Mobile computing: VDC Research surveys mobile and wireless users

It's all about mobility and wireless in the supply chain, says VDC Research.

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On Tuesday, I wrote about the ups and downs of the market for mobile and wireless computing inside and outside the four walls of the plant and warehouse. VDC Research (, the Boston-based research firm, is surveying the end user market – that means folks like you, our readers at Modern Materials Handling – to find out how requirements and needs are changing.

You can have your voice heard and possibly win an Amazon gift certificate by clicking on the following link and participating in the survey. VDC will be taking input over the next three to four weeks. As David Krebs, director of VDC’s mobile and wireless practice says: “Our clients manufacture and design solutions for the market,” says David Krebs, director of VDC’s mobile and wireless practice. “We’re trying to collect the information about how end users are currently using the equipment and where are the gaps. That’s everything from the design of the device to the applications that end users are using or want to use.”

While mobile and wireless technology is used throughout the enterprise, it’s having a tremendous impact on the supply chain. “Mobility is a theme and a strategy today,” says Krebs.

A theme in that everyone is talking about mobility, from the blue collar worker in the warehouse to the white collar worker in the office. Credit the iPhone for the buzz. Just like Wal-Mart’s announcement five or six years ago that it was going to use RFID jump started that market, Apple has everyone talking about mobility. “The iPhone and the iPad have elevated the perception of mobility,” says Krebs. All of a sudden, there’s an app for everything, including the supply chain.

It’s a strategy in that mobility is all encompassing today. We’re not just giving scanning guns to order selectors, we’re putting laptops and PDAs in the hands of truck drivers, yard gate operators, field maintenance personnel and route truck drivers.

The big change there, Krebs adds, is that those devices increasingly are operating in real time. “Delivery and direct-to-store applications have been batch applications,” says Krebs. A driver captured information on a device, then downloaded it at the end of the shift when he returned to the office. “Companies are embracing cellular technology and GPS to do their work in real time,” says Krebs.

A second change, inside and outside the four walls, is that mobile devices are doing more. Not so long ago, they were single application devices. “The number of applications being supported on a mobile device today has grown from less than three to almost five,” says Krebs.

The last, and I think most important change, is that real-time data was primarily an operational tool. It helped people execute the tasks they had to perform. Increasingly, it’s tied back to real-time decision making inside the enterprise. “The ability to make a decision in real-time is enabling a lot of this interest and growth,” says Krebs.

With all the interest around the iPhone will there be an app for that in the supply chain app? Krebs says we are still very much at the hype stage, but it is an interesting concept. “Historically, people tried to cram an entire application onto a device as opposed to trying to think about it specificially,” he says. “That strains the resources of a small device. I think having bite-sized components of an application that are an extension of the enterprise will be the next wave of mobility investment.”

Be sure to click on the link to have your voice heard in VDC’s survey.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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