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industrial tablet

4 Ways to Improve Inventory Management with an Industrial Tablet

Inventory management – checking the amount of product on hand, its location and its status in the shipping process – ranks as one of the most important aspects of any business. It allows you to minimize expensive bookkeeping errors and maintain a firm hand on potential assets.

Checking inventory means balancing speed and accuracy, which are often at odds with each other. The faster you work, the easier it is to make mistakes. Yet the more time you spend on a task, the less time you have for other (often equally important) aspects of the job. Achieving that balance isn’t easy with a warehouse full of product to be catalogued, checked and shipped.

The ideal solution is an industrial tablet with an integrated barcode scanner built in. Here are four benefits to using such a device, and the ways it can improve your bottom line.

Industrial Tablets Aid Inventory Audits

Manual inventory counts can be time consuming, as your workers count each piece of product and carefully log the pertinent data. A manual count can halt productivity, or even force you to pay employees overtime to come in on weekends to perform an audit. This isn’t just time consuming, it is expensive. And it doesn’t guarantee accuracy either. A manual count also mean manual data entry, which lends itself to inaccurate counts being entered into your ERP system.

A Windows tablet equipped with a barcode scanner eliminates the unnecessary time without skimping on accuracy. When an industrial tablet is incorporate throughout all process, inventory is electronically tracked from materials receiving, through production and even when you ship product to your customers. The records are much more accurate, and are automatically synced to your ERP software, eliminating the need for periodic manual inventory counts.

Tablets Reduce Errors

Industrial tablets can’t entirely eliminate human error, but they can drastically reduce it by streamlining the process and automatically noting discrepancies. Imagine a scenario in which an employee records you have 50 units of a particular item in stock rather than 500. It’s a single digit, but it can trigger a chain reaction of costly reactions. Purchasing might see the inventory levels are low and unnecessarily purchase more units. Once those units arrive, it quickly becomes apparent that there isn’t space in the warehouse to store everything, which can lead to additional expenses.

A tablet can also better facilitate first in first out (FIFO) policies, which ensure that the first goods purchased are the first ones sold and moved. This is particularly important with perishable goods such as foodstuffs, making sure you ship the oldest products first and avoid losing them to decay.

The ability to instantly scan product the moment it enters the warehouse means you start with a very accurate inventory, and further scans as product is moved or shipped out can keep that count accurate. It also helps keep track of what inventory needs to be used first, saving on waste.

Mitigate Recall Costs with BIN and Lot Tracking

Accurate assessment of your inventory often reverberates across all aspects of your business, especially when it involves things like recalls of tainted or damaged products. For instance, food distributors often use BIN numbers and lot numbers to track specific parcels of food. In the event that food develops a problem such as a virus or contaminant, it’s imperative to isolate which parcels are affected and remove them from circulation.

An operation without an accurate means of identifying the tainted parcels via BIN and Lot control may have to recall an entire product line: costing a huge amount of money. Tablets with barcode scanners, on the other hand allow you to exercise very tight BIN and Lot control.

For example, if a batch of tainted lettuce is detected, tight BIN and Lot tracking can help avert disaster. When a tablet is used to scan product from the field to the shipping dock, which can allow you to identify which batches in your warehouse came from that field, where they might be located in your storage facility, where those packages were shipped to, and perhaps even provide a specific window of time when they may have been picked. That in turn, lets you isolate and separate the tainted product from the untainted product quickly… which limits the damage and can lead to a much smaller recall.

Industrial Tablets Improve Customer Service

The old saying still holds true: the customer is always right. They usually want very specific things in very specific amounts at very specific times, which means you need to be able to check your stock for their requested product quickly and gather it accurately for shipping. That can be difficult when you’re relying on human memory or inaccurate records.

For example, say a customer sends in an order of several specific products. Under a manual system, the order is printed out, a worker goes through the list, the indicated items are located, and the worker then brings them from storage to shipping to be boxed up and shipped out. This can easily lead to errors if the worker selects the wrong items – resulting in irate customers and a lot of extra effort – while double- and triple-checking each order for accuracy slows the process down considerably. Furthermore, such tasks can involve a lot of time tracking down specific products in the warehouse, especially if the worker has to operate on memory.

