• Data Collection

How Mobile Data Collection Solutions Can Transform Struggling Businesses

Written by Michael Clark
February 22, 2017

Mobile data collection solutions can help struggling companies more accurately track their inventory.

Mobile data collection solutions can help struggling companies more accurately track their inventory.

Before we discuss how mobile data collection solutions can help struggling businesses, we need to address just how serious it is that all companies continuously evaluate their supply chain for weaknesses. Just ask Target, the retail giant, which lost billions of dollars due in part to major supply chain blunders as it was trying to grow its business in Canada.

Since 2017 began, shares of Target are down nearly 12 points. The Street noted that much of that has to do with its poor holiday numbers.

“While we significantly outpaced the industry’s digital performance, the costs associated with the accelerated mix shift between our stores and digital channels and a highly promotional competitive environment had a negative impact on our fourth-quarter margins and earnings per share,” said Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell, according to The Street.

A Target spokesman emailed The Street saying that she sees “tremendous opportunity” to grow in areas including supply chain, technology, digital and merchandising.

But this isn’t the first time the company has seen opportunities in its supply chain nor the first time it has struggled due to supply chain problems. For example, in early 2015 Target announced it was closing all 133 of its Canadian stores due to setbacks in its supply chain. By January 2015, USA Today reported the retailer had lost upwards of $2 billion since it first announced its expansion in 2011.

Target’s Canadian ambitions failed for a number of reasons including:

  1. Heavy Competition: The company tried to expand too fast in areas with many competitors, and it had difficulty building brand loyalty.
  2. Its Prices Fluctuated Too Much: Target’s customers weren’t pleased with how prices in its U.S. stores differed from those in its Canadian ones.
  3. Failed Customer Profiling: Target failed to take the time to get to know its customers, which differed from those in America.
  4. Poor Supply Chain Strategies: Due to poor supply chain management strategies, Target struggled to keep its shelves well-stocked.

As you can see, supply chain problems can have a detrimental impact on a company. To upgrade or repair supply chain and supply chain management strategies, we suggest assessing the types of inventory management tools employees use. And if they’re still manually entering and extracting data, think about upgrading to mobile data collection solutions, which can help bring their supply chain tactics into the 21st century.

How Mobile Data Collection Solutions Can Boost Struggling Supply Chains

Large corporations, such as Target, likely already use mobile data collection solutions, but that doesn’t mean they’re using the correct ones. And smaller companies – unaware of how automated systems can benefit them or fearful they may not have the resources to adopt a sophisticated solution – may not use one at all. Instead, these enterprises manually record and extract data. As you might guess, both large and small companies can struggle to keep up with competitors because of how they’re managing their supply chains.

To bring their operations up to speed with competitors, they can (and should) commit the necessary resources to upgrading to mobile data collection systems. Here’s how companies will benefit when they do make the jump:

  • Increased Speed: Imagine how much time employees waste when they manually data enter information into a database? They often have to jot data down on a piece of paper and at some point in the day enter it into a database. Mobile data collection solutions eliminate this process, allowing employees to concentrate more on their field of expertise.
  • Reduced Cost: Companies never like to cut workers, but sometimes HR costs can weigh down operations. Using mobile data collection tools can streamline your business, allowing you to reduce your staff, particularly those involved in data entry.
  • Improved Productivity: Customers today place tremendous value on how a company ships its products. In a Deloitte Holiday Survey, 3 of the top 6 most coveted retail policies included how companies shipped products. Free shipping (71 percent) ranked first, followed by easy returns (48 percent) and discounts on expedited shipping (31 percent). Companies who use mobile data collection devices can increase their employee’s productivity and thus better meet customers’ delivery demands.
  • Greater, Faster Oversight into Operations: Most business leaders use some sort of manual data entry and processing either because they have to due to financial constraints or they feel like it’s the best practical way to run their companies. We’re here to tell you that if you have the resources to purchase a mobile data collection solution, you should consider doing so.
  • Simplify Supply Chain Procedures: A JDA study of companies of all different sizes worldwide found that many aren’t supporting their lofty supply chain endeavors with the proper technology or practices. For example, despite 93 percent of respondents revealing they set goals, such as improving service levels, they don’t have standard metrics in place to measure high-level inventory planning and replenishment performance. In fact, when asked which metrics they use, respondents in total wrote in 25 different metrics along with the six metrics the researchers provided them.

When companies use mobile data collection tools, they’ll suddenly gain an eagle-eyed view of their entire organization. One major problem the JDA study revealed was that many companies may not have standard metrics in place to measure their success because data silos exist within their organization. Inventory management solutions help break down silos, allowing information to flow freely from one side of the company to the other.

If there’s one important lesson to take away from Target’s supply chain blunder, it’s this: Every company – no matter whether they’re struggling or not – needs to constantly examine their supply chain for vulnerabilities. Then they must strengthen weak areas by creating a comprehensive strategy that addresses the tools employees use to track warehouse processes and how companies can easily integrate automated data collection solutions into their business model.