How Custom Ordering and Service Portals Streamline Supply Chain Device Management

As anyone with a mobile computing or automatic identification technology system knows, the implementation process doesn’t end when the hardware gets into your employees’ hands. Once equipment is in the field or in the warehouse, there are a host of support, maintenance, and repair issues to consider – not to mention new deployments. Custom ordering and support portals address that need quickly and efficiently by providing a central, online conduit for requesting repairs or ordering new equipment.

Custom portals, which provide customer-specific web pages for ordering and support, help integrators and value-added resellers provide prompt, fast, and reliable support when hardware is damaged or needs an update. New orders can be selected from a pre-approved list of specific kits that contain the exact equipment a site might need.  On-line service support can eliminate the problems of manual or ad hoc support services that force users to call a support line, initiate a chat session, or send their request through a supervisor who then contacts the reseller.

Making things more complicated, companies that have deployed a variety of equipment from different suppliers may need to contact a mix of resellers or hardware manufacturers to resolve a problem.

The “Easy Order” Solution

For example, omniQ has created a number of “Easy Order” online purchasing portals, unique to specific customers, which can access a catalog of handheld scanners, batteries, cables, printers, and other accessories specific to their installation and at agreed-upon pricing levels.

Each page can be broken out by different terminal configurations to match the right accessories to the specific site needs. Pages can also be configured to view all hardware suppliers/products.

omniQ then handles all the individual hardware ordering, as well as kitting/staging and commissioning of the equipment prior to shipment. Orders can easily be tracked online via the portal.

Service Portal

omniQ has created customer-specific support portals.  Customers can submit service requests via their dedicated web interface. omniQ then works with the original manufacturer to to repair the equipment, or performs the repairs themselves. Alternately, the hardware can be completely replaced. Inventory can be tracked according to serial number and the location of deployment or the state of the repair process.

How Partnering with a Company with a Custom Ordering Portal Helps Your Business 

Working with a reseller or integrator that offers these types of custom web portals can help improve the long-term success of a mobile computing deployment in a number of ways:

1. Internal IT staff can leverage the custom ordering portals to help streamline hardware ordering processes, and enable a level of self-service for managers and employees. This takes some of the workload off IT and purchasing departments that are already stretched thin.
2. Companies can be confident that they are ordering the right hardware and accessories at the right price.
3. Service interactions are more efficient because the catalog information in the custom ordering portals can be used to properly identify the hardware and communicate the problem to support personnel.
4. Inventory position can be tracked for each serial number between the customer and the partner and service locations

Custom portals can make it easier for companies to manage their mobile computing deployments by providing a central point to handle both service requests and new product orders. Service requests can be linked to existing customer service/maintenance agreements, and new product orders can be automatically created, kitted, and billed at the right price — with minimal effort on the part of the customer.

Maintenance, service, and support are inevitable. Choose a provider that makes it as easy and efficient as possible to maximize uptime and keep your business running efficiently and productively.

Industry Solutions Manufacturing Mobility Transportation and Logistics

How to Improve Food Safety Supply Chain Management

The food supply chain is a particularly complex one to manage. You need to take environmental and time constraints into account to make sure perishable items get from the point of production through processing, distribution, and retail/wholesale operations before they spoil. Food safety regulations that have emerged over the past few years have added more complexity.

Relevant regulations in this space include the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which require improved data on food origins as well as lot and traceability information to help improve the recall process across the food safety supply chain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also recently released new rules that even require grocery stores that grind raw beef products to keep records about where the meat came from, lot numbers and production dates, and the date and time each ground beef product was produced.

There have also been advances in detecting and tracking food contamination incidents. For example, there is PulseNet, which state public health laboratories use to analyze bacteria strains from sick individuals and then report to the CDC. The FDA Reportable Food Registry requires companies to report serious product contamination as well.

These new regulations also offer an opportunity for stakeholders across the industry to improve food safety supply chain management by leveraging technology to improve compliance, make the recall process faster and more accurate, and reduce costs. Companies can also improve their own safety performance in the following ways:

Carefully vet all suppliers, distributors, and carriers. Failure to comply with best practices when it comes to food safety can put your brand at risk, so make sure you know exactly where your products have been, including all storage facilities, trucks, and other stops along the way. Investigate the safety practices at those facilities. Find out what kind of testing they do, and how often.

Conduct regular audits. Establish a formal auditing process for your own facilities and those of your suppliers or carriers. This also will help you document your own food safety supply chain improvement efforts.

Create comprehensive purchasing agreements. Involve food safety professionals in outlining supplier agreements so you can minimize risk. Have requirements in writing relative to meeting federal and state rules and regulations, as well information on their own supplier agreements and notifications of any supply changes.

Maintain accurate labeling. The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 requires importers to provide a significant amount of information to the FDA prior to importation of food, including lot, code number or other identifiers, information about he submitter and transmitter, and other identifying data.

Likewise, the FSMA requires a comprehensive product tracing system to track the movement of food from the farm to the point of sale or service. This is so producers can contain outbreaks of foodborne illnesses more quickly.

Implement accurate tracking technology.  As in other industries, the food safety supply chain can benefit from the use of automatic identification technology. There are efforts worldwide to extend food supply chain tracking right back to the individual animal. Governments and suppliers around the world have invested in livestock traceability systems, often using RFID transponders, and these efforts can even extend to the point of delivery or purchase.

omniQ, for example, has developed an RFID-based tray tracking solution that allows bakeries to track deliveries and provide information about the baked goods on the tray to reduce stales and automate replenishment processes.  This also provides needed lot tracking control to identify exactly what batch of products went to what locations.

In addition to barcode and RFID labeling, there are number of high-tech approaches to automating food safety processes. For example, iCertainty and Zebra Technologies created a solution that combines iCertainty’s software, Zebra’s mobile computers, and wireless temperature probes to provide real-time information on food safety audits.  Temperature and other environmental measurements can even be gathered from the point of origin to delivery to ensure that conditions were not exceeded at any point in the journey.

Develop an emergency response plan for recalls and emergencies. With accurate food safety supply chain data in hand, you can perform more targeted recalls and get the contaminated food off the shelf much faster. Establish specific responsibilities for your own team, develop protocols for each supplier and retailer, and have a response team ready to inform consumers and work with the media.

By working with suppliers, creating a clear response plan, and leveraging automated tracking technology, food manufacturing and distribution companies can maintain compliance while also improving traceability and making the recall process faster and less expensive.