A tablet, on the other hand, provides a more accurate assessment of where the products in question are located, and can be used to verify that the customer’s order matches the product being shipped. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags used in conjunction with barcode scanners are an excellent way to swiftly scan and pinpoint key inventory items for your customers. RFID allows you to identify products at greater ranges (up to 30 feet), which can focus your attention in the right general location in the warehouse. The barcode scanner can then be used to zero in on the required product quickly and confirm that they match what’s listed in the order.

 

The benefits of a rugged tablet PC with an integrated barcode scanner can be immeasurable when it comes to your company’s success. For more information on how Cybernet can help you streamline your processes and help you save money, contact us here.

HMI panel and industrial computer

3 Benefits of Using HMI Panels and Industrial Computers in Metal Shops

Metal shops are some of the most hazardous working environments—rotating heavy metal objects at high speeds (3000 RPMs!) can be dangerous if improperly handled, but using proper safety protocols has been a standard practice for metal shops for quite a long time. Still, there are ways to increase safety within a shop by evaluating the technology used. Plus, machine shops typically have requests from customers to produce metal parts with extremely high tolerances, sometimes parts that manual methods can’t accurately produce. More sophisticated metal shops use HMI panels to control machinery in order to shape the metal to specification. Here are three ways computers have improved metal shops and their machining methods.

Metal can be Cut via CNC

A manual lathe is a very common machine used to shape metal into a variety of forms; however, they’re known for being very dangerous if not used properly. A hydraulic clamp suspends a piece of aluminum, steel, or another metal, and starts spinning the metal at very high speeds. Then, a machinist controls an arm and slowly guides a diamond-tipped insert into the surface of the metal, chipping off slivers and shards. You may likely see the problems here already; the metal chipped off is typically very hot and gets flung around because manual lathes aren’t often housed inside protective barriers. A machinist has to guide the arm into the metal to properly shape it. It requires a lot of hand-eye coordination skill controlling the lathe to properly shape parts—or else a potential part is rendered to scrap.

Machinists can use an HMI panel to control a CNC machine in order to automatically shape a part. It requires less time and experience than manual machines and can produce parts with higher tolerances, more consistently, at a quicker pace. The part schematics can be entered into the resistive touch screen PC on the CNC and then the raw metal can be cut automatically without having to train employees how to properly control it. The part is made, time is saved, and safety is higher!

Bending Metals with Industrial Computers

Not all metal shops are focused on shaping parts! Some actually take damaged and bent parts in for repair. Propellers, for instance. Rather than haphazardly hammering a propeller back into shape—a practice that won’t yield successful results quickly—many metal shops use an industrial computer to scan the damaged propeller, compare it to an original model, and then control a hydraulic machine to bend the propeller back to its original state. A machinist can use an HMI panel to track and adjust the propeller so it’s reshaped for proper use. It’s a much more effective (and cheaper) method of restoring damaged propellers instead of machining an entirely new set of blades.

Temperature Changes Abound

The inside of a machine shop can have extreme fluctuations in temperature. The cutting process alone can produce incredible heat that could potentially damage electronic equipment like a computer. Beyond that, the temperature inside of a machine shop can be greatly influenced by the temperatures outside. Hot and humid conditions in the summer months can wreak havoc on internal components. In the same way, colder weather in the winter months can lead to hardware failure.

That’s why industrial computers are manufactured with high-quality military-grade components with very stringent tolerances and metals that resist warping. These kinds of metals are resilient to small and even large fluctuations in temperature changes. The benefit is that the computers last longer with better quality transistors and capacitors, and a higher Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rating of 50 thousand hours. Machine shops often run these computers at all times to maximize their production rate. These kind of builds are necessary for production sustainment. It’s best for businesses to invest in industrial computers since they fail less, expanding the time between each purchasing cycle, and thus saving money and time.

