When I was a kid, my parents had a great, big console TV… one of those old glass tube types (CRT) mounted in a huge wooden enclosure, with big speakers on each side that were covered with that sparkly, gold fabric, and two mechanical channel changers… one for channels 2 through 13 and one for the “UHF” channels that never really quite tuned in right. This thing was more than just the family TV. It was a piece of fine furniture. My mom would set flower arrangements on it, flanked by candles on each side with each one carefully placed on a doily. At Christmas time the flowers went away and the nativity scene took its place. That TV was almost a member of the family. They had that thing for years and in fact it was still there when I left home.
For manufacturing and distribution companies, even short interruptions in daily operations can be costly. The simplest of things such as weak or defective batteries used in handheld computers can slow or impede your mobile data collection tasks. Taking the time to properly care for mobile device batteries can prolong their life and minimize the time lost in battery changes. Further, proper battery maintenance can lower total cost of ownership by reducing the frequency of replacement battery purchases. Without the proper care, poorly maintained batteries can result in wasted time and money.
Handheld computer batteries should allow warehouse employees to work the length of a typical shift without changing batteries and provide at least a year of service, or more, before being replaced. However, battery life is dependent on a number of environmental factors. How they are stored and charged, even how they are handled, can affect how many re-charge cycles a battery will last. That’s why it’s important to utilize the power management strategies below to ensure your organization is storing and charging your batteries properly.
When I was a kid, I used to marvel at watching my Mom run a “10-key adding machine”, a device that has gone the way of the typewriter and the corded telephone. But it was amazing to watch her flip through the papers at her work, fingers flying, paper tape spewing out of the back of the machine… and not once did she look at the keyboard. She was doing it all by touch in the same way most people learn to type: memorizing the keyboard and literally using muscle memory to know which key is where.
Likewise, when we’re typing on the computer, we get the tactile feedback of the keyboard in addition to seeing what we’re typing on the screen. We “feel” that we pressed the right key, and we confirm it by seeing it on the screen. When Mom was working that adding machine, there was no display to look at it… she just trusted her fingers and the feel of the keyboard.
The concept of “self-service” in a retail setting is certainly nothing new or revolutionary.
Self-check-out has been around for some time and has been so well accepted that many stores rely on it heavily. It’s not unusual to see only one staffed check-out lane open. Self-check-in at the airport is the “only way to fly” now, and movie theaters are steering movie-goers to purchase their tickets at kiosks (or even online), hours before their movie, and then to grab their tickets at a kiosk on the way to the concession stand. Fast food and fast casual dining establishments are trying various kiosk ordering stations and even order-at-the table kiosks.
There’s a lot of chatter lately about the pros and cons of using consumer grade devices (CGD’s) in commercial and industrial applications.
Specifically we’re talking about smartphones and tablets being used in places where historically we might see a purpose-built rugged device, designed to withstand the rigors of all-day, everyday use.
We see retail stores using smartphones and tablets, some even encouraging their employees to bring their own smartphone and use it in place of a company-issued device.
We also see warehouses and manufacturing plants using smartphones installed in “sleds” to add functionality such as barcode scanning and extended battery life, or some even mounting consumer-grade tablets on forklifts.
Small-To-Mid-Sized Retailers (SMRs) are often left on the sidelines when it comes to watching the technology that is made available to the “big boys” of retailing. Solutions range from high performance Point-of-Sale systems, mobile devices, sophisticated software tools, self-service kiosks and digital signage… all valuable tools when it comes to providing a higher level of customer service, managing inventory, or simply to ensure that the business is managed efficiently. But doesn’t the smaller retailer face the same challenges? Don’t they need to run their business efficiently and provide a high level of customer service? Of course they do. But often times these new technologies come with a price tag that is simply out of reach for the SMR, and usually requires technical resources or infrastructure that just aren’t available, affordable, or practical for the SMR.
