Mobile computing solutions modernize warehouse operations

Supported by Cloud-based WMS, new computers, tablets, scanners and printers help fill orders quicker, streamline processes and improve inventory management.

Saddle Creek Logistics Services is an omni-channel supply chain solutions and third-party logistics (3PL) provider. As the company grew and evolved, operational complexity increased. To handle expanded omni-channel business, the company installed a new Cloud-based warehouse management system (WMS). It soon found that its legacy devices, although reliable, didn’t work as well with the Cloud-based WMS. After deploying hundreds of new mobile computers, tablets, bar code scanners and industrial printers, the company optimized hardware performance and productivity.

Saddle Creek employs more than 4,000 associates across a network of 70 buildings totaling 22 million square feet. It provides customized omni-channel warehousing, fulfillment and transportation for customers in various market verticals throughout the United States. The company selected its Fort Worth operation—one of its largest omni-channel locations—for the first pilot of new devices (Zebra Technologies) because of the diversity of customers, products and processes in the facility.

Tony Hollis, director of technology and innovation for Saddle Creek, remembers a quick and positive response from associates and management. From that quick win, deployment grew and spread throughout the Fort Worth facility and others. In addition to leveraging recent advances in CPU performance, Hollis says the new devices also improved human interface factors that drive further efficiency and productivity.

“Associates gave us immediate feedback that they really enjoyed the user interface because it’s simple and ergonomic,” Hollis says. “For instance, the imager is angled, which reduces arm movements when scanning. It’s a simple change, but associates particularly enjoyed that, and it made the process easier.”

The device provider’s software architecture allows Saddle Creek to seamlessly integrate data across devices from the Cloud and the Cloud-based WMS (Softeon). Based on the flexibility of the mobility platform, Hollis says teams started using devices with new form factors, like wearables, smaller phone-sized devices and tablets. Hollis adds that the company had previously experimented with some light-duty tablets with little success. The new industrial-grade tablets were a substantial improvement.

“We all have experiences with tablets at home, so it was appealing from a training perspective,” Hollis says. “We’re now using vehicle-mounted tablets with great success. Aside from the user experience, repair and maintenance are much easier because you can readily pop the tablet out of a mount.”

Hollis says the company is now evaluating tablets for support roles like inventory control, dock operations and management applications.

“A lot of the hardware is also multi-modal, so we have the potential for a Swiss army knife approach,” Hollis says. “Instead of single-use devices, we can tailor mobile hardware for the customer’s needs. There are lots of options and flexibility with these solutions, and they continue to make an impact.”

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About the Author

Josh Bond
Josh Bond was Senior Editor for Modern through July 2020, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.
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