Industrial computers and HMI panels benefit machine shops in a myriad of ways; more accurate part machining when they’re coupled with CNC machines, higher safety standards, and saving the business time and money with higher quality materials that withstand temperature changes. If you’re serious about getting the best quality computers to run your metal shop, consider investing in an industrial computer today. Contact us for more information.

 

 

industrial tablets and medical tablets

Understanding Tablet Battery Life: Not All Solutions are Created Equally

Mobility in the workplace is crucial to boosting productivity. Ask any construction worker or physician using a tablet how their operations have improved and they’ll easily give a laundry list of benefits—time is money in the workplace, and saving one saves the other. However, changing to a mobile workstation can also present a new set of problems that can be pain points for professionals on the go. Battery life is probably one of the most common complaints with any mobile device, whether that be for personal or commercial use. But simply choosing a commercial grade tablet that boasts the longest battery life can end up causing a host of new problems that end up costing you more in the long run. A recent report by VDC Research shows that 18 percent of consumer-grade tablets fail every year when used in the workplace—that’s just one metric a business faces when insufficient tablets are used on the job. Here are a few more pain points to consider.

Understanding your Processing Needs

Scour the market to locate the best rugged tablet and you’ll find a vast majority use low-powered, compact processors. They’re great for running a quick app to check sports scores and what new 5-star restaurants are in the area, but those processors aren’t built for running sophisticated business software meant to track metrics, project progress, or other important business-related numbers. The wrong tablet in the hands of a professional can be frustrating—unresponsive applications, hefty load times, the works. We hate loading bars just as much as you do.

Address that problem early. Find a rugged tablet with an i5 or i7 processor. Your complex software will operate a lot faster than any tablet with the consumer-grade processor. While a more powerful processor can drain a battery faster, hot swap technology means you can just swap depleted batteries for charged ones without having to turn off the unit. Plus, any future upgrades to your software won’t mean you’ll need a new tablet upgrade for at least a few years.

Your Environment Impacts Readability

If you’ve held a mobile device recently (and you likely have), you probably recall squinting or moving to shadowy areas just to properly read what’s on the screen. We’re sure some professionals in the past have shielded the sun or find a darker area of their working environment—a heavy annoyance if you’re working on a construction site during mid-day or you manage a mobile medical unit trying to process patients. The reason for this is that a lot of commercial grade tablets choose to sacrifice screen resolution and brightness to preserve battery life.

The best rugged tablets have a high resolution of 1920 x 1200 and a “nits” emittance of 400 brightness—one of the highest brighest ratings for tablets available today. Brighter screens and higher resolutions are much easier on the eyes. You’ll likely experience fewer headaches and fewer frustrations.

Commercial Tablets Can Get Bulky, Quickly

If a physician is using a medical tablet, they’re a step ahead in maximum efficiency. Same can be said of a warehouse worker using an industrial tablet. However, their evolving task lists might require the use of different peripherals like barcode scanners, RFID readers, biometric security devices, and other equipment to do their job efficiently. External peripherals like an RFID scanner can increase the bulk of a medical tablet. Commercial grade tablets have limited ports, which in and of itself can make it difficult to connect peripherals like barcode and RFID scanners. And if you do manage to connect all of your devices, the tablet itself becomes bulky, and you know have two or three extra devices that you have to purchase and properly maintain.

Skip the tool belt approach by finding a tablet that has all the peripherals included in the design! All three components can be wrapped into the design for a rugged tablet so you don’t need to carry around devices to plug in or store away, risking time drain or possible peripheral loss. Not to mention that plugging in external devices to a tablet is going to contribute to battery drain anyway.

Solving the Battery Issue Without Sacrificing Functionality

After working ten hours with two hours to go on an exhausting shift, flashing battery lights and notifications that your tablet needs an immediate recharge are not welcome. Work has to be postponed to restore the tablet to a full charge. We’re sure there are cases where the internal battery for an industrial tablet malfunctions, the power shuts off, work is lost, and the battery is sealed inside, impossible to remove without voiding the warranty or cracking open components. If the tablet is out of warranty (or voided), it’s usually a costly repair. Once more, time and money are lost and your business suffers.

