices: they feature rugged durability, improved battery life, and enhanced security. And they offer business-focused productivity features like integrated barcode scanning and options for mobile payment processing. But they’re offered at price points that are right for customers who might otherwise consider a consumer-grade device.
Let’s look at two right-priced devices that can help you convince your field service customers that it makes sense to stick with business-class mobile technology.
Zebra TC26 Touch Computer
Any business that is considering using consumer-grade smartphones in the field should consider Zebra’s TC26 mobile computer. They’ll step up to business-class durability and features without stepping up in price. For about the cost of a consumer-grade smartphone, field service businesses can equip their field technicians with a more rugged platform that adds productivity-enhancing features, including integrated barcode scanning and extended battery options that deliver double-shift power. And, for more voice communication flexibility, the TC26 is now validated by Microsoft Teams to run the Walkie Talkie app.
Zebra ET45 Enterprise Tablet
When a field service business is considering consumer-grade tablets for their field technicians, Zebra’s ET45 enterprise tablet offers a much better fit. These tablets are designed for business from the inside out, delivering performance, features, and durability that can’t be matched by any consumer tablet. The ET45 is available with and 8-inch or 10-inch screen. A built-in enterprise-class barcode scanner is included, making it easy for field techs to track and inventory parts and supplies. The latest 5G wireless delivers the speed and performance that technicians need in the field. And it’s priced to provide a legitimate option to consumer-grade tablets.
When they’re choosing mobile solutions, field service businesses are concerned with cost, durability, and reliability. They’re bound to be disappointed if they outfit their techs with consumer-grade mobile devices. So, offer them right-priced solutions from Zebra that make it easy to step up to enterprise-level mobile performance.