Friday, 26 September 2014

The true cost of ownership

We were recently contacted by a chemical company looking to replace old Psion 7535 hand held terminals, they used these in the warehouse to track picking and putaway transactions using a (pretty old) browser based application and it had run OK for years.

Now the obvious route (for some) would be to pitch up with the latest terminal from manufacturer X, load the RF configuration and Terminal Emulation client, let the guys test them and be impressed by the brighter screen, better scanner, faster response times etc. Easy!

However, when talking to the operators on their tea break, it became apparent that the real issue was the screen size and the way the "not very well designed" browser GUI was displayed to the operator.  It was very small, some information was off screen including the scan input so they were unable to see an incorrect barcode scan until it was committed and the next screen came up.

Also they were using narrow isle trucks in high racking and the terminals were usually jammed into a convenient space on the VNA.  Which resulted in a quite a few breakages that took up to 8 weeks to get fixed and returned.

Fortunately both the Warehouse Manager and the IT Manager were open minded enough to listen to our ideas on the use of a fix position DLoG truck computer, to address the workers issues.

A secure DLoG unit mounted directly to the VNA to eliminate drops, a larger screen to display the ERP software correctly, making the interface quicker and smoother to navigate and finally a UK based repair centre.

Testing went well and the operators were delighted, but as a solution it was noticeably more expensive than just buying new hand held devices.  Luckily the Warehouse and IT Managers, when they pitched this to the business looked into all the down time, breakages, slow picking, miss-scans and equally importantly, the time to fix units as the IT support was on a different site about 10 miles away so had to drive to the warehouse to fix the units and or arrange return to the manufacturer's European repair centre. With the DLoG units he could remote access into them just like a standard PC from his desk, diagnosing software issues and fixing them in real time.

So despite the initial financial outlay appearing to be very high, by taking into account all the factors the extra investment in the correct hardware for the job showed an overall saving and improved efficiencies for the company.

Needless to say they have now started the roll-out of DLoG MTC 6/10 units and are beginning to enjoy the benefits of a properly researched solution, based on the real world needs of the business and the true cost of ownership factored into the purchasing decision.

Written by Nigel Holloway - a senior sales consultant at Dash Computer Products, who specialises in barcode labelling systems, hand held and fork truck mounted computers and data capture solutions.
contact Nigel on 01200 441977 or email here:  Nigel@Dash Computer

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The human interface is still crucial

Yesterday I attended a meeting at the site of an International (and very famous, you know the one who awards stars) tyre manufacturer.  We had assisted them by providing the latest DLoG model, the DLT-V8312, to run a test of new software to improve the shop floor manufacturing process.

A significant amount of time had been spent ensuring the specification of the terminal was up to scratch and that the unit would be robust and reliable enough for the rough and tumble of the environment.  All of which is understandable as the DLoG is not a cheap terminal and the majority of the cap-ex would be spent on this as the platform for the new application.

As an aside, my contact asked for some forklift truck mounting brackets and a barcode scanner as part of the test kit.

When I returned to collect the hardware after testing I was obviously keen to know how the DLoG had performed.  Had it been powerful enough for the application to run smoothly? Did it fit OK on the forklift truck and not block line of sight? Had the RF been stable?  Was the screen bright enough for the outdoor element of the process?

 But all the IT guys could talk about was the barcode scanner, a cordless Datalogic Powerscan PM-9500.
A revelation!  As compared to their original Intermec laser scanners (approx 9 years old) it was far superior.  It scanned at lightning fast pace, had an aiming beam to help hit the correct barcode, was light and easy to handle and (the best bit) it had a Green Spot good scan confirmation. Amazing! They had to have some!

So the test was a success! Not really down to the expensive, key piece hardware we were all concentrating on and where most of the money was going, but on the barcode scanner I accidentally included in the box. But this does reinforce a common theme we see in our solutions. The human interface is crucial. Whether it be a great barcode scanner or a customised software keyboard on the screen, the level of user acceptance is ultimately the degree by which the company will see payback on the investment in the project.

The people using the solution everyday are key to its success and making their life easy and getting their buy in is crucial.

So sometimes it is the peripherals that people interact with, often ignored in the big project, that can make all the difference to how well a user gets on with a piece of kit and how much benefit a business get from a system that uses the technology.

Written by Nigel Holloway - a senior sales consultant at Dash Computer Products, who specialises in barcode labelling systems, hand held and fork truck mounted computers and data capture solutions.
contact Nigel on 01200 441977 or email here:  Nigel@Dash Computer