Resolve that potential roadblock by using a tablet with swappable batteries. There’s virtually no downtime when there’s an extra set of charging batteries that can replace one at the first sign of battery drain. Extra batteries can be charged at a central location and be quickly swapped out for a drained battery in seconds without having to power off the unit. This eliminates both downtime and the need to worry about battery life completely. In theory, a tablet with hot swap batteries can run 24/7 so long as you keep the extra batteries charged and ready.

The bottom line is time and money are at risk if you only consider one thing when purchasing a tablet for your business. Think about what the needs of your business are and what the potential pitfalls might be if you settle on a budget tablet. Cybernet features both a medical grade and an industrial grade tablet that are ruggedized and have a robust component integration, powerful internal processors that beat out consumer choices, swappable batteries to increase uptime, and high-resolution screens with above average brightness. Contact us to learn how we can customize our solutions to meet your unique needs.

 

 

ERP Software with business tablet PC and mini computers

How ERP Software is Changing Industrial PC Demands

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is a product that operates on several different business operational levels to streamline and unify processes such as project management, accounting, manufacturing, customer resource management, and others. As technology and software development grows, ERP software complexifies and requires stronger computer hardware in order to operate without hitches. It’s necessary to have sufficient hardware—running an office without powerful computers can quickly flip an office into turmoil (pretend your own office has broken accounting computers and you’ll get the idea). The software is so highly complex that it takes implementation teams to install the software and ensure all managed processes are functioning properly, and implementing software on underpowered, old computers doesn’t bode well for business. Granted ERP software has turned more user-friendly than in the past, but that still dictates what’s necessary for computers today. Here are some ways that ERP software has changed for the better and what’s necessary for a business to stay on top of the growing software model that ERP uses.

Advances in ERP Software Require a Touch Screen PC

Even with decades of development efforts, ERP is still incredibly complex software requiring implementation teams for different-sized projects. However, there’s been a higher demand for more user-friendly support.  ERP software has trended towards a more visual look instead of a text-based appearance, increasing the demand for larger screens with touch screen capability. Some ERP software has developed a model that’s touch-screen friendly, and naturally those software product models need an industrial touch screen pc. For instance, a company called Software 21 has upgraded their ERP product, Flexgen 4, to integrate touch screen controls so that their data collection operations are more efficient. Another company called Forge Technology Partners recently developed a touch screen application that manages timesheets, tracks job performance, and keeps employee information updated. Combining this technology with an industrial pc is vital. You need a computer capable of surviving the harsh environment of a shop floor and manufacturing plant. But it also needs to have the advanced functionality of commercial grade PCs. Resistive touch screens might be an older technology, but with the safety requirements in most industrial setting, a touch screen that works with a gloved hand is likely required. Industrial PCs are designed to marry functionality with rugged components, something you simply don’t get with a Tier 1 computer manufacturer.

ERP Software Needs Mobility

Technology has shrunk to a point where a large population of individuals carry around fully-functional computers in their pockets. Naturally, the ERP market changed with the advent of smartphones and tablets and their integration into business enterprises. In order to stay relevant ERP developers aren’t just limiting themselves to strict desktop software. The development of mobile apps and the adoption of those apps among end-users has become common place. The ability to access ERP software in the field while on an industrial tablet can be invaluable. Imagine a salesperson being able to remotely access inventory data or project accurate lead times in order to close more sales. Or a foreman on a job site being able to order materials and access project workflows from their mobile device. All of this is possible with mobile applications provided you have the hardware necessary to run them.