“Obama team to expand overtime coverage” –(USA Today)
“Louisville’s minimum wage hike survives first court test” –(Associated Press)
“Ikea to hike minimum wage to $10 an hour.” –(CNN)
“Target hiking minimum wage to $9 an hour in April” –(CNBC)
In addition, 14 states have enacted minimum wage increases that will take effect later in 2015 or 2016. The inevitable reality is that the cost of hiring and staffing is going up, putting pressure on retailer’s profits, and it comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers need to be focused on optimizing the customer’s in-store experience. Customer retention and prompting purchases in the store is paramount, and it’s going to be a struggle if retailers are faced with the possibility of reducing headcount on the store floor to offset higher employee costs.
AML has been providing data collection handhelds and kiosks to our customers for over 30 years. While we pride ourselves on our quality products, we also believe in offering phenomenal customer service and support that is available before, during, and after the sale.
Whether you are researching new equipment for your company, considering upgrading your current system, or just looking for education on how to best utilize AML products – we are here for you. We do our best to educate our customers so the users have a better understanding of how AML products work.
If customers want to get to know our products better and see a general overview of what our products can do and how they can help your business, we encourage you to watch our product videos. AML provides videos with a high-level overview for each of our products so you can familiarize yourself with AML products. These videos are a short one to two minute overview. Our knowledgeable and helpful sales and technical staff can also answer any questions you have regarding AML products.
One of the driving factors behind any free market economy is competition. More competition in any given market means more choices for the consumer, keeps pressure on prices, and forces suppliers to constantly innovate, looking for ways to stay a step ahead of the competition. Even suppliers recognize that healthy competition serves as the catalyst behind moving their companies and their products forward. Without it, companies and their products stagnate.
Our industry, the Automatic Identification and Data Collection (AIDC) industry has seen a staggering amount of consolidation over the past several years. Trying to “white board” all the acquisitions and mergers can be a dizzying experience. Is it a good thing? For the end users that purchase AIDC products and the resellers that sell them, I think not. With each successive acquisition or merger, numerous products, and in some cases entire product lines, simply went away because they were redundant. Choices for the buyer are narrowing… and quickly.
Inventory is a vital piece of your business, but the actual process of keeping track of inventory can be intimidating and downright scary. Most small- to-medium-sized businesses take a full physical inventory once a year. The truth is that so much can go wrong in between inventory counts that goes unrealized until the full physical count. Inventory shrinkage can and will happen more than you think – damaged products, employee theft, and manual entry errors for example. How can you combat these issues without shutting down production on a continual basis? Cycle count.
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionials (CSCMP) is a professional organization dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of research and knowledge on supply chain management. CSCMP strives to provide opportunities for supply chain professionals to communicate with each other to develop and improve their supply chain management skills, identify and conduct research regarding supply chain theory and practice, and create awareness of the significance of supply chain to business and to the economy. In addition, CSMCP offers continuous educational opportunities to bring together supply chain professionals to exchange ideas and share their knowledge.
This year, CSCMP’s Annual Global Conference will be held in San Antonio, TX at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center September 21-24. In addition to the general sessions and educational meetings, attendees will have access to the Supply Chain Exchange Exhibit Hall. AML is proud to be exhibiting at CSCMP this year. Stop by booth #524 to see how our products can help you improve efficiency and productivity in your supply chain.
There's an old adage that says “Always use the right tool for the job.” A butter knife might make a decent screwdriver in a pinch, but it wouldn't be your first choice if you had to drive more than one screw. A Swiss Army knife is a great tool to have under certain circumstances, but I think a seamstress would prefer a better pair of scissors.
Choosing the right tool for the job applies everywhere. In business, there is sometimes a temptation to deploy equipment or devices that maybe weren't designed for the intended purpose, but other compelling factors trigger the impulse to buy.
Consumer devices such as smart phones and tablets are attractive at the outset because of their relative low cost and ease of acceptance by their users because of existing familiarity. However, selecting such devices based on short-sighted logic will result in higher costs over the long term.
AML announces introduction of the new DC Console, an application generator that allows users to modify existing DC Suite applications or create new applications from scratch.
