Mobile & Wireless: 60 seconds with David Krebs
October 01, 2011 - MMH Editorial
David Krebs, VDC Research
Title: Vice president of mobile & wireless division
Location: Natick, Mass.
Experience: 12 years at VDC
Primary Focus: Enterprise and government mobility
Modern: We’ve heard a lot about mobility over the last year, especially in the consumer world, thanks to tablets, smart phones and solutions like mobile banking. What does mobility mean in the supply chain world?
Krebs: Fundamentally, I don’t think mobility in the supply chain has changed. It’s still the right information at the right point to support the right decision. For years, we’ve talked about mobile computing as a critical access and entry mechanism to the data that supports business processes. That remains unchanged. Mobility is about freedom. It’s about fluidity. And it’s about untethering people from workstations. It’s not yet about your latest and greatest smart phone on the shop floor because those devices can’t support the rigors of an industrial environment. We still see purpose-built devices to support workflows on the shop floor.
Modern: Is mobility growing and, if so, what’s driving the growth?
Krebs: Yes, it’s growing. There is an acute focus on mobility, and I think in part that’s a result of consumer stories, like Apple-inspired smart phone and tablet technologies. The growth is also a reflection of the fact that mobile technology has played a role in enabling the real-time business. We want to make a decision wherever we might be, whether that’s at work, in an airport or at the beach. I think the big realization is that mobile computing can free us to spend more time on the areas where we should be spending more time, like being in front of customers or managing assets instead of doing the more mundane things like looking for assets. The other change is that mobility was once viewed as a point solution, such as picking in the warehouse. Now, organizations are looking at mobility more strategically. They are looking at all of their workflows and asking whether mobility can address operational pain points and efficiencies.
Modern: Is business adopting smart phones and tablets on the floor or in logistics?
Krebs: In the warehouse and on the shop floor, ruggedized tablets may have a role to play, but it will be as a mounted solution and not a handheld solution. Where these devices are seeing an uptake is in very highly customer-centric situations. The interface and sleekness of the devices makes them appealing candidates for those applications. They’re not great for daylight visibility; they’re not great in a hot environment; and they’re not great in an industrial environment. Organizations are asking questions about them, but I think there are elements of a rugged mobile computer that you can’t replicate in a tablet or smart phone.