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Achieving Visibility Through Mobility

State-of-the-art mobility technology is providing companies with a whole new level of visibility and control over their inventory and shipments, says Frank Arico, director of professional services with Strategic Mobility Group.

The challenge of keeping track of assets in a network with multiple shipping and customer locations can be “overwhelming,” says Arico. There’s a pressing need for methods to ensure real-time visibility of shipments. “It really comes down to basic asset tracking.”

No longer can a supplier rely on spreadsheets maintained at each location. Companies need a tool that promotes and manages assets in a centralized fashion, while providing real-time tracking capacity. That said, many companies continue to rely to their detriment on paper spreadsheets to support legacy systems. The failure to track serial numbers in an automated fashion, for example, can cause serious disruptions in the supply chain.

Repairs and reverse logistics present a special challenge. The use of a third party can help to alleviate the problem, but suppliers still must ensure that they are carrying out repairs in a timely fashion, and making optimal use of expensive assets. “A one- to two-percent increase in the spares pool can have a big impact on costs,” Arico says.

Proper mobile device management is equally critical. Many supposedly defective units are actually trouble-free and should not be sent in for repair. Arico has seen some customers with a “no-trouble-found” rate of up to 40 percent. Keeping those units out of the returns pipeline can eliminate the costs involved in packaging, shipping and handling. With the right controls in place, he said, companies can cut back on the shipment of trouble-free units by as much as 50 percent.

Complicating the challenge is the constant shrinking of product lifecycles. A typical item might now be on the market for no more than six months. The support window for that unit is narrowing accordingly.

The leasing option can help companies to swap out from older, legacy barcoding equipment without having to expend large amounts of capital. Leasing for three to five years “is a great way to get into the new technology,” says Arico. On the software side, the hosted model can also help to bring down the cost of the applications.

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