The DC Suite is a collection of software applications that includes seven common barcode data collection applications. It is pre-loaded on the LDX10, AML's ultra-low-cost handheld computer with integrated barcode scanner, designed for light to medium duty barcode data collection applications such as inventory control and asset tracking. It stores data that is scanned by the barcode scanner or keyed into the keypad. Then, it uploads that data via USB to any PC, for use in spreadsheets or by importing it into an accounting or inventory management software.
Whether you are purchasing new AML handhelds to upgrade your current system or implementing a new system entirely, one important thing to consider when making your decision is the availability of extended warranties. When purchasing a new device, you should consider the best way to protect it from damage or risk. Most products come with standard factory warranties, but the option to upgrade to an extended warranty is typically offered to customers. However, extended warranties are not necessarily needed for every environment, so you should weigh your options carefully.
Small business manufacturers have a few different reasons for not instituting the use of barcodes. Some might not see how barcodes can increase the profitability of their businesses. Others might not understand how barcodes work, and think implementing a barcode system would be a daunting task. Regardless of the reason, these businesses are missing out on a higher level of efficiency, productivity, and quality that a barcode system could provide.
Barcodes should be embraced, not feared. The expense of the investment and the time required to implement a system will both be worth it in the end. In order to illustrate the benefits of the barcode, let’s take a look at the who, what, where, when, and why of a barcoding system.
In this day and age, technology is no longer a choice for businesses. In order to succeed, technology must be embraced. The time has passed for paper-based systems; they simply can’t compete with the speed and accuracy of newer software.
A plethora of options are available to those looking to bring their businesses up to speed. This wide selection also creates the challenge of finding the right package for your company. Price is something to consider, and it’s important to take on a software package that does exactly what you want it to do. Here are a few things to keep in mind for when you begin your research:
Most small businesses require some sort of inventory in order to operate. Having inventory and selling it for a profit are essential to the growth of a company. However, managing inventory can be a real challenge. Some parts of your inventory are inevitably going to move faster than others. There is no optimal speed for inventory to move; every business works differently.
Slow-moving inventory can be a real problem for businesses. Inventory that sits on the shelves for weeks or months on end is nothing more than wasted money. Cash is needed for a business to grow, so it’s imperative that companies avoid committing too much of it to inventory. Here are a few simple rules to remember when managing your inventory:
Small businesses account for more than 50% of employment in the United States, and businesses with at least one employee other than the owner have a surprisingly good survival rate through the first few years. However, only half of those businesses see year five, and just a third make it to year 10. How can businesses struggle so much after making it through the first two years? More often than not, money is the deciding factor. A business could be profitable on its income statement and still run out of cash. A balance sheet is a better meter of success than an income statement. Without cash, bills are not paid and doors don’t stay open.
Inventory control is quite possibly the most important aspect of the supply chain. The inventory manager acts similarly to a heart, pumping inventory throughout the system. If things move too fast or too slow, problems arise, and the whole business suffers. Maintaining the correct speed – or flow – of inventory proves to be difficult mainly because it is subject to change often. The information accompanying the goods that make up the inventory can be quite a lot to remember and organize.
Nevertheless, there are steps that can be taken to simplify inventory control. These actions will help a warehouse manager corral the inventory, but it should be noted that they are not permanent. Businesses, technology, and inventory are all constantly changing; it would be unwise to think otherwise. However, the following measures can be reapplied year after year in order to increase inventory control.
When most people think of inventory management, they think of someone counting and sorting boxes. In reality, managing the inventory is much more complex. It requires knowledge of the supply chain, the customer, and the industry as a whole. The warehouse is but one part of the supply chain; it must work in harmony with the other sections, or the business will struggle. A manager that understands the business as a whole will be able to make smarter and more profitable decisions in order to create an efficient warehouse.
Although every warehouse is unique, there are certain challenges of inventory management that are common to most businesses. Understanding and overcoming these obstacles is vital to the success of the business. Here are a few examples of those challenges:
Over the years, new technologies have forced businesses to change the way they operate; a business that is unwilling to adapt is a business that will fail. Barcoding is just one of the many technologies to shape the way businesses are run today. Warehouses have turned to barcoding in order to operate more efficiently. Barcodes have become so popular that certain trends are being utilized in warehouses.
