7 Things You Need to Look Out for When Choosing Your Direct Store Distribution (DSD) Solution
The DSD or “direct store delivery” market has been saturated by rugged, Windows-powered handhelds ever since mobile devices were adopted for use in this industry segment. In fact, it is the ruggedness of these devices that served the purpose for field executives so well. They were sturdy and reliable, yet prone to glitches and errors. Perhaps that’s why so many consumer goods manufacturers running sales and direct store delivery operations on mobile devices are looking to switch to more technologically advanced tablets and other such devices.
In fact, the conversation to switch to tablets has been ongoing for several years now, but several consumer goods manufacturers still treat these bulky, glitchy devices as the go-to option when it comes to DSD operations. With the use of tablets though, organizations could improve the productivity of mobile sales reps by making their workday easier.
With DSD personnel working on tasks such as inventory management, electronic proof of delivery, pre-orders, merchandising surveys, etc., tablets, with their advanced features and connectivity, become the obvious choice. Nevertheless, It becomes difficult for organizations to determine what would work for their business case or for their field workforce. Truth be told, It all boils down to the features that one should consider when choosing a device for DSD.
The 6 essential features
When choosing the perfect handheld device (read tablet) for your DSD operations, you need to consider 6 essential features. Through careful consideration of these parameters, it becomes easy for organizations to list and compare devices on the market.
With the number of technological advances that the world has seen in the last decade, we won’t mention some of the more obvious features (i.e. cameras, WiFi and Bluetooth), since they are a pretty standard fixture on most devices.
Screen Size & Portability
Portability is a major factor that you would need to consider if you are looking to make your field workforce more productive. Your field work force is probably handling a lot of materials like boxes and hand trucks. Because of this, working on a large clunky device for DSD is, to put it simply, not an option. On the other hand, a smaller device may not offer the necessary screen space to run certain operations. You would then be left with the need to choose a device that balances these factors best: aka devices that measure roughly 5 to 8 inches in size, and that can easily fit in one’s hand or pocket when needed.
One of the operations that would probably need a larger screen would be pre-sales. Pre-sales personnel have to work with store managers to secure new orders for the business, so smaller screens might not serve their purpose, given these personnel would have to access historical sales data, the sales portal, and more in order to create new orders. Given the larger amount of data required, a larger size screen (say about 10 inches+) is ideal. Therefore, a good compromise between screen size and portability is essential.
In the day-to-day of delivery personnel, the need to get in and out of the delivery truck several times in a day, handling delivery items along the way, becomes a factor with any device used. Likewise, delivery personnel must also endure the harsh environments that certain deliveries might demand. Although the personnel and the trucks can withstand extreme cold or warm temperatures, mobile devices can seldom withstand this. Also, the risk of accidental drops is ubiquitous with any handheld device.
If the mobile devices of your field work force malfunction or stop working due to any of the above reasons, it would most definitely lead to increased costs, as well as significant downtime. This is a big no-no for your business.
Often times, delivery personnel have to travel routes that take longer than the usual work hours of 8-10 hours. During these times, it is essential that the battery life of the mobile devices used by your workforce can handle 12 to 14 hours of full usage. A dead battery is not an option in this business, and you’d have to take extra care to avoid such downtime. The dependency on the device for DSD operations such as eSignature verification or new orders is critical. Although most vehicles these days can be retrofitted with the capability to charge mobile devices, it still is critical to have a powerful battery capable of powering your field workforce’s mobile devices for the long haul.
One of the most critical aspects of the business, the security of retailer data, is a priority for any manufacturer. Stringent security features have to be employed to ensure sensitive information is kept safe. This particular aspect is tricky since many device manufacturers now tout their devices as secure.
You’d have to look deeper to understand what third party validations are available through international security standards bodies. Almost all tablets these days come equipped with fingerprint scanners. This helps to ensure that only authorized users are able to access critical data and security-sensitive applications.
GPS, along with advanced tech like geo-fencing, significantly increase efficiency on your DSD operations. Through techniques like route optimization and route selection, DSD operations can be further optimized to save time, money, and fuel. Likewise, mobile devices that support GPS help with route efficiency and asset tracking. With such functionalities built-in, today’s tablets serve a greater purpose than older devices in choosing optimal driver routes, ultimately bettering DSD operations.
Scanning could be considered one of the most important in DSD operations. With Inventory management and identification at the heart of DSD, devices used by your field workforce need to be able to quickly and accurately scan barcodes, RFID tags, and QR codes in order to run operations successfully.
All that said, the most important aspect is a reliable DSD software solution that can be run on these tablet devices. You need to choose a software that can both support and integrate with all these aspects of your hardware. For that, you need only talk with our experts, who can help you choose the right solution.
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