Magazine Article | January 1, 2006

Wireless ROI Trap

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

It’s tough to justify any technology deployment when there’s no ROI. But, are you counting every minute saved by a mobile solution?

Integrated Solutions, January 2006
 It’s no secret that ROI calculation drives almost every significant technology investment these days. How much productivity will be gained? How much will accuracy improve? How much will maintenance costs be reduced?

All of these questions – and more – must be asked and answered. But, in my conversations with mobile printer vendors, it’s clear that not all possible time savings are considered. In many cases, these hardware vendors claim that enterprises don’t consider work processes that aren’t eliminated, but are reduced in time. Additionally, end user enterprises need to consider less tangible returns on their wireless printing investments. For instance, providing documentation on the spot allows your field employees to present a more professional customer experience. Also, printed documents and receipts certainly appear more professional to customers. (Just think of the handwritten receipts you get at diners. They’re quaint, but not exactly the height of professionalism or effectiveness.)

In a cross-docking application, for instance, a warehouse employee must print new bar code labels to be applied to pallets and cases. Where do these labels come from? The employee has to run to a stationary printer or mobile cart with a printer. A mobile printer allows the user to print labels on units attached to their hip belts. The process of printing and applying labels doesn’t go away. But, it’s significantly modified to take less time. Less time means increased productivity.

Hospitality applications are another area where the ROI for mobile printers seems obvious, but apparently still elusive. Is there a good reason for servers to take customers’ credit cards to a central point of sale to complete a transaction? From a technology standpoint, there is no good reason. The same, it seems, can be said from an ROI standpoint. Servers using mobile printers equipped with magnetic card readers can swipe credit cards at the table and complete the transaction. It’s quicker, which allows for higher turnover of tables, leading to more customers. Additionally, completing the transaction at the table provides customers with a level of security that they don’t typically receive. After all, their eyes never leave their credit cards.

Another obvious benefit of mobile printers comes in route accounting and delivery. In each of these transactions, customers usually require a record or documentation of a transaction. The delivery company also requires such documentation to close out the transaction and bill appropriately. Mobile printers allow customers to validate transactions on-site and raise any billing disputes. The benefit of this is twofold. First, disputes can be resolved immediately. There don’t have to be any chargebacks or reconciliations after the fact. Second, because the transactions are agreed upon and completed, billing can begin immediately. This decreases the bill-to-cash cycle and also allows inventory to be updated on the spot.

There’s no doubt that mobile solutions are not the answer to all applications. However, they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand just because an ROI isn’t obvious or the calculations might be more challenging than expected.