Mobile Data Collection: What You Need to Know Before Starting Your Project

  • by Ali Sarraf
  • November 1, 2003
Handheld systems and radio-frequency (RF) technology increase the accuracy and flexibility of shop floor and warehouse data collection. This overview of the different technologies available explains your options and gives you a head start on planning your mobile data collection initiative.

The basis of any business application's ability to control and manage business processes is transfer of data. IT has come a long way from the early days when the only way to transfer data back and forth was manually through a stationary computer terminal. Today, mobile data collection uses bar-coding and radio-frequency (RF) devices to automate data collection and transfer to your back-end system or to your process control systems.

The benefits of automated data collection are increased accuracy and speed of data exchange (bar-code readers), direct data transfer and event triggering (process control systems), and last but not least, bringing the data collection point closer to the process — for example, to the shop floor or warehouse. Now, data can be collected and posted in real time and without the use of paper. The operator can make decisions based on real-time data that he or she can look up on a mobile device. Using modern technology, the application can be designed and configured much closer and better aligned to the process as it flows.

Mobile data collection in conjunction with bar coding is one example of enhanced data collection and data flow. If you work in a manufacturing or warehousing environment, you likely already use various types of mobile data-collection devices and bar codes to collect and post data and possibly trigger events to initiate subsequent steps of the business process.

In the last five years, I have helped a number of companies implement mobile data collection within an SAP environment. What follows is a review of the expectations you should have before implementing mobile data collection, and an overview of the most commonly used technology available for use with the SAP environment. My goal is to give you enough information to decide what general architecture and hardware is appropriate for your situation.

Ali Sarraf

Ali Sarraf is the managing partner at Enowa Consulting. He has 15 years of experience as a senior consultant for SAP Business Suite applications and 20 years of IT experience. During much of his career, he has focused on helping customers optimize their logistics business processes by analyzing and explaining cause-and-effect relationships and by bringing the machine and the human sides of IT closer together.

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