A Zebra mobile computer is used to read a barcode label on a warehouse stock item.
By Deanna Self | July 19, 2023

This Almost Mythical Tool Helped Us Finally Get a Grasp on Technology-Related Downtime in Our Distribution Centers – And No, It’s Not Something We Developed

We can instantly pinpoint the source of mobile system issues, and often mitigate them, which keeps both front-line and IT teams focused on more important tasks. Here’s how.

I remember the day I met Shari Christofferson, president of ConnectRF. ConnectRF is a Zebra Premier Independent Software Vendor (ISV) partner, and a colleague introduced me to Shari because he knew that I’m always looking for ways to…

1. improve the productivity of the front-line workers in Zebra’s distribution centers (DCs), and

2. prevent technology-related downtime (whether there’s an actual issue or just an assumed issue that causes people to stop what they’re doing to investigate.)

Shari apparently had a tool that could help my teams and me (and other warehouse/DC operators) get to the bottom of those mystery mobile technology issues that seem to stump IT and slow down workers and operations.

Truthfully, I was a bit cynical. It all sounded too dreamy, almost mythical. Over my long career in supply chain operations, tech-related downtime has always felt like an unbeatable enemy hampering our productivity and affecting moral. My friends and peers in other companies share this struggle. Our IT teams have an array of tools to combat tech-related hiccups, but none seem to really point to the root cause. “Why?” you may wonder. Because not all issues are just skin deep. It's not always about switching a battery or tweaking the network connectivity. Picture tech issues like pesky weeds in your garden. As my colleague Therese Van Ryne shared in a recent podcast episode with Shari and me, you can mow these weeds to hide them for a while, but unless you pull them out from the roots, they will grow back.

Now, Shari made quite the claim: she said she could tackle each issue head-on and do it swiftly, a far cry from the lengthy tech investigations we were used to. I was skeptical. It seemed like a dream, almost too good to be true. I was trying to find the catch, asking questions, prodding at every detail. Even though ConnectRF was a Zebra ISV partner, I couldn’t shake off my doubts. After all, if someone had indeed cracked the code to one of the biggest productivity roadblocks in front-line mobile device performance issues, wouldn't it be the talk of the town? Wouldn't it be front-page news on every tech and industry magazine? It seemed like the kind of breakthrough everyone would be eager to know about. After I felt like I had asked every possible question to find a “non-truth” in her claims, my team and I decided to give the Mobile Systems Intelligence (MSI) software she was touting a try. It was the only way to definitively confirm whether Shari was just a smooth talker or if this software was truly game-changing in that it could help us keep devices online and workers productive.  

Honestly, I was taken aback when the MSI software sailed through our tough testing. Shari and her team at ConnectRF, with their smart solution, gave us exactly what we'd been searching for to solve our tech woes. This tool didn’t just spot the problem between the device and the system, it also had a built-in analytics service that quickly helped us understand the situation and gave us the information to fix it. What's more, it was super easy to set up. We had it working smoothly in just two weeks, meaning no long, resource-draining projects. In other words, the unicorn exists. I’ve seen it. And now my team and I have a huge success story to tell as a result. Listen to this:

Do You Believe in Magic? I Do Now.

The story doesn’t stop there, though. Technically, it doesn’t even start there.

My colleagues in EMEA were actually the first Zebras to implement this unicorn after giving it a test run at Zebra’s Heerenveen DC, and based on the success there, the MSI software-driven service was deployed in several other Zebra facilities around the world, including my site in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

It's fair to say, we've all been thrilled since we started using the MSI analytics service. It's been a game-changer. Our teams no longer need to pause their work to track down technology hiccups. Front-line workers aren't stuck playing device-switcharoo when glitches pop up. Thanks to the MSI system from ConnectRF, our IT team can stay one step ahead of any tech troubles and swiftly tackle issues that we didn't see coming or couldn't avoid.

Curious to hear more? Check out my colleagues' experiences in Heerenveen, you'll love their reactions when they realized the power of what they had:

"How We FInally Got to the Root of Our Mobile Connectivity Issues and Hit Our Fulfillment Targets"

So, what's the magic of the MSI software from ConnectRF?

It ramps up productivity by eliminating those time-consuming troubleshooting tasks that can bog down IT teams. Here's what that means for you (based on my personal experience):

-      Say goodbye to resource-draining wild goose chases and trying to decipher cryptic data. When a mobile device performance issue crops up, you can identify and tackle the root cause right away, thanks to already-analyzed, crystal-clear data.

-      No more frustration of receiving a "no fault found" verdict after sending a supposedly "broken" device for repair. When a front-line worker reports their device isn't functioning as expected, you can figure out the problem and its location before someone even suggests sending it to the repair depot.

-      App lag or network disconnects are no longer a reality your workers have to accept. This change alone will do wonders for team morale.

-      IT no longer has to wait for a worker to complain about an issue before prioritizing it. They can spot and fix it proactively before it causes major disruption.

-      And finally, holding mobile tech vendors accountable won't be a herculean task anymore. You'll have all the proof you need to show them that their component, be it a network access point, software app, or device, isn't working as promised and needs their attention to get back to 100% functionality.

If you haven't yet listened to the podcast episode, I highly recommend giving it a play. I think you'll find my chat with Therese and Shari quite enlightening. And I'd be more than happy to discuss my experience further with you – I can even put you in touch with Shari. With the simplicity of data-driven decisions through MSI, there's no need to wrestle with tech problems any longer.


Editor’s Note:

Still have questions?

You can reach Deanna on LinkedIn or via email. Same with Shari: LinkedIn and email. They’re happy to explain how MSI works in conjunction with (or in lieu of) other mobile technology diagnostic tools, how it helps automate some IT/troubleshooting processes, and how it can help boost your teams’ productivity, among other “need to know” facts. 

Automation, Leadership, Podcast, Success Story,
Deanna Self
Deanna Self

Deanna Self serves as the Director of Digital Strategy for Global Supply Chain and Repair at Zebra Technologies, where she is tasked with shaping and driving digital initiatives to optimize the global supply chain and repair processes. Bringing over 25 years of experience in sales, operations, and IT to her role, Deanna is passionate about leveraging technology to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. Her expertise and forward-thinking approach are integral to her leadership in transforming Zebra's supply chain digital landscape. 

Prior to this role, Deanna was responsible for the oversight and management of Zebra’s largest order fulfillment distribution center. She also spent over two decades in the food and beverage industry before joining Zebra, where she started out owning and operating her own distributorship and eventually served as an IT executive for Nestle USA.  

Deanna holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Queen’s University of Charlotte and was named one of Supply and Demand Chain Executive 2021 Pros to Know. She is also a winner of the Supply and Demand Chain Executive 2021 Women of Supply Chain award.   

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