Are Single-Purpose Devices the Answer?

In an era where technology is at the core of operational efficiency, retail stores, supermarkets and distribution centres are leveraging rugged devices and applications to optimise work flows. From stock picking to real-time inventory tracking, technology plays a vital role in ensuring accuracy, speed, and productivity. However, with the integration of technology comes a hidden barrier to productivity – application overload. This issue may sound trivial but its impact on worker productivity is profound. 

In recent meetings I’ve had, some companies have opted for single-purpose devices, assigning dedicated devices to specific tasks. While this strategy effectively eliminates app overload, it also increases capital costs, requiring thousands of pounds to be spent on additional devices. It also restricts organisations from flexibly reallocating shared devices during peak times. Consider supermarkets experiencing a surge in home delivery orders before major holidays. To meet this increased demand, they require more pickers. If they are limited to a set number of devices designated for this role, how can they adapt to fulfil the increased demand?

Most organisations are seeking to improve the worker experience by addressing the way their workers interact with and use devices in their daily tasks. At the core of this approach is the desire to create an environment where technology serves as an ally, enabling workers to perform tasks without unnecessary complexity.

However, sometimes, that is easier said than done. With the rapid growth and proliferation of productivity apps on shared devices, there is a risk that employers might overwhelm workers, overcomplicate the allocation of devices and inadvertently reduce productivity. Sometimes technology can be a hindrance.

The Problem of App Overload

In stores, warehouses and distribution centres, workers often rely on shared mobile devices, equipped with various applications tailored for different tasks. The idea is simple, a multi-purpose device for a multi-skilled workforce. But what happens when a shared device contains 20 or more apps, and a worker only needs one of them? The problem of app overload emerges, leading to a series of challenges:

Navigation Confusion: Scrolling through a long list of apps to find the right one consumes time, especially when the worker is not familiar with every application on the device.

Training Complications: Onboarding new employees becomes more complex as they have to navigate through unnecessary apps, which can lead to confusion and a steeper learning curve.

Increased Error Rate: Mistakenly opening the wrong app and making incorrect entries can lead to costly mistakes that may take additional time and resources to correct.

Device Performance Issues: More apps can mean more updates, more memory consumption, and ultimately, slower device performance. This can lead to delays and frustration among workers.

The Ripple Effect on Productivity

The cumulative effect of these challenges can significantly hamper the efficiency of a distribution centre, especially when multiplied across hundreds of workers and thousands of tasks, entries and actions. But it’s not just about the direct effect on the business. With many employers struggling to recruit staff, retaining existing employees is vital. The frustration and confusion stemming from too many apps or too many single-purpose devices can lead to decreased job satisfaction and low morale among workers. This negative spiral can affect the overall working environment and lead to higher attrition rates.

Addressing the problem is not merely a matter of deleting unnecessary applications or adopting a costly single-purpose device process. It requires a strategic approach.

By establishing customised user profiles for distinct roles, workers can access any shared device and still enjoy a personalised experience, seeing only the apps relevant to their tasks. Whether with a swipe of their badge or by entering a unique PIN code, the device will load the worker's personal profile, displaying only the apps required for their role. This not only saves the organisation money by not requiring multiple new devices for single-purpose use, but it also eliminates the problem of app overload, streamlining the user experience for each worker.

Achieving Operational Excellence

Any challenge that becomes a productivity barrier is more than a minor inconvenience, it requires immediate attention. By implementing customised user profiles for shared devices organisations can release their workers to perform their duties more efficiently using devices that are intuitive and user-friendly.  

A customised user profile approach isa cost-effective solution, that ensures organisations are maximising their device estate and not over provisioning needlessly. It delivers the worker experience that many companies are seeking to create, fostering a work environment that turns technology into an enabler rather than a barrier to efficiency. In a world where every second counts, addressing app overload could be the key to unlocking the next level of operational excellence.

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