Mobile & Tech

How a Top Beer Wholesaler Makes Heavy-Duty Tablets Pay Off in the Field

Rugged devices, particularly rugged tablets, are finding their way into the hands of more mobile workers all the time. Here’s a look at one growing beer seller’s reasons for going rugged and the device they chose. Republished with permission from Mobile Enterprise.

When Ben E. Keith Beverage, one of America’s largest beer wholesalers, expanded its business beyond Anheuser-Busch products, the company’s item base grew from 150 to more than 2,000 craft and import brands. The increase put a strain on sales reps’ Pocket PCs that were used for inventory tracking and ordes and made it difficult to handle the influx of SKUs.

“The units our reps were using worked out well, but with the additional items and sales histories, we did see a decrease in performance on those units,” says Steve Fleming, vice president of administration. “The quarter-screen real estate also got a little crowded, and you’d have to scroll up and down to find some items.” The process was time-consuming and frustrating for employees, often leading to less productive work days.

To accommodate its booming business, Ben E. Keith implemented A-B mobility route accounting software, which further fueled the need for a larger screen format and a mobile device with greater processing power. Additionally, the wholesaler needed a handheld with an integrated barcode scanner and keypad. According to Fleming, the ability to scan barcodes saves each rep about an hour per day. The previous devices had an integrated barcode scanner, and Fleming wanted to ensure that the reps did not lose that time savings when switching to a new device.

Rugged Gear For Selling Beer

Finally, the wholesaler needed a handheld device that could withstand the rigors of the beer sales environment. “Being a beer salesman is not a gentle process,” says Fleming. “Guys are banging those things around while moving beer and putting them on a stack of beer and accidentally knocking them off. So there is wear and tear on the units.”

The team at Ben E. Keith spent a year researching and piloting a range of devices — many of which had a larger screen but no integrated barcode scanner. The company chose the MobileDemand xTablet T7000, deploying approximately 250 units at eight locations in early 2010. The rugged tablets feature a 7-in. display, a high-capacity battery and — most importantly — an intgrated barcode scanner and built-in numeric keypad.

The full Microsoft Windows 7 operating system helped accelerate deployment and training. “Having Windows 7 made it easy to image the tablets and make updates, and our reps were already familiar with the operating system, which made implementation and training seamless,” notes Fleming.

To read the rest of this story, go to Mobile Enterprise (subscription required).

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