These days, it isn’t enough to simply have a barcoding system installed. The system must be custom tailored for each warehouse. Although warehouses achieve results in different ways, they all have the same goals:
Every business that sells or manages products must have an inventory. Simply having an inventory, though, is pointless if it is poorly managed. Understanding which products go where, or how much of a product is in stock, is crucial to the operation of a warehouse. If miscommunication occurs at any level, it can cost a business money and hurt its reputation.
Inventory shrinkage is just one example of a miscommunication. Inventory shrinkage is the result of the physical inventory having a count that is lower than the count recorded in the company’s documentation. Essentially, it means having less than you think/say you have. Inventory shrinkage happens in a variety of ways:
A supply chain consists of anything and everything that works to move a product from a supplier to a customer. As products pass through the supply chain, they tend to change hands multiple times. It can sometimes be difficult to keep track of the products making their way through the supply chain, which is where visibility comes into play. The goal of supply chain visibility is to allow items to be easily tracked as they are passed along. Knowing where a product is at all times can be extremely advantageous to a business.
Visibility throughout an entire supply chain allows a company to see where issues lie, or where improvements can be made. This knowledge can save a company a lot of time and money. Here are a few specific ways visibility can improve the supply chain:
The warehouse is perhaps the most important aspect of a successful business. It acts as a hub through which almost everything must pass. Without a warehouse – or without a functional warehouse – a business is extremely limited. In this day and age, a warehouse that operates manually is simply wasting money. Manually recording information and then entering it into a computer later is a two step process that requires time and effort from employees. Even the most diligent and efficient employees pale in comparison to a barcoding system.
Businesses with manual warehouses might still find success, but beating out the competition usually takes a forward-thinking mind. Take a look at some of the issues that may arise in a manual warehouse:
Barcoding is a great way to maximize the productivity and efficiency of your business. However, a barcoding system isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Choosing a barcoding system at random would most likely help a business, but it wouldn’t be fine-tuned to the needs of that particular company.
Barcoding technology has been around for a while now, and people are constantly finding new ways to put it to good use. Staying ahead of the competition is always a struggle, especially in an industry driven by evolving technologies. The right barcoding system could help your company not only stay afloat, but surge ahead.
Barcodes can be used in a variety of ways, all of which can save a business time and money. . So much thought goes into implementing a barcoding system that little is put into how those barcodes will be printed and displayed. However, one overlooked aspect of barcoding is the use of barcode labels. Choosing the right type of barcode is important, and a company can prosper or suffer depending on the decision. A whole system can be compromised if the labels don’t adequately do their job. Here are a few things to consider when choosing barcode labels:
Barcode scanning has been around for decades, but its importance can never be stressed enough. Without barcodes, manufacturers would be forced to rely solely on employees in order to track inventory. Even if an employee is vigilant and dependable, he/she is still going to make mistakes. Barcode scanning allows for companies to bypass many forms of human error.
Not only do barcodes save companies from making errors, they allow manufacturing to run much more quickly and smoothly than would otherwise be possible. This article will explore the ways in which barcodes can help take a manufacturing company to the next level.
The warehouse has been an important part of a retail store’s supply chain for as long as retail stores have been around. However, the increasing popularity of technology has caused a shift in the way customers are shopping these days. Customers are using online shopping more than ever, and the prevalence of the smart phone means items can be bought at any time from anywhere. These changes are making omnichanneling the focus of almost every retail store.
The convenience of online shopping, combined with the speedy deliveries of some companies, has given customers high standards. Delivering the wrong product – or simply delivering the right product too late – is going to cause a business to lose customers very quickly. These changes in shopping patterns are going to influence warehouses in a few different ways.
Warehouses are constantly on the lookout for more efficient ways of working, but the recent trend of "going green" is something that can affect the world as a whole. The environment is an increasing concern for businesses known for making large carbon footprints. Warehouses are constantly packaging products and making deliveries, which, among other things, have not been known for being particularly friendly to the environment.
