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Rugged Tablet PCs - So Many SKUs, So Little Time

In recent years the beverage market has seen an explosive introduction of new products. While this has been good for the consumer, the growing number of SKUs has become a challenge for distributors. Warehouses that once focused on a small offering of fast movers through their supply chain, have been forced to meet this SKU proliferation with greater levels of sophistication than ever before.

Tablet PC Bar code scannerBeverage companies are seeing an expanding mix of products such as energy drinks, craft beers and waters, each of which adds new SKUs. In order to remain competitive, there are a variety of ways to tackle the problem, ranging from procedural to technological.

Installing an automated warehouse management system (WMS) is a necessary part of the solution to track and direct the movement of product throughout the facility—from the receiving dock doors to the delivery truck. Real-time visibility is critical to knowing the exact location of the product and its condition, making managing date-coded inventory a cinch.

WMS systems have enabled companies to increase bulk rate deliveries by integrating them with standard route sales operations. Coupled with Tablet PC technology the process of optimizing routes can happen on the fly, as orders are first received in the morning and released throughout the day.

As a result of the beverage distribution industry consolidation and SKU proliferation, mechanized warehouse equipment is being evaluated as a potential solution. Some large soft drink bottlers are using guided storage and retrieval systems. Beer distributors are using overhead robotics to pick from hundreds of thousands of SKUs. Another trend called, “lights out,” is to fully automate a warehouse built very high on a small footprint where the facility’s automated storage and retrieval system runs virtually by itself with little, if any, manpower required.

Not only has the SKU explosion impacted the processes inside the distribution center; it has also impacted the types of delivery vehicles needed. It is not uncommon for companies using route trucks with 12 bays to move to 14- and 16-bay tractor-trailers to handle route sales. In addition, many beverage distributors are trading in their quarter screen handheld devices running Windows CE or Windows Mobile for full screen full Windows 7 tablet PCs for pre-sales and delivery applications. The full screen provides more real estate making it easier to search through an ever-growing list of SKUs. The full Windows 7 OS allows them access complete versions of their applications and graphic and data intensive databases in the field at the point of transaction.

Beverage industry supply chain planners and managers continually face new challenges as they attempt to remain competitive in an increasingly complex playing field. Fortunately, there are solutions.

Tell us how you are handling an ever increasing number of SKUs in your business.

To learn more about how MobileDemand Rugged Tablet PCs can integrate into your WMS system to help handle the proliferation of SKUs, contact our qualified representatives today.

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