ERP on a Business Tablet PC for Warehouse Operations

A common use of ERP is inventory tracking. That’s not always an easy task, especially if the mobile tablet you’re running the ERP software on doesn’t feature a barcode scanner. Tablet PCs without barcode scanners suffer problems of higher inventory costs, possible human error problems, lower tracking rates for documents and products, and decisions from management with incomplete data samples.  When tablets include barcode scanners,  employees can scan barcodes to track a wealth of information. Plus, the good news is this technology has spread into all sizes of enterprises as tech has evolved into smaller, cheaper solutions. Management can keep tabs on low inventory, count discrepancies, reduce shipping problems, manage materials inventory, track labor hours and rates, and other important business metrics. A business tablet PC with an integrated barcode takes ERP systems to higher functionality.

However your ERP has evolved, it’s clear that ERP drives what’s necessary for hardware. With visual enhancements, ERP requires a more touch-screen oriented design. Mobile and cloud-based ERP systems are becoming the standard for use on business tablet PCs and similar devices. Stay ahead of the curve with business and see what options you have when upgrading to a robust system of computers to support your ERP system. For more information you can visit the Cybernet website or contact us here.

HMI computers industrial panel PC

The Human Machine Interface and the Role Industrial Computers Face

Human Machine Interface (HMI) is an important concept to be aware of in today’s industrial automation IT world. Technological innovations and advances have pushed automation’s boundaries close to near-perfect operation within industrial warehouses and manufacturing plants. We’re seeing these pushes both on a software and hardware level. Developments in artificial intelligence software are getting more sophisticated, so naturally the hardware must scale with the demands of software. However, there still must be a “starting point” in the pathway from device controller to automation result, and that’s where HMI plays a part. It’s a concept that has evolved over time as an overarching idea that incorporates all functionality of a given production system into a single user interface that can be controlled by simply touching an industrial touch panel PC. It’s the combination of a graphical user interface, an automated production system, and its supporting software that must operate in synergy to be fully productive. These HMIs are becoming more important with the onset of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the desire to fully automate processes. However, not just any device will operate in the manner an HMI needs.

HMI Computers Must Be Compact

Warehouses come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of the configuration of a warehouse it’s important to find an industrial touch panel PC capable of being installed in an area that’s non-obtrusive to traffic. A retail computer purchased off the shelf and then stored on a warehouse floor will undoubtedly get kicks and light shock damage. Populate an entire warehouse with computer towers, and you’re bound to see a hardware failure within the first three months. Small form factor design with a flexible open frame, wireless technology, and a fully integrated resistive touch screen are necessary components for a proper HMI computer. Why a resistive touch screen if it’s older technology? Capacitive touch screens won’t function with gloves. If you’re in an industrial warehouse, we’d recommend using gloves. We’d also recommend a resistive screen so you won’t need to remove them.

An Industrial Touch Panel PC Must Be Resilient

Temperature changes, sparks, disruptive noises, dirt, soot, chemicals, flying objects, shock damage, and other hazards are a concern for computers in warehouses. Workers can’t operate computers if they’re too close to an entity producing extremely hot or cold temperatures, so HMI computers must be resilient to extreme temperature changes. Thankfully, industrial computers are. Several industrial computer builds are encased in aluminum housings and constructed with military-grade components that have a Mean Time Between Failure of 50 thousand hours, much more than a consumer-grade computer. You’ll need an HMI computer resistant to all hazards to keep longevity. Combining metal enclosures, military-grade components, and resilience in extreme temperatures creates the perfect trifecta for longevity when it comes to HMI computers.

Industrial Computers Need Wireless Tech

A common problem with consumer-grade wireless devices is shoddy WiFi. Home routers drop wireless signals because of attenuation; wireless tech in HMI computers may do the same if the wireless range is too weak over the wireless “path,” or it’s blocked by warehouse walls—a concept known as a Faraday cage. Ensuring your next industrial touch panel PC is equipped with some of the strongest wireless capabilities—an Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260 Plus Bluetooth card—will reduce if not remove spotty wireless connections. Plus, if a keyboard and mouse are needed they can connect seamlessly with the HMI computer via Bluetooth. 

