Welcome to the site, Steve, hope you're a bigger hit here than you are at cocktail parties! :) Anyhow...
These conversations generated even more questions. Could a crowd (e.g., end consumers) be motivated via mobile apps to report retail shelf stock-outs in the supply chain? What about factories with thousands of employees or warehousing and distribution operations? How could mobile apps be used more efficiently than existing commercial handheld technologies to address supply chain performance?
I agree that this is where things are heading. Maybe not with the iPad specifically (due to the cost), but the tablet form factor could prove to be tremendously useful specifically in some of the examples you cited. In a warehouse, for example, trying to lug around a laptop while accessing inventory is impractical on NUMEROUS levels. Small tablets could easily replace the modest and in many cases antiquated hand-held devices currently in use, providing a much greater range of functionality. And consider the advantages from an IT standpoint of potentially having your warehouse workers, your sales people, your distributors, and possibly even your consumers all on the same platform.
Anyhow, I agree that there are many exciting possibilities! I think we're still about 5-10 years away before many of the more ambitious ideas become feasible, but I certainly anticipate seeing some dramatic change within the next couple of years, absolutely.
Thanks to everyone for your comments and thoughts on the subject - as well as for welcoming me to the site. Based on the replies, it's certainly an area that has a lot of excitement and how the market develops will be interesting to watch.
Hello Steve, very nice post.I may be a little biased in my response as I run an international supply chain software company and founded a successful mobile technology company as well.For some time I have been an evangelist in the convergence of wireless technologies in business environments, specifically in the supply chain and logistics spaces.Currently more of the applications on the typical smartphone devices (not the ruggedized with built-in scanning devices) have been mostly limited to, as you say, “read-only” applications, such as inventory lookup, order shipment stats, notifications and alerts.Prior to the iPhone when all the hype was on BlackBerry in the enterprise, these apps were typically menu driven with mostly just text.Now we are seeing more apps written to take advantage of the graphical capabilities of the new smartphone devices out recently.These apps are now displaying data in highly graphical dashboard with drill-down capabilities and split-screen functionality.They actually can look very slick and are great for field workers, supervisors, managers and executives.
As for the iPad, I have been seeing some real interest in utilizing these devices, specifically at the store, where they may be used as mobile kiosks or as mobile checkout stations.As for the warehouse operations, I do on occasion get asked about my thoughts on using an iPad for functions such as receiving, but at this point it is more a novelty rather than necessity.
But I do see these tablet devices playing a much bigger role in the supply chain enterprise in the future, say 2-3 years from now. I can see a rugged iPad/tablet in the future with built-in scanning (or utilizing the camera for occassional scanning type apps) capabilities.
Had a chuckle over the cocktail party conversation--well done!
This is a fascinating subject, actually. My first thoughts were about a bill of material that has hundreds of SKUs and how that would be handled and Facebook's privacy breach. Then I thought about Digi-Key's app that lets buyers check their orders and inventory and relized this vision is not that far away. Thanks for a well thought-out article!
Unfortunately it will be undermined to a greater degree by the control that Steve Jobs insists on forcing onto users, in the name of 'security'
Consider anyone in the supply chain/Medical/library/shoppers/schools being able to use their mobile phone/computer/blackberry/Ipad to utilize RFID or barcodes at any time without the need for 'specialist' equipment, then have that information on the corporate system/home user system/ 'body' network or have the external systems information available on the device.
This is relevant because Apple dictate with absolute authority what software and what environments you can run both on their phone and ipad systems.
looking at current apple trends there is an indication they are going to attempt to monitories this revenue stream across their desktop platforms.
So why is it such a big problem:
Cross platform functionality (Not the jobs way).
Currently Java was one of the best cross platform tools available for developing software, "write once run anywhere", there are millions of libraries available for java, with tens of thousands dealing with supply chain analysis/ graphing/optimization etc.
This is critical, because for the supply chain industry it could mean:
1. write the app in java
2. run on a desktop machine (windows/Linux/Apple)
3. Run on ANY phone java enabled
4. Run on pad devices
5. run the application over the internet from a web browser
As a result It is one application, significantly less work for developers, less bugs, less security risk = less money wasted+edge over competitors+ higher stock prices+happy staff because they only need to learn one system.
But it is not/will not be available with apple kit...., apple have 'depreciated' Java and Mr Jobs has made it 100% clear that no outside system will be allowed to run within his companies equipment, starting with Adobe, and all without any consultation with developers/users.
Apple out on its own, with incompatible systems that require custom software to be written independently of the corporate kit.
Yes the Ipad is a fantastic device, but how it will integrate into the corporate network below the management level is another matter.
I agree and understand where exactly you are going with your line of thinking here(The Developer point of view).
But we also should'nt ignore the installed base of Apple products out in the market today-Ipads,Iphones and Ipods not to mention Macs.
I can very easily say that more than 50% of all Americans have atleast one Apple product as their personal belonging.Now that is a huge installed base for which a Developer designing apps can gain access to a lot of interested consumers(depending on the quality of the product of course).
Whether we like it or not Apple products are a massive success in America and we have to learn to live with it.
Its a different issue that in the smartphone world,Iphones are slowly getting surprassed by Android enabled phones.So Java and interoperability are not entirely dead.
Its just going to two-three camps.
You develop for Apple or you develop for Google/Microsoft.
Don't get me wrong I have 6 apple computers and an XServe (god rest its soul--- dead product---)
I'm an Apple developer, but I also 'dabble' in Linux, + embedded equipment, GPS + RFID, security etc.
I will not touch a Microsoft programming language, since the 'foxpro' fiasco.
unlike my other menagerie of apple products, I will not have an IPhone or IPad, specifically because I feel if I buy a product then it belongs to me (i'm less worried about the IPhone being locked out because there Apple has to consider the security of the phone network system.)
Having developed systems in an 'anti' apple corporate environment, my issue is that we need cross platform functionality if advancements in supply chain functionality is to take off in a big way. (consider what would happen if RFID was like barcode systems, with upward of 20 different formats and encoding methods, at least barcodes are optical and we now see phone apps that can read barcodes via the camera)
I personally see the future more about integration than being about independent operating systems that are locked down to the n'th degree.
For the corporate supply chain, i see more of a 'cloud' operating system, where each person in the supply chain has access to ' signed' applications, irrelevant of platform these 'applets' would provide the information in a format for each group Engineers use the system as an engineer would, sales as sales , procurement as procurment, etc.
But we cannot move forward with such global integration, if people keep throwing spanners in the works. (destruction of major programming languages, lockdown etc)
Also the issue is that current supply chains are 'global', so the fact that maybe 50% of americans have a mac, does not really matter from a global perspective, there are over 2 billion people in China, how many are involved in the global supply chain?
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.