By Paul Rutherford, President, Rutherford and Associates
The business world is increasingly digital, and some of the most important innovations for the distribution business are happening in the places you’d least expect. Predictably, mobile devices have become go-to computers for salespeople and drivers who need on-the-go access to critical business applications.
But the real world isn’t all-digital just yet. Trusty paper documents still play an important role for beverage distributors, and this can present a challenge.
Invoices, scan sheets, truck inventories, delivery receipts and other critical documents require hard copies. As such, mobile printers have been part of the distribution business for quite some time. However, as handheld devices have evolved and gained new capabilities, mobile printers have required innovation to keep up with new demands.
When they don’t, printing important documents from a mobile device is often a chore. And that can turn into a major productivity bottleneck for a distribution business, which can quickly turn into a money pit.
We worked with Alliance Beverage Distributing to pinpoint the ultimate road-warrior printer for their company’s drivers, and the results were so successful that we now offer a new hardware bundle for mobile distribution teams. Alliance delivers more than 7 million products to 4,500 restaurants, bars and retailers in Michigan, and they needed a mobile printing solution that checked a lot of different boxes.
This couldn’t just be your standard-issue mobile printer. For the modern mobile workforce, Alliance needed a machine that was as portable, light, and convenient as the handheld devices its drivers use for their work on the road. It needed to print fast, it needed to support several wireless connectivity options, and it needed to be rugged enough to handle bumps and extreme weather on the road.
Based on all those parameters, we settled on the Brother RuggedJet RJ4030 mobile printer. It supports mobile print jobs over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirPrint. It prints really fast, so there’s no wasted time on site; anyone who’s printed an eight-foot-long scan sheet knows the value of a fast printer. And Brother’s compact printers are IP54-certified, built to withstand the physical challenge of being in a delivery truck all day, every day.
Alliance’s field test with the mobile printers was so well-received, it prompted us to expand our offerings. We created a product bundle that includes our own software and Brother’s RuggedJet mobile printer to provide a full solution for drivers and other distribution workers in the field.
But this story really isn’t about mobile printers or new product bundles. It’s about how the right solution can boost efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction. We recommended the Brother printers after researching all the options that fit Alliance’s requirements. That deep research was the most important step of the process, as implementing the wrong technology would have made a challenging situation even worse.
Imagine being a driver on the road who has to deal with constant connectivity bugs or excruciatingly long printing speeds in their day-to-day job. Or dealing with a printer that had to be replaced just a few months in, because it wasn’t tough enough for the environment it was used in. These shortcomings may seem minor, but they can snowball into a big problem that costs companies money, time and even employees. The wrong investment could cause driver frustration, sap productivity,and lead to additional costs for replacement units. It can cause new problems instead of fixing existing ones.
One of our core beliefs at eoStar is that any modern distribution business needs technology simply to remain in the game. But in order to thrive, innovate and present a clear competitive advantage, they need technology that perfectly suits their needs. Identifying a problem and technology that can help is simply the start of a longer process; no company should implement new technology just for new technology’s sake. A real solution needs to satisfy a wide array of needs. Otherwise, the “solution” won’t be a solution at all.
Paul Rutherford is the president of Rutherford and Associates, an industry leading route accounting software provider.