Industry-wide, handheld mobile Devices have become a standard problem for millions of retail and distribution center employees, but they can be pain points for management.
“They have to replenish them all the time,” said Douglas Baldasare, founder and chief executive officer of ChargeItSpot. “The devices no longer work. Software updates are not coming through. The WiFi may not work. There is hardware damage.
“Sometimes there aren’t enough devices for employees, leading to huge productivity drops,” Baldasare says. “Lead times to replenish or maintain lost devices can be six to 12 months.”
At a recent breakfast in Manhattan, Baldasare explained the technology solution developed by his company to reduce the man hours and costs associated with maintaining wearable devices. The 11-year-old Philadelphia-based ChargeItSpot supplies cell phone charging stations to stores and malls, and last September launched a self-service kiosk for securing, charging and monitoring employees’ handheld devices in warehouses and retail stores, called ARC, or “center for charging assets.”
Employees are using mobile devices to promote productivity and efficiency and to streamline supply chain flow, especially in light of port bottlenecks. Employees in distribution centers use the handhelds to pick and pack online orders; store associates use them for inventory information, price checks, mobile payment processing, and access to customer information. Zebra, Honeywell, Samsung, Veriphone are some of the major providers of these handheld devices. Apart from retailers, logistics companies like FedEx and UPS and other industries use them.
“Think of the tight labor market,” Baldasare said. “It’s hard to find workers to hire, so it’s very important for employers to get the most out of their workforce.”
The time and money involved in maintaining handhelds isn’t necessarily foreseen, with Baldasare stating that “solutions to effectively manage, track and secure company-owned devices in the workplace are scarce.” Devices are typically kept in backrooms where managers waste time overseeing manual login and logout processes. When a device is lost, there is a cybersecurity risk. “In more or less 95 percent of cases, employees using handhelds need to store and charge devices on-site in the retail store, warehouse, or distribution center,” although sometimes in high-end retail stores, employees take the handhelds home with them to facilitate 24-hour clientele, Baldasare said.
ChargeitSpot’s consumer mobile phone charging stations, called ‘SmartScreen’, allow shoppers to charge and sanitize their mobile phones in secure lockers as they browse the sales floors and shop. Baldasare said there are currently ChargeItSpot charging stations in 200 Targets, 25 Bloomingdale’s stores, 30 Nordstrom locations and 90 Under Armor stores, among others. Each store would have one to six SmartScreen units.
ARC is a self-service kiosk, requiring no manager’s supervision, where employees pick up portable devices and store them in lockers. To open the locker door, employees have barcoded badges that are scanned, or they can enter their employee ID into the system. The devices are charged inside the lockers via connecting cables. The system determines which locker door opens based on which device is most charged and ready to use, helping to prevent a handheld device from going out of power mid-shift, forcing the employee to trade for a new one. other device. There is a touchscreen to report operating problems or damage to the devices.
“At ARC, the employee is asked to report any issues with the device immediately when they return a device,” Baldasare says. “We then prevent that faulty device from going back into circulation, alert headquarters to (deliver) a new device to that location, and alert the local manager to repair or return the device.”
If an employee does not return the device to the system within 24 hours, the employee’s name will appear on a report to the manager.
So far, Comoto/Revzilla, an e-commerce company that operates distribution centers; the University of Mass Memorial Healthcare; a big-box retailer, a digital home delivery company and a clothing company, which Baldasare declined to name, have deployed ARC kiosks. They come in three sizes; the smallest with 24 lockers, a midsize version with 48 lockers and the largest kiosk contains 96 lockers. ChargeItSpot leases the hardware, typically for three to five years, and takes care of software maintenance, data reporting and connectivity. The stations range in size from 7.5 feet to 15 feet wide, and are all six feet long and 14 inches deep.
ChargeItSpot has raised $25 million in funding since 2012 and has 130 employees. The company also has a network of 110 independent technicians hired to maintain the ARC kiosks.
Before starting ChargeItSpot, Baldasare was an executive at The NewsMarket, a digital marketing firm backed by Apax Partners, Softbank Capital and Battery Ventures, where he was director of sales in London and later in Beijing as director of the Asia-Pacific division. He also has experience at Amazon and Interbrand.
Citing data from Statista and interviews with ARC customers, Baldasare said an estimated 15 million wearable devices are used in retail stores to fulfill orders and move products, representing an industrial investment of nearly $20 billion. At any given time, 30 percent of a company’s devices are missing, broken, have dead batteries, or are not properly charged for employee use.
“It’s all due to inefficient management processes,” Baldasare said.