Industrial Panel PCs Need Mountability Options

For your next industrial computer deployment, it’s a strong idea to ensure all of the above are addressed, but that doesn’t address where your panel PCs might reside. What’s the solution there? An IT professional can’t leave them dangling from power cables or thrown about a warehouse floor, so a VESA mount is necessary to keep them clutter free. Using a standard 75/100m VESA mounting holes, staff can keep panel PCs out of the way by mounting them to the wall.

Adhering to specific hardware design and a set of features that expand productivity are what businesses should look for when it comes to HMI computers. At Cybernet, we’ve engineered a full line of industrial PCs that meet these standards and excels in the warehouse. Contact us today to find out more details.

tough tablets

Industrial Tablets vs Off-the-Shelf in the Field

Since 2010, Apple has seen tremendous success after the corporation released it’s first iPad tablet, launching a new market and being the trendsetter in a new line of mobile technology products. As recent as 2016, Apple’s global market share has reached 25 percent for tablets, leading Samsung by approximately 10 percent. It’s clear that this market has seen tremendous growth and application in the past 7 years—Apple sold more than 40 million iPads alone in 2016. However, what we’re looking at is largely representative of the consumer market for tablets and not the industrial market. It’s likely the case that an industrial company settled on Apple products for mobile productivity in the past, but there’s an important financial factor that’s hard to see on a day-to-day basis; the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an estimation of expenses related with buying, deploying, using, and then retiring of a piece of equipment or product. Industrial companies focus a lot on TCO, but consumer grade tablets aren’t best in the long run for industrial companies. Generally the TCO for a tough tablet is lower (better) since they last longer. Here’s an in-depth look at why.

Tough Industrial Tablets Utilize a Hot Swappable Battery

If you’ve ever tried to remove the internal battery for a tablet, it was probably a frustrating and educational experience. Most tablets are sealed, so battery removable and replacement either requires someone who has experience getting into the innards of a tablet, a trustworthy individual with a steady set of hands who can learn quickly, or device shipment to the manufacturer who can replace the battery if the tablet is within warranty. If it’s not within warranty, expect to pay around 100 USD for a battery replacement and a turnaround time of 3-5 days with no promise of restoring all the previous data. If you’d prefer to remove and replace the battery yourself, kits often cost around as much as a manufacturer’s price for a battery replacement anyhow. That’s not a strong outlook for a business, especially if the tablets have no backstock, leaving at least one employee with no way to be productive. Or, you could just swap out the removable battery on the tough tablet instead and resume productivity. Not only does this removable battery functionality affect TCO greatly, it prevents production downtime. Plus, if a battery doesn’t hold a charge, others are available to purchase. The hot swappable battery function justifies the cost alone. It can take productivity from a few hours to a full work shift—or more, depending on how many people on different shifts use one tablet. One tough tablet with three batteries can be used continuously over the course of an entire day instead of three separate tablets in use, each potentially lasting the time span of a shift and then stored away to charge. Again, industrial tablets have a lower TCO.

Tough Tablets Need Tough Glass, and More

Some tablets use Corning’s Gorilla Glass, an alkali-aluminosilicate sheet of glass that is highly resistant to scratches, direct damage, and drops. Gorilla Glass has become a staple in tough tablet and smartphone manufacturing, but it’s not indestructible and a lot of videos have surfaced online demonstrating it can shatter if a tablet is dropped in sensitive areas—usually a corner. Industrial tablets are known to use Gorilla Glass and often have housings to protect the corners, which iPads and other consumer-grade tablets lack. Sure, a CFO can get protective cases for tablets too, but a rugged case can hit the wallet at about 80 USD—another cost consideration when going with consumer tablets. Why buy more when an industrial tablet comes with the protection? The last accidental drop a warehouse needs is one that shatters the glass on a tablet, potentially rendering the device useless. Tough tablets are built to withstand shocks and vibrations.

