Taking wireless beyond mobility

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By  Administrator Published  October 31, 2006

Having wireless handheld technology means more than enabling mobility at regional retailer EMKE. It has delivered business efficiencies and improved everyday processes from logging goods at the unloading bays and automatically checking them against purchase orders to item price checking in the shopping aisle and facilitating scanning at the checkout.

After more than 10 years of using Symbol Technologies' fixed scanner and dumb data capture technologies, EMKE is deploying cordless scanners at the tills and equipping warehouse and floor staff with intelligent wireless handhelds with built-in scanners to replace static data input stations.

The initial requirement was for 700 handheld scanners, though this is likely to increase as EMKE adds more stores and warehouse facilities.

Similarly, the 1,000s of scanners deployed at EMKE points of sale will also be increased with new operations, such as the recent one in Aden, Yemen, coming on-stream.

"EMKE will be the first retail operation in the region to use cordless scanners, which can be used for scanning big cartons at the checkout tills. This means that customers don't have to take boxes out of the shopping trolley. Instead they can be handed the scanner and they can scan the bulk purchase themselves," says Tarek Hassaniyeh, sales manger, Symbol Technologies, Middle East.

"This is becoming important as traditional food supermarkets diversify into white and electronic household goods."

The handheld used in the warehouse and by floor staff are SAP-enabled so that information such as orders, stock availability, prices and sales are automatically accessed and updated as required.

"We are using the handheld for different models. One is physical inventory; another is goods receipt, which has just gone live. This is where as vendors deliver goods to the store, we use handhelds to log in the goods unloaded at the docking bays. Staff use the scanner on the handheld to scan the products come from loading bays," says Madhava Rao, group IT manager, EMKE.

The devices are able to verify the delivery against purchase order and the vendor as well as pricing data so that nothing leaves the loading bay without being fully checked.

"We don't want to end up with a situation where a customer takes an item from the store shelf, gets to the checkout scanned and there's no price in the system or there are packing problems.

“All such issues have been sorted out at the docking bay level and on line wirelessly. Everything is done form the one handheld. It's no longer a case of men walking around with stacks of orders and papers for checking off," he adds.

Wireless price verifiers are also being installed in-store so that should a customer have a query on an item's price, he or she can simply scan the item at the price verifier to get the price. They can also use it to communicate directly with a store’s helpdesk staff or warehouse for any information such as stock availability or delivery.

It is now mandatory in Oman for the larger supermarkets to have price verifiers strategically placed on every aisle or within a set distance. "The really good thing about these verifiers is that they can be multipurpose and not used just to verify price. When customers are verifying a price they can run multimedia advertisements.We are doing this in Doha and in Oman," says Rao.

"As a marketing and promotional tool it acts like a micro kiosk. It can be used to display multi media promotions. In Doha, where we've used it for promotions, we have analysed its effectiveness for a few categories and we're finding that we've doubled our sales. For our new own brand labels, we're finding good market acceptance following such promotions."

Symbol and its business partner Data Capture Services (DCS) has been rolling out wireless infrastructures at EMKE stores and warehouses over the past two years. The larger outlets have switch-based with the small operations utilising access points.

"EMKE was one of the first in the region to use access ports running on wireless switch technology. It's always looking to utilise new technologies to improve customer ex
perience as well as become more efficient," says Pawan Singh, branch manager of DCS.

“EMKE was one of the first to use access ports running on wireless switch technology. It's always looking to utilise technology to improve customer experience and become more efficient.”

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