Supply chain companies now face more challenges in tracking and expediting their inventory than ever, as the multichannel retail landscape shifts from “I-want-it-now” to “I-need-this-yesterday.” In order to stay competitive, retailers need to have an up-to-date knowledge of where things are, in what quantities, at all times. They need to be able to rebalance inventories, redirect shipments, and respond to whatever new demand arises immediately.
Among the most important trends for retail industry this year forecast by Vend, one of the industry experts, are three particularly important points:
- Merging online and offline data collection and analysis. As consumers go through different paths to a purchase, retailers need to start analyzing online and offline data combined.
- Single-view, cloud-based solutions. The modern retail strategy requires a unified view of the multiple channels of sales, inventory, and customer visibility. Cloud-based solutions enable retailers to scale quickly, work from anywhere and execute their multichannel initiatives with more efficiency as they get a timely insight into key aspects of their business. It is important to maintain an up-to-date item file, accurate inventory levels and pricing system across multiple channels. Several years ago, when many retailers went online, they maintained separate systems for online and offline sales, which became an important technical roadblock companies are now overcoming through the adoption of cloud-based IT solutions powered by rugged industrial tablets.
- Adoption of Internet of Things throughout the supply chain. From barcodes to RFID beacons, retailers are leveraging the IoT in their warehouses and stores. IoT in retail is estimated to have an economic impact from $410 billion to $1.2 trillion per year by 2025. Forward-thinking retailers pioneer the adoption of the smart devices to streamline various business processes from inventory management to in-store shopping.
5 Key Aspects of Running An Effective Mobile Inventory Solution
Inventory management software increases warehouse and shop staff efficiency when checking inventory, stocking shelves, transferring goods from the central warehouse & vendors. Most retailers have by now adopted an inventory management solution in their networks, and the primary software solution is deployed on Windows-powered desktop PCs. How do you scale that powerhouse of an application to mobile?Many software providers port their desktop programs to mobile operating systems, but that transition often comes at a cost of reduced functionality and crippled usability. So, why change operating systems?Windows-based industrial tablets are compatible with most desktop programs retailers run on their desktop systems, so users won’t run into any learning curves when switching to the mobile version. The functionality and usability are preserved while retailers run the full version of their preferred software on a mobile device.A fully-fledged mobile solution that is completely compatible with your enterprise resource planning system (ERP) cuts down the costs of deploying a third-party mobile inventory solution and integrating it with the ERP, an expensive and challenging process. It’s much easier to deploy solutions that are compatible with your existing ecosystem from day one rather than trying to bridge fundamentally different systems together.
Barcodes and RFID
Handheld barcode scanners and RFID devices are things of the past now that industrial tablets come integrated with these previously external peripherals. Standalone scanners and readers only capture some type of inventory data. It then needs to be synced with the main retail management program. Such devices tend to be expensive to program, integrate and maintain, and difficult to use.With the barcode reader and RFID scanner integrated into your rugged tablet, your employees collect, sync and create actionable reports on the go. This immediate data availability boosts the accuracy of inventory management.Through the use of RFID technology, your employee’s industrial tablet can be used to recognize where the employee is in the warehouse or in the store, and present the employee with the relevant options and information for the given location.RFID is also used in inventory management solutions to track inventory availability and alert the employees when a product is soon to be out of stock.
BYOD vs Industrial Tablets
Retailers widely adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy, assuming it’s cheaper and easier to deploy than providing corporate devices to the employees. However, BYOD & poor cybersecurity awareness of users is a part of the reason why the retail industry is plagued by cyber threats. The criminals are after financial data they can monetize, and retail is the industry to hit, with the large databases of vendors, consumers and employee banking data, Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information.BYOD devices add more work to your IT staff when scaling the system for a fleet of different devices running different OS’s, and having to look for a mobile solution that would be compatible with the variety of BYOD assets.Industrial tablets provide robust cybersecurity functionality complete with easy-to-use two-factor authentication with a biometric reader, CAC or smart card reader, full disk encryption, capability to encrypt data on external hard drives, capability to set up a tablet for multiple users with access controls, remote wiping and remote access for the ITs to update software of introduce timely changes.
Inventory management requires your workers to be mobile and flexible. Hence, the mobile device has to be easy-to-operate and reliable. Rugged technology comes with a slew of advantages:
- A carrying handle, strips and light weight simplify tablet handling.
- Hot-swap batteries, a charging station for 24/7 uptime.
- Military-grade components with the fail rate of less than 2% under constant use.
- MIL-STD and IP65 drop protection, shock, vibration, temperature fluctuation and water protection for reliability in any out-of-the-office environment.
- Integrated barcode, RFID, CAC or smart card reader paired with biometric reader increase the functionality of a single device.
- Can be mounted on a wall, inside a vehicle, on a desktop.
- Full disk encryption, capability to encrypt data on external drives.
- Highly customizable OS, software and legacy ports.
- Advanced wireless connectivity and support of the carrier of your choice.
- Easy to deploy, cheap to maintain, low TCO if compared to that of consumer-grade mobile devices.
Cost of Hardware
Windows-powered industrial tablets do not require any intervention by your programmers, so the deployment cost is the cost of the hardware. When calculating the total cost of ownership of your industrial tablet, take into account:
- integrated scanners and readers, which eliminate the need for bulky and expensive peripherals necessary to make IoT work;
- it is rugged and durable, with 5+ years of continuous uptime;
- hot-swap batteries, charging station for 24/7 uptime;
- it is compatible with the inventory management software you run on your desktops;
- failure rates of industrial tablets are normally 4% (it’s 2% with Cybernet’s devices) while the failure rates of consumer devices skyrocket 15%-30% when they are used intensively in working environments where they can fall, be exposed to humidity or fluctuating temperatures;
- industrial tablets offer better security to maintain your corporate data protected from breaches whereas BYOD devices are looming with malware, spyware and ransomware stemming from poor user cybersecurity awareness and the lack of hardware-level in-built security functions.
Agility and performance in retail inventory management can be leveraged to their full extent when the dedicated software runs on a powerful, secure and reliable hardware such as rugged industrial tablets.