Tablets Tend to Bend

A quick search online reveals that consumer tablets aren’t the most resilient to warping. Some have actually shipped bent in the past, and others warp so much the glass actually shatters. Couple that in an industrial warehouse with temperature changes—not a favorable result. Even aluminum and stainless steel are known to warp a few microns because of temperature changes in machine shops, so we’ve come to expect sheets of silicon, aluminum, and glass to do the same. Industrial tablets are built to withstand temperature changes, vibrations, shocks, and accidental damage, extending their life beyond what a consumer would expect. Built with industrial-grade components, these tough tablets have a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) timespan of six years. Consider that the original iPad released in 2010—several models of the iPad have been released between then and 2017, suggesting that one industrial tablet will last longer than several iPad generations. Again, lower TCO for the industrial tablet.

Capacitive is Great Technology—but Not For Industrial Tablets

Working in a warehouse often requires gloves—regular gloves, unless you buy capacitive-knit gloves (which are expensive and don’t provide much protection), don’t work on capacitive screens. Capacitive technology uses the electrical charge from our hands to actually register a change in voltage, thus changing the elements on screen. With a gloved hand, the electrical charge doesn’t register. Consumer grade tablets usually use capacitive screens, so a gloved hand won’t work. Industrial tablets use resistive screens so a gloved input can actually register. Sure, employees can take off their gloves and work with a tablet screen, but that’s quite a tedious annoyance.

These reasons clearly outline why tough tablets are the best choice for an industrial setting. Consumer grade tablets warp easier, batteries aren’t easily replaceable, gloved hands can’t interact with their screens, operational life is shorter, and there’s a higher TCO. Consider that the MTBF for an industrial tablet is longer than the lifespan for several generations of iPads and other tablets! You don’t want your employees to suffer productivity downtime over charging batteries or sending a broken tablet off to a manufacturer over one drop—unless you prefer spending more money over time.

 

 

5 Key Aspects of Running An Effective Mobile Inventory Solution in Retail

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

  1. Desktop-to-Mobile Compatibility

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Ruggedness

    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.
  5. 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.

Utilizing Rugged Tablets for Order Automation

Regardless of the products that a company produces and distributes, the process of completing orders is always very similar. Orders come in, often in a variety of formats, including email, fax, phone, and online forms. Then, a staff member must sift through each order and format in order to extract the order information needed to fulfill the purchase. Finally, once that information is extracted, it is passed on the next staff member who will fulfill the order and get it sent to the customer.

Though this system has been in use for years by many companies, it is far from effective. It is time consuming and requires many employees working to translate and complete orders as they come in. It also relies too heavily on the work of staff members who spend long hours staring at order figures, which leads to the risk of human error.

Streamlining the Ordering Process

A variety of new technologies offer options for manufacturers looking to streamline the ordering process. But many of these technologies require orders arriving in just one format. For manufacturers who have been servicing customers for many years or even just a few months, asking a client to change the way that they place orders is definitely a mistake, especially when the client is another company with its own internal system for placing orders.

But a new technology is overcoming these restraints and allowing manufacturers to streamline their order processing without changing how clients place orders. Order automation is a system that is able to process orders as they come in in any format, including emails, fax, online forms, and more. This technology sifts through the order to extract the necessary details, and delivers them via a simplified, compiled order form. The process is seamless, with 100 percent accuracy, eliminating the potential for error that comes with manual entry.

While this system revolutionizes the ordering process for the company, it doesn’t change the way that consumers place their orders. This means no confusion or loss of sales during the transition period to this new system. Loyal customers can continue to place orders as they have in the past, likely without even knowing that a change has occurred. It also requires less staff members to complete the ordering process. Rather than having someone processing orders as they come in, the orders can go straight from the client to the manufacturer.

The Need for Rugged Tablets for Use with Order Automation

But delivering order information directly to the manufacturer means that this technology is now in use in production areas and warehouses, where conditions may be dusty, dirty, humid, or otherwise less than ideal. A standard laptop or computer isn’t up to the challenge of working in this environment, and even a rugged laptop means that staff must be seated in order to fulfill orders as they come in. Tablets offer portability that can speed up the order fulfillment process, but consumer-grade versions are not built to withstand the conditions manufacturers face. Luckily, there’s a solution.

