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Potential tablet deployment. - Update: Never mind.

By CharlieSpencer ·
Update: it turns out the folks on the SAP side of the house have a project scheduled for next year. They'll be writing a custom interface directly into SAP for the warehouse pulling and inventory transfer applications, designed for the screens on our existing Intermec 700c Windows CE devices.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and information. I anticipate other potential applications in the future, and I hope other readers can benefit from your insights.

Palmetto.


Original post:
We're investigating replacing some paper reports with tablets.

We print 'pull sheets' for our warehouse employees dozens of times a day. The employee reads the sheet, pulls the inventory listed on it, then throws the sheet away.

The application that generates these sheets can be redirected to print to a .TXT or .PDF instead of a hard copy. The idea is for the employees to use some form of tablet device to view these files instead of printed forms. We'd like the employee to be able to put a check mark or have some other temporary to indicate which part numbers he or she has pulled, simply to let the employee know what's been done if they go on break or trade sheets. There is no reason to print or store the files after the parts have been pulled. The files would be stored on a Windows server, and access would authenticated via Active Directory. Connectivity would be over our internal closed 802.11g wireless access points; our security policy mandates a Cisco (or compatible) VPN client for all wireless communications.

Any suggestions in terms of hardware, software, deployment, learning curves, possible 'gotchas'? ROI will play a large part in the decision to even test this idea. The availability of 'consumer' apps (games, Internet connectivity, entertainment, multimedia, etc) is NOT a factor. Accountability and security are; I'd like to see devices that had no value if removed from the building. Compatibility with an AD domain will also rank highly.

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Can the PDF

by AnsuGisalas In reply to Potential tablet deployme ...

be a form? Forms can have check boxes...
BTW, ain't this a technical question ?:|

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I don't think it matters

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Can the PDF

I don't need a formal form so much as a way the user can indicate he's pulled the parts for the first three lines but not for the next four. It won't be saved; the check marks can be lost when the employee closes the file.

We use a Windows app called eCopy Paperworks to mark up .PDFs at $50 per seat. We'd be willing to pay a comparable price for a tablet-based app to do the same thing.

Eventually we may look at replacing some of our printed forms that are scanned for permanently retained (product test checksheets, signed forms of product compliance with federal or contract standards). That's way down the road.

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Sure

by AnsuGisalas In reply to I don't think it matters

I was just saying, if there's a check-box the employee can just tap it when he/she's pulled the item, presto, it's marked. Like you said.
As for the technicalities, I dunno, being a humanist :p. Did you know that some times people get more answers on the questions board ]:)

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Yep.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Sure

I regarded this more as an opinion discussion than one with a defined technical solution. I may repost it over there, but I'll give it a week or so on this side. After all, vulpine hasn't weighed in yet

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An interesting question and discussion

by Vulpinemac In reply to Potential tablet deployme ...

I'm also surprised that I've been 'invited' into the discussion.

For the initial request, I will say that there are some times when technology may not be the answer, but considering the desire to save paper, a tablet device could be exactly the tool--it really depends on how you wish to use it.

Per the discussion with Palmetto, it seems that neither the printout nor the pull data itself is really important; all you want is a pull guide. This sounds a lot like when I worked in a warehouse many long years ago when I was a teenager and had to pull tires for shipping based on where the truck was going. As such, a lot of wasted paper, though personally I think the checked pull record would be useful for rating the pull speed and accuracy of the puller--the tablet able to time the pull from dispatch to final checkmark. All it takes is the right software.

That said, pretty much any of the new tablet formats could do it easily enough and significantly cheaper than the existing Windows-based tablets. However, there's a good possibility that the software already exists in one of the corporate apps which normally don't get seen by the general public. The problem here is that by going this way, you're talking almost $3000 per device plus the software.

On the other hand, if the iPad or one of the Android devices had the software available, it's far, far cheaper per unit in the event of the occasional dropped tablet than one of the current Windows models.

Please note that I'm not promoting any one brand over another; for this purpose it really doesn't matter. Personally, I think a basic iPad would be the better choice since you only need Wi-Fi and not 3G and there is no Android device that doesn't have phone capability--as yet.

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I know it's a subject close to your heart.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to An interesting question a ...



Thanks for the input.

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Check with vendors who make RF barcode scanners.

by seanferd In reply to Potential tablet deployme ...

They had, some time ago, tablet-style solutions for this sort of thing. If you already use RF scanners, many of them can also be programmed to pull the item lists for the kit and display them (likely one at a time) on the scanner screen.

I can't recall the vendor of the scanner I used to use, but the company I worked for used these, and was looking at going paperless for all the rush-type orders as well as the large production "kits". These were already capable of doing the job, but by the time I left, no one had written the code or implemented the back end. (Not surprising, as they were just finishing the implementation of real-time stock keeping. Prior to this, it was all tape batch processing on an AS400, so the stock was only really correct once a day. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.)

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Good idea.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Check with vendors who ma ...

We have an established scanner vendor. I hadn't thought of approaching him with this.

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I've worked on several deployments of this type

by robo_dev In reply to Good idea.

If you walk thru any Home Depot store you will see either Symbol, Intermec, or Telxon solutions like this.

The solution will not be cheap, but the key is getting a well-made rugged device, so a consumer-grade ipad would last about a day in most warehouses. It has to be droppable.

The most difficult parts of the solution are:

1) you typically need a solid and supportable WLAN for these devices to connect to, so an enterprise-grade Cisco or Symbol (Motorola) network is best. Cisco is my preference here, as it has always proved to be the most supportable and the most reliable.

2) Software distribution/updates can be a big issue, depending on the size of the install. I worked with a product called WaveLink Mobile Manager and Wavelink Avalanche for an install with several thousand handheld and vehicle-mount touchscreen tablet devices which did barcode scanning and warehouse inventory with SAP.

Wavelink also makes some app development tools, so I worked with an integrator who created some SAP interfaces for both handheld and touch-screen computers. Then the Wavelink Avalanche can distribute/update the code automatically.

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Cisco WLAN already in place.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to I've worked on several de ...

Preference will be given to devices manageable with Microsoft's 'System Center Configuration Manager', although that won't be a deal-breaker.

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