91% of manufacturers experience delays and disruptions in the supply chain due to data capture technology inefficiencies. Here's 5 mobile equipment disruptors you can eliminate today.Recently, a Carlton customer, a large distributor in the food industry, reported that the importance of their RF equipment became evident over a particularly rough 10-day period. The company acknowledged, “Our organization now understands that our RF equipment is just as mission-critical as the people, the material handling equipment, and forklifts to get boxes in and out. We need to better control the equipment we have.”
This isn't limited to food distribution. Supply chains of all shapes and sizes rely on RF equipment to increase productivity and keep business moving. So when mobile equipment failures and mismanaged devices lead to downtime, lost productivity, and increased maintenance and support costs - it's time to reevaluate the technology itself.
Mobile equipment-related issues are so common that 91% of manufacturers experience delays and disruptions in the supply chain process.
These disruptions can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:
- Discarded equipment “stored” in the workplace
- Locations with high volume repair orders
- Individual pieces of equipment with high incidence of repairs
- Repaired equipment needing to be sent back time and again
- Lack of documentation of full equipment inventory
As production schedules and delivery windows tighten, the ability to manage mobile equipment is more vital than ever. By identifying and eliminating these five mobile equipment disruptors, your supply chain will feel a great deal more organized and productive.
Red Flag #1: Your Equipment Spare Pool is a Mess
Many of our customers report that they do not have an effective process in place to track their equipment assets. One customer admitted, “I do not know how many units I have today. I know what I signed up for in my maintenance contract, but I have no idea where all of them are.”
This is a common theme. One simple way to determine if your mobile device spare pool is out of control? Walk the floor. Look for devices that are sitting around unused, have been tossed into a box under a workbench or are thrown into a closet. Chances are, this equipment is under warranty and has not been sent out for repair, which means you've got fewer assets in your spare pool.
Often, someone is "semi-responsible" for managing the spare pool, but due to bandwidth issues, fail to expedite equipment repairs. Once spare equipment is required for active duty, they send all of it out for repair at the same time. They now have fewer mobile computing devices available for use and need to wait for their return. In some instances, more than one person or department believes it's their job to manage the spare pool.
Other times, this responsibility falls to IT or an operations manager, warehouse manager, or supervisor, yet these individuals fail to communicate with one another and don't have an accurate sense of how many devices are actually out of service. This is further complicated in multi-location environments where it's common for every facility to have its own spare pool.
Companies can avoid these scenarios by empowering one employee, or a small team of individuals in larger companies, to manage their spare pool. Clearly defining responsibilities reduces the likelihood of miscommunication between departments and ensures everyone has a complete view of the mobile equipment that is in and out of service. If there is one thing to hold people accountable for in a supply chain outside of safety, it's accountability for critical data capture technology.
Mobile device tracking software provides visibility into your equipment inventory no matter where you are. MDM makes it much more viable to keep tabs on devices internally or outsource to a third-party.
Red Flag #2: One of Your Locations is a "Bad Actor"
Perhaps one of your facilities has an inordinately high repair volume. If this is the case, here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have the right equipment for that location’s environment?
- Is your training adequate?
- Have you introduced new processes that could impact equipment performance?
- Do your employees understand how to properly handle and maintain their equipment?
The work environment can be hard on mobile equipment, so make sure the equipment is being used in the appropriate setting and that it's properly protected. If the equipment is being used in a rugged environment, such as a loading dock, make sure it's insulated in a protective case.
Inadequate training is very common. While scanning barcodes doesn't require a thick instruction manual, proper use of your organization's mission critical equipment will make a huge difference in longevity and repair volume. Make sure you have a process in place if devices have common failures. When employees take it into their own hands to find a solution, results can vary.
On the other hand, new processes with lots of steps lead to employees taking shortcuts and misusing equipment. Whatever your environment and leadership style, the proper use of equipment begins and ends with sufficient training.
Red Flag #3: Repeat Offenders
Incidents don't always fall on lack of training or device misuse. Certain mobile devices have a higher incidence of failures than others. If you notice you're sending the same piece of equipment out for repair time and time again, it might be due to one of the following reasons:
- The equipment may be at the end of its device lifecycle and needs to be replaced
- Inadequate information is being given to your maintenance partner
- Your maintenance partner may not be adequately testing the equipment before returning it to you
- This equipment may be associated with certain facilities that have higher incidence of repairs (as in Red Flag #2)
If you're experiencing repeat offenders, be sure to look closely at your mobile device repair partner and ensure they're doing everything that is expected of them per your service contract.
A trustworthy mobile device repair partner understands the software and configuration requirements for all of your devices, at every location. Making assumptions and configuring the wrong settings really adds up over time. Your repair partner should be asking the right questions to all stakeholders so the root source of the problem is fully realized. Clear communication between the inventory manager, the employee who uses the mobile device, and the repair shop can eliminate the repeat offender problem.
Red Flag #4: Too Many "Bad" Repairs
High warranty rates can wreak havoc on your operation. Equipment sent out for repair should come back working like new. Enough incomplete repairs and you can have a serious problem on your hands.
A reliable device repair partner is crucial. Even more important is a device repair shop that is willing to admit fault and share warranty metrics with you on demand, whether good or bad. Review your SLA (service level agreement) outlined in your contract to ensure the partner is performing as expected.
If they are not meeting SLA standards, then be sure to voice your concerns and ensure they have a plan in place to improve.
If you do not have an SLA with your repair partner, you should work with them to create one. Be sure to schedule regular meetings with your partner to track improvements.
Red Flag #5: Low Visibility into Equipment Inventory
Inventory management is essential to maximize productivity. Some organizations manage equipment inventory internally, while others use a third-party provider. An effective inventory management process should include the following steps:
- Receipt from supplier and log-in to inventory system (device description, item number, location, etc.)
- Receipt from the facility when line of equipment is being retired to refurbish and put back into inventory
- Deployment within facility (location, person, set-up, installation, etc.)
- Current state of equipment
- Anticipated lifespan
Often, companies overlook important details such as what's going out for repair, who is using the equipment, and the correct data configuration to run the equipment. This is usually because whoever is responsible for managing the inventory is overwhelmed with other tasks, but it's critical information nonetheless.
Too Busy? Time for a Dependable Device Partner
Anyone can identify gaps and inefficiencies. Out of 5 major red flags, only one was related to the equipment itself. The most common mobile device disruptor is people. Lack of accountability, visibility, and systems adds up quickly over time. Not everyone has the time, resources, or expertise to fix them.
Prioritize empowering your employees - they're what really makes a difference. Leave the technology to us.