Eliminate These Five Mobile Equipment Disruptors


Companies in the manufacturing, retail, distribution, and transportation industries rely on RF equipment to increase productivity and keep their business moving.

When RF equipment works properly, business hums along, but mobile equipment failures and mismanaged devices can lead to downtime, lost productivity, and increased maintenance and support costs. And, for some companies, mobile equipment problems can literally bring their business to a grinding halt.

Recently, a Carlton customer, a large distributor in the food industry, reported that the importance of their RF equipment became evident over a particularly rough 10-day period. The company acknowledged, “Our organization now understands that our RF equipment is just as mission-critical as the people, the material handling equipment, and forklifts to get boxes in and out. We need to better control the equipment we have.”

This company isn’t alone. Mobile equipment-related issues are so common that 91% of manufacturers experience delays and disruptions in the supply chain process1. These disruptions can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Discarded equipment “stored” in the workplace
  • Locations with high volume repair orders
  • Individual pieces of equipment with high incidence of repairs
  • Repaired equipment needing to be sent back time and again
  • Lack of documentation of full equipment inventory

As production schedules and delivery windows tighten, the ability to manage mobile equipment is more vital than ever. By identifying and eliminating these five red flags, you can minimize equipment-related disruptions and downtime and maximize productivity.

Red Flag #1: Your Spare Pool is a Mess

Many of our customers report that they do not have an effective process in place to track their equipment assets. One customer admitted, “I do not know how many units I have today. I know what I signed up for in my maintenance contract, but I have no idea where all of them are.”

This is a common theme. One simple way to determine if your spare pool is out of control is to investigate by walking the floor. Look for devices that are sitting around unused, have been tossed into a box under a workbench or are thrown into a closet. Chances are this equipment is under warranty and has not been sent out for repair, which means you’ve got fewer assets in your spare pool.

Here are a few reasons this happens:

  • Often, someone is responsible, or more likely semi-responsible, for managing the spare pool, but due to bandwidth issues, fail to expedite equipment repairs. Once spare equipment is required for active duty, they send all of it out for repair at the same time. They now have fewer mobile computing devices available for use and need to wait for their return.
  • In some instances, more than one person or department believe it’s their job to manage the spare pool. Sometimes this responsibility falls to IT or an operations manager, warehouse manager, or supervisor, yet these individuals don’t talk to one another and don’t have an accurate sense of how many devices are actually out of service. This is further complicated in multi-location environments where it’s common for every facility to have its own spare pool.

• In some instances, more than one person or department believe it's their job to manage the spare pool. Sometimes this responsibility falls to IT or an operations manager, warehouse manager, or supervisor, yet these individuals don't talk to one another and don't have an accurate sense of how many devices are actually out of service. This is further complicated in multi-location environments where it's common for every facility to have its own spare pool.

Companies can avoid these scenarios by empowering one employee, or a small team of individuals in larger companies, to manage their spare pool. Clearly defining responsibilities reduces the likelihood of miscommunication between departments and ensures everyone has a complete view of the mobile equipment that is in and out of service.

Other solutions include the use of tracking software to manage these devices and gain visibility into your equipment inventory or outsourcing the management of your mobile device lifecycle to a third-party.

Red Flag #2: One of Your Locations is a “Bad Actor”

Often, customers with multiple locations can pinpoint one facility that has an inordinately high repair volume. If this is the case, here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you have the right equipment for that location’s environment?
  • Is your training adequate?
  • Have you introduced new processes that could impact equipment performance?
  • Do your employees understand how to properly handle and maintain their equipment?

The work environment can be hard on mobile equipment, so make sure the equipment is being used in the appropriate setting and that it’s properly protected. For example, if the equipment is being used in a rugged environment, such as a loading dock, make sure it’s insulated in a protective case.

Often, customers with multiple locations can pinpoint one facility that has an inordinately high repair volume.

Red Flag #3: Repeat Offenders

Individual mobile devices might have a high incidence of repair. If you notice you’re sending the same piece of equipment out for repair time and time again, it might be due to one of the following reasons:

  • The equipment may be at the end of its device lifecycle and needs to be replaced
  • Inadequate information is being given to your maintenance partner
  • Your maintenance partner may not be adequately testing the equipment before returning it to you
  • This equipment may be associated with certain facilities that have higher incidence of repairs (as in Red Flag #2)

Individual mobile devices might have a high incidence of repair. If you notice you're sending the same piece of equipment out for repair time and time again

If you’re experiencing repeat offenders, be sure to look closely at your mobile device repair partner and ensure they’re doing everything that is expected of them per your service contract.

Also make sure your repair partner knows the software and configuration requirements for all of your devices, as these can sometimes differ by location. Without the right information, your repair partner could be configuring devices to the wrong settings.

Another factor that can lead to repeat offenders is when the equipment problem isn’t accurately explained to your repair partner. This could be due to a miscommunication between the inventory manager and the equipment repair partner or between the employee who uses the mobile device and the inventory manager. Either way, if the problem is not clearly articulated, it could result in a repeat offender.

Red Flag #4: Too Many “Bad” Repairs

Another factor that could wreak havoc on your operation is high warranty rates, which means equipment that has been sent out for repair is coming back not working properly.

If you’re experiencing this, you should share this data with your device repair partner. Review the SLA (service level agreement) outlined in your contract to ensure the partner is performing as expected.

If they are not meeting SLA standards, then be sure to discuss your concerns and ensure they have a plan in place to improve. If you do not have an SLA with your repair partner, you should work with them to create one. Be sure to schedule regular meetings with your partner to track improvements.

Another factor that could wreak havoc on your operation is high warranty rates, which means equipment that has been sent out for repair is coming back not working properly.

Red Flag #5: Low Visibility into Equipment Inventory

Inventory management is essential to maximize productivity. Some organizations manage equipment inventory internally, while others use a third-party provider. An effective inventory management process should include the following steps:

  • Receipt from supplier and log-in to inventory system (device description, item number, location, etc.)
  • Receipt from the facility when line of equipment is being retired to refurbish and put back into inventory
  • Deployment within facility (location, person, set-up, installation, etc.)
  • Current state of equipment
  • Anticipated lifespan

Inventory management is essential to maximize productivity. Some organizations manage equipment inventory internally, while others use a third-party provider.

Often, companies overlook important details such as what’s going out for repair, who is using the equipment, and the correct data configuration to run the equipment. This is usually because whoever is responsible for managing the inventory is overwhelmed with other tasks, but it’s critical information nonetheless.

Good Systems, Efficient Processes, and Dependable Partners

A common thread across these red flags is the reporting associated with managing and tracking your mobile device inventory and being able to pinpoint where you have gaps in processes that can impact normal mobile equipment performance.

Eliminating daily disrupters from your operation requires good systems, efficient processes, and dependable equipment partners.

Once you identify where the gaps exist in your process, you can then take the steps required to close them. If you do not have the time, resources, or expertise to manage your mobile equipment inventory, consider working with a warranty management partner that can help your organization administer, process, and track equipment warranties from a variety or vendors and/or OEMs.

Not sure where to go from here? Contact us to discuss how we might be able to help you!

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Sources: 1 The SMS Group. “7 Red Flags For Manufacturing Efficiency.” [www.slideshare.net/TheSMSGroup/7-red-flags-for-manufacturing-efficiency.

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