Going green can do more than just help the environment – it can save a company money as well. Although there are plenty of interesting ways to reduce a carbon footprint, they all fall into one of the following three categories:
The first installment of Barcode Data Collection FAQs discussed the basics of barcodes and how they can help businesses. This blog post will discuss the different types of barcodes, and the various ways they can be used. Technology is only beneficial if it is being used properly, and barcodes are no exception. It is important to understand what each barcode type is used for. For the most part, industries have already discovered which barcodes work best for them. However, some businesses are unique and might use barcodes differently than others.
These frequently asked questions will help you understand barcodes at a deeper level than before.
In order for a business to be successful, it must be as productive and efficient as possible. A barcode data collection system is one way to push a business forward. Barcodes allow for information to be quickly transmitted, and they also help keep human error from slowing a business down. Although almost everyone knows what barcodes look like, many people don’t know exactly how they work or what they do. This article will address some frequently asked questions surrounding barcodes.
The supply chain is vast, tracking the movement of limitless inventory from start to finish. This could mean products making their way across the country – or even around the globe. In between there are a myriad of interconnected businesses and related activities such as suppliers, transport and logistics companies, and service providers – before the products even get into the consumers’ hands. Just the thought of this seems overwhelming, with a lot of moving parts that could be out of your control. The use of spreadsheets or other "paper pushing" methods cannot efficiently keep up with the rapid pace of today’s commerce. However, there are powerful tools available today that can close the gap and make the supply chain much more manageable.
Specialized warehouse management software is one important tool, however barcode scanners are an integral addition to you operations that will simplify processes and keep your supply chain moving. Here’s how:
Managing a warehouse is a lot more difficult than most people realize. The job goes beyond receiving, storing, and shipping materials. An effective warehouse manager might make the job seem easy, but a lot goes into maintaining a smooth operation. Experience is usually the best teacher, but here are five things every modern warehouse manager should know:
Your customers’ view of your company is ultimately based on the level of service your business provides. But this extends further than just the quality or color of a particular product they bought or whether you have friendly phone support.
It’s also dependent on your warehouse management system (WMS). Think about it. The item ordered might be the best thing since sliced bread, but if your company takes forever to ship or gets the order wrong all together, that makes for one unhappy customer.
If you implement processes and technology that improve the efficiency of receiving, storing and shipping orders, it ultimately conveys that you value your customers’ business. Not to mention, it makes your employees’ working conditions better, who will in turn do a better job for both your company and your customers.
The alternative? Unorganized, inefficient workflow processes that result in processing errors and other complications that might deter a new customer from coming back.
When your operation suffers from layers of inefficiencies, it can be a recipe for trouble. It’s no secret that expectations on your warehouse are rapidly increasing in correlation with customer demands for quick and accurate shipping.
These underlying problems aren’t just numbers on a management report; The ripple effects are frustrated managers and unmotivated employees within the business. Not to mention, customers who have a bad ordering experience with your company may not come back a second time.
These warehouse management challenges can be decreased substantially or avoided all together if you put the following essential steps in place:
Let’s be honest to say that the larger your distribution operations, the harder it is to effectively manage every stage of the product life-cycle, as well as your different lines of business. As the retail industry changes, warehouse managers are increasingly under pressure, due to fast-paced e-commerce outlets like Amazon.com, to fulfill orders accurately and as quickly as possible.
As this evolution occurs, warehouse operations are becoming more complex. So you might consider upgrading your warehouse management methodology. Two primary applications businesses can use to streamline processes are inventory control and warehouse management software systems. There is a fine line between the two, and they are sometimes confused.
The following is a simple breakdown of the similarities and differences between both systems as well as the benefits that can result.
It’s no secret that the retail industry has turned to technology to streamline a number of business applications. From mobile point-of-sale for line busting and ease of use to using social media platforms to provide customer service and expand marketing campaigns.
The opportunities seem endless. And as all sizes of retailers find themselves in various stages of technology adoption, there are simple yet effective methods to engage customers and enhance the shopping experience.
