Direct Store Delivery (DSD) is not new but the speed of commerce is having an impact on just how DSD is working… or not working. The old normal pace of delivery just doesn’t cut it any more when store shelves are stocked to the ‘just right’ levels and the costs of delivery continue to increase. For DSD to continue to be the best way to get product to retailers, the technology needs to replace clipboards.
The obvious answer it to deploy mobile devices with route drivers. That’s the simple answer and one that definitely works. But a lot of thought needs to go into the selection of devices. Is the iPhone the driver carries for their personal business going to work well when it’s the end of the day and there are still 3 more stops to make out in the countryside? Here are 4 things to consider when deciding what kind of mobile device should be in the hands of the driver.
Form factor - Laptops would have been the answer 5 years ago but today tablets or large screen smartphones are much more suited because they are easy to carry and they are less prone to damage from rough handling and dropping. And really, the keyboard isn’t necessary anymore, particularly if the software is designed properly for finger-tapping rather than mouse and keyboard navigation.
Connectivity - Consumer grade handheld units can connect in most normal situations. But the problem is that retail stores are not always normal situations. If drivers need to go into cold rooms or other areas with poor radio reception they may loose connectivity and need to resort to paper for updates, then transfer the results to the handheld when it can reconnect. Look for units that have specialized antennae designed connect even in the least friendly situations.
Battery life - DSD drivers put in long days and their portable devices need to be able to keep up with them. It’s one thing to assume they can charge their units while they are driving but it’s another to count on them remembering to plug in between stops. Make certain the portable can deliver power all day long… however long that day is.
Scanning - Today’s inventory is managed by barcode and RFID. Consumer devices may be able to use an app to read barcodes with the built in camera but RFID tags require different radios from what is built into those units. Drivers should be able to use one device for all their activities so look for something that combines all the features needed to get the day’s jobs done.