Jewson updates Motorola handhelds for stores

Building supplies specialist Jewson is currently completing the roll out new wireless handheld devices in some of its stores, while at the same time evaluating further uses for them to improve back office procedure.

The retailer has offered customers the opportunity to scan in their own goods using handheld scanning devices around its stores and timber yards for some years now. But its acquisition by parent company Saint-Gobain in 2000 put pressure on the business to upgrade the devices.

Russell Bower, Jewson IT's business services manager explained: "The functionality we needed for the customer barcode scanners had been delivered years ago. But the technology had been somewhat forgotten about. The business wanted to get more value from the investment. So we did an assessment about 18 months ago."

He told IT PRO that, while the customer-facing functionality needs hadn't much changed, "we really had to start again in terms of hardware, some software and the wireless security and encryption standards that had been developed by the industry and that we had to meet as part of Saint-Gobain".

With the help of mobility technology partner, Spirit Data Capture feasibility studies led to the choice of rugged Motorola MC9090 wireless mobile computer as a replacement customer 'tally book' device, to allow for the most efficient checkout and fulfilment process.

He said the new functionality of the Motorola devices also allowed Jewson to integrate the customer order data for the first time with stock and perpetual inventory procedures. Motorola's Mobility Services Platform (MSP) also now provides central monitoring, control and management of all of the mobile devices and applications on its network. And the rollout's success persuaded the company to extend the back office benefits of staff devices.

"25 stores where we have very large, 'collect now' orders rather than deliveries had the upgraded devices," said Bowers. "We then went back through the rest of the store handheld estate and rationalised a further 75 sites."

Having completed the main handheld rationalisation across its 200 stores, he added that a further 25 stores could be earmarked for a similar upgrade.

"The business has also mentioned using the wireless to provide phones to improve contact between in-store and the yard, for example, while we don't really have any kind of similar capability in the goods received and putaway areas," he said.

"We don't need warehouse management system functionality at branch level, but our process here are more manual and could be improved with the wireless handheld capability."

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.