Guest Column | May 21, 2014

6 Factors To Consider Before Refreshing A Direct Store Delivery Deployment

Direct Store Delivery Deployment

By Jim Hilton, Senior Director, Global Manufacturing Principal, Motorola Solutions

Technology advancements for the Direct Store Delivery (DSD) environment have outpaced both the industry’s need for those advancements and its ability to quickly adopt these new technologies. Today’s DSD environment is well past its fourth generation of technology, and the original return on investment (ROI) for automation occurred in the 1970s. While times have changed, the DSD use case still requires the customer be served in the same manner they were more than 40 years ago — consequently, the ROI for new technology investments may not be obvious. 

Most DSD operations considering new technologies experience at least six forces, each exerting both pressure and resistance against the others. 

The forces that are accelerating the deployment of new technologies and advancements with new ROI include:

  1. The latest field mobility hardware technologies have complex processing power, which permit the coexistence of applications that genuinely solve business problems and expand the capabilities of mobile workers to help increase sales, reduce costs, and take service to the next level.
  2. The ability to have ubiquitous connectivity supports the real-time access and transfer of data, practical uses of GPS, and advanced imaging capabilities with photos and video for user guidance, training, or delivery documentation.  
  3. Phenomenal new ways to license, use, and support mobile technology deployments. 

The forces resisting technology advancements and supporting the status quo include:

  1. The multi-generational legacy software currently in place is burdened by its own install base. New deployments cannot occur without considering significant change management, re-training, and the impact on customers.
  2. The consolidation of suppliers, which is natural in a mature industry, is a genuine concern for DSD operations. The result is often diminished support and even slower application development.
  3. Mobility itself means users can be scattered across a market, a region, a continent, and even the globe. The people-related issues associated with deploying new technology forces businesses to move very slowly.

Pushing through all this takes education, fortitude, buying prowess, and clarity of vision. Placing concentration on any one of these forces, without consideration of the other five, will most certainly result in project difficulties and increase the risk of failure.

There is new ROI in those applications

Think about maintaining an entire sales, delivery, inventory, and accounting system. Now bundle that with a resource, asset, and vehicle tracking system along with components to manage the complex mobile technology itself. Fortunately, these applications can reside separately, integrate as needed, and allow maintenance with minimal impact to the others. This allows the procurement of best-of-breed applications that can be deployed independently from the others with separate ongoing support.   

In the last decade, new technologies have delivered monumental advancements that have expanded business capabilities in the DSD environment. The impact and power of mobility to an enterprise is easily recognized when data is captured at the first instance of activity then made visible (without duplicate entry) to others in the enterprise while that data is still actionable. Now add increased visibility, the use of GPS for accurately tracking vehicles, people, goods and assets and the ability to rapidly push and capture images and video to and from mobile workers in the field.

The enterprise can now define new ROI measurements by quantifying the value of business-critical data being made available through systems to all necessary users. When the scope is limited and focused only on connecting the end user back through the supply chain, far too few gains will be realized. The truest measurement of overall impact will only be achieved when other mobile users within the operation are also included. This is where sales applications are integrated with delivery and merchandising, and all are integrated with direct management — enabling unprecedented new levels of service.

At the edge of all this advanced technology is a user. That’s a person, a team, and a culture that must be trained on new capabilities while protecting the existing processes and routines that drive their supply chain. The greatest opportunities to realize new gains in a DSD operation can be quickly lost with hasty deployments, poorly documented routines, and inadequate training. Maintaining a balanced view is essential because being overly cautious often paralyzes operations from achieving the benefits available with new mobile technology.

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So how does an organization give proper consideration to all six opposing forces and still move forward? The first and most powerful step to success is actual recognition within the selection committee and the project managers that all six forces exist and all are valid in their own right. Next, the constant balance of all six forces is required. Having an isolated focus solely on the gains from new capabilities can be a reckless approach where only a few lucky operations achieve a successful deployment. At the same time, an unbalanced concentration on one or two restrictive conditions can easily paralyze an operation and cause it to miss an entire generation of improved capabilities — putting them squarely behind their competitors.

This year is an exceptional time for a DSD operation to implement new technology. With consideration for all six forces, there are tremendous capabilities available today and with fewer limitations than ever before. And the typical pains associated with a mobile DSD project from the 1990s have been dramatically diminished. The overwhelming guidance — accelerate forward with balance.

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