One way seems almost too simple – but it can be a powerful addition to your store to make life easier on retail staff and customers alike. That tool is the price verifier.
Today, access to technology has led many warehouses to outgrow their old, manual procedures. To upgrade their data entry processes and improve efficiency, they are turning to two distinct technologies: barcode or RFID (radio frequency identification).
Although the two technologies share similar functionalities, they are quite different in the way they work in today’s warehouses. To read a barcode label, the user must position the scanner within line of sight of the item. To read an RFID tag, the tag simply needs to be within range of the reader. According to RFID Journal, an RFID tag’s read range is usually 20 to 30 feet under ideal conditions. With that in mind, it is important to understand that while RFID technology is ideal in some environments, it is not necessarily ideal for all.
For most companies, transitioning from manual data entry to barcode technology is a natural progression – not to mention cost-effective. Those considering RFID technology should weigh these factors to determine whether or not it will generate a return on their investment in the long run.
Outsourcing your IT needs allows you to reduce labor costs, gain access to advanced capabilities and make capital funds available. It is a cost-effective, long-term alternative to having an internal IT staff, eliminating the cost of hiring new employees. A business also greatly benefits from the knowledge and experience of a team of IT professionals with extensive industry training. Not to mention, outsourcing non-core business functions allows companies to better allocate capital funds and keeps employees doing business as usual, even during an enterprise-wide software system implementation.It used to be that outsourced IT was ideal for larger businesses. Today, anybody can – and should – outsource their technical needs; IT providers offer their services to resellers of all shapes and sizes. That’s why it’s especially important for resellers to carefully consider their options and zero in on the IT partner that best fits their unique business.
Ask yourself the following questions while looking for an IT partner:
Although U.S. citizens continue to struggle in the current state of the economy and job market, we are experiencing a "made in USA" manufacturing revival. More and more manufacturers are going back to their roots – back to the American manufacturing jobs that supported families in the 1950s – except this time they’re using technology instead of toolboxes.
While digging itself out of the hole the recession created, the U.S. has seen significant manufacturing growth – 500,000 jobs were created in the last three years – for the first time in more than a decade. Also in the last three years, the U.S. added more net manufacturing jobs than the rest of the seven wealthiest nations put together. Germany and Canada were the only two other countries who also saw increases.
Handheld devices are subjected to constant use and oftentimes impact and abuse. The importance of an experienced technical support service for troubleshooting and repairs cannot be stressed enough. To evaluate your current support, consider these questions:
• Can you register your product? • Are warranties or extended warranties available? • How long does it take to get your product back? • Is product documentation available online?
If any of these questions were answered with "no" or some variant of "insufficient," then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. When evaluating a technical support service, it is helpful to use the three R’s: response, return policy and repairs.
Although tablets and smartphones are typically considered consumer devices for personal use, many companies have been turning to the technology to take advantage of perceived lower investment costs. The rapid rise in adoption of consumer devices in retail stores and healthcare facilities has inevitably piqued the interest of IT personnel of warehouse operations. However, warehouse personnel beware: "industry-specific" still reigns supreme.
In a recent study, 90 percent of respondents considered ruggedness and durability to be highly important in considering the use of Apple™ and Android™ devices in warehouses, but only 36 percent said that they were highly satisfied with the performance of these devices in their warehouse.
These devices may seem cost-effective at first, but the total cost of ownership is much higher than ruggedized devices in the long run. Keep reading to find out why.
In modern warehouses, productivity is the key to success. The inability to properly manage inventory can result in a loss of time, money and customers for your organization. For companies that are currently struggling to manage their distribution operations manually, the time to move to a barcode data collection system may be right. This transition will enable your organization to automate operations within your facility by eliminating unnecessary processes and errors. Let’s take a look at three ways a data collection system can improve warehouse productivity:
When it comes to handheld computers for barcode data collection, you want to end up with the best model for your workload and environment. The first factor you need to consider before making a decision is whether you need a "batch" or "wireless" device.