Rugged tablets offer a product that can withstand any conditions, while still offering the high level of processing power that is needed to run order automation software and receive large numbers of orders. With rugged industrial tablets in use on the factory floors, manufacturers can receive orders straight from the client, allowing them to process and fulfill orders in record time, and with fewer errors.

Cybernet offers a variety of rugged tablet options that deliver the power and durability that manufacturers need to implement order automation in the field. The Rugged X10 10.1” Industrial Tablet is built with military grade components, making it waterproof and shockproof, with drop protection up to five feet. It runs on the energy-efficient Intel i5/i7 CPU with vPro, allowing it to process an ever growing number of orders. It also comes equipped with dual hot swappable batteries, which eliminates the need to stop working in order to charge it up. Plus, cellular 3G/4G LTE options makes this tablet great for communicating in real time with all members of the manufacturing team.

By implementing rugged tablets equipped with order automation software, manufacturers are able to process higher number of orders much more quickly, with a reduced risk of error. These systems offer increased flexibility, as more orders can be processed without the need to hire additional staff members. It can also be integrated into a manufacturers system without the need for lots of training, as the staff members working from the manufacturer’s factory floor receive orders just as they always have, though now in a streamlined, simplified process.

The iPad Versus the Industrial and Manufacturing Industry

There is no doubt that the iPad has its place in the world of consumer electronics.  Apple and mass media marketing have done wonders to ensure you believe the best tablet out there is the iPad.  This is partly due to the genius of Apple itself.  Marketing is large part of the iPad’s overwhelming popularity, but there’s also functionality to consider.  It is hard to believe Apple when they make claims that the iPad is “ahead of the game” in the realm of portable and tablet technology.  When compared with industrial tablets or rugged PCs, the iPad quickly falls short.  If you work in an industrial sector, try to imagine bringing your iPad into the volatile world of manufacturing and industrial work.

If you work in an industrial setting on a daily basis, it is easy to see how things can go south quickly, especially with a consumer-grade electronic.  This is a demanding environment and it isn’t one that is easily navigated by the iPad.  In the world of commercial and industrial enterprise, rugged tablets are the logical choice.  A rugged tablet gives you durability, power and reliability – everything you’ve come to expect in the digital age.  A rugged tablet is specifically designed for this type of environment, and it is not only functional, it’s also the most capable option.

Durability

There are a lot of options for durable cases with iPads, but when push comes to shove, they could never withstand the daily abuse of a rugged work environment.  When you’re working in a challenging environment, you want a tablet that will hold up to the abuse you’ll be putting it through on a regular basis.

IPads are not equipped for manufacturing and industrial work activities, plain and simple.  As a consumer grade electronic, the harsh nature of the commercial work environment would put an iPad through the wringer.

It’s glaringly obvious that the iPad isn’t rugged or tough.  It may be slightly durable, but that doesn’t mean it can handle the industrial applications that require a true rugged tablet.

Functionality is also compromised, as well. In warehouses and other industrial workplaces, it is sometimes necessary to wear work gloves while on the job. You cannot use an iPad with a glove on your hand, but many rugged tablets are designed to be used with gloved fingers.

In these particularly rugged work environments, contact with moisture and fluid is always a possibility. An iPad is not waterproof, while many rugged tablets are. They are specially made to protect your software and applications against the elements of the humid, gritty work atmosphere you encounter on a daily basis.

Applications & Software

 We all know that the iPad can be great for playing games or other entertainment apps. Even basic office applications can be utilized on an iPad device. However, in the commercial work environment, rugged tablets accomplish the workload by utilizing applications made to keep your business running smoothly.

You can find applications that help with productivity, inventory, time sheets, accounts and more.  Some of these applications even include warehouse or scanning software, or other ways to manage your work orders.  They provide true streamlined workflow from the main warehouse floor to the backroom industrial office.

There is no doubt that there is a place for iPads, but it is obvious that the industrial world is not it.