Trumpets are blowing in the mobile printing market. The interest in wireless technologies is a key driver for this. Exciting ideas are emerging in a wide range of fields; this article looks at some examples that should wet your appetite for printing at the point of service.
With the explosion of portable information devices and the increasing use of wireless technology more companies are connecting their frontline workers to complete transactions at the point-of-sale or point-of-service. As an example retail store clerks can scan bar codes and check pricing or reduce check-out lines at peak times. Credit card payment helps close the total transaction much closer to the customers point-of-decision! This brings a new meaning to printing at point-of-service, requiring the retailer or food service provider to recognize that the server not the customer needs to be mobile. The transaction, including payment, can be completed anywhere in a store for example or right at the seat in a sports stadium.
The applications for the use of portable receipt printing in mobile computing however go beyond retail and food service; there are many! The following are some hot applications where use is literally exploding.
In particular with beverage companiesboth beer and soft drink bottlers take advantage of the benefits of route accounting to reduce the time needed to complete a sale, to improve sales force productivity and create more satisfied customers. Examples are Fresh Samantha, the producer and distributor of premium juices and Grupo Modelo the eighth largest beer maker in the world and owner of the prestigious Corona Extra brand. Relevant statistical and historic data for each customer is stored on hand-held computers; data is read and updated with each visit and delivery notes or receipts issued. Each route is kept constantly up-to-date with inventory and sales data.
The use of portable receipt printing in mobile computing is often used in the field. Companies such as Sears, Roebuck are putting computers in the hands of field service technicians to make them more efficient, to streamline and speed basic functions, such as billing, and to save millions of dollars. The retailer's HomeCentral operation is the largest appliance repair firm in the United States, with over 13,000 technicians who make 11 million in-home repairs a year. The hardware used by the field service technicians includes sturdy laptops and portable printers; and Sears' service vans have been converted into wireless network base stations.
Another good example is Calor Service, one of Italys most important companies working in the servicing of heating and air conditioning systems, adopted mobile computing including portable printers to obtain better day to day performance by their service technicians. Calor Services is the Official Service Centre for Caldaie Beretta: one of the most famous Italian manufacturers of heating and air conditioning devices.
A good example of hot applications in mobile computing is the Swedish National Rail system which carries more than 19 million people annually. The organisation recently implemented what Christer Kohler describes as the first computerized conductors in the world equipped with hand held computers and portable printers with integrated magnetic card reader. IrDA wireless communication between the two devices means no cables to break! Passengers now pay on the train rather than at rail stations. Similar systems are at work on buses in Germany and on Cross Channel Ferries as well as on Finnair for duty free receipts.
Queue busting in retail and food establishments
Mobile point-of-sale terminals for queue busting reduce the wait at cash terminals or eliminate the need to leave a seat at crucial moments while watching a ball game. Visit the Fleet Center (home of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics) and enjoy the rapid food ordering system in the club seats ordering and payment is done seat side and all communication to the kitchen and for credit card approval is done over a wireless network. Retailers know that reducing queue times at checkouts is a key factor in achieving customer satisfaction. Reducing waiting enables retailers to offer their customers a superior service, especially during peak trading periods. Proven benefits include customer retention and increased turnover. Woolworths plc rolled out such a system to 200 stores in time to cope with the Christmas and January sales queues. The clever queue busting concept enables the store to set up mobile checkouts, allowing queues to be dealt with on-the-spot and customer waiting times to be dramatically reduced.
Microsoft, discussing the use of Mobile Devices in the Enterprise, notes: Millions of people work in untraditional office environmentssuch astravelling sales representatives. Or it may be that the nature of the job requires the worker to move from place to place, as in factory work, package delivery, field service or health-care professionsportable information devicesprovide a tool for replacing paper-based business processes with forms-based applications. The increased efficiency and accuracy of capturing data quickly into a computing device can result in higher employee productivity, faster business reporting and reduced operational costs.
Here we have shown just a few examples of the many organizations employing mobile computing technology to improve their efficiency and productivity.
Tony Revis is general manager of the Data Systems Division of Extech Instruments Corporation. He directs the design, engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing division at Extech, specialising in the development of portable printers.