An everyday situation at a dm drugstore: count stock, a sales assistant scans in barcodes from cans of shaving foam, returns to the back-offi ce and transmits data to the stockkeeping system. These days it’s all done using mobile computing, eradicating errors, saving time and making the whole process much easier to handle.
The German drugstore dm-drogerie markt has more than 1,500 branches throughout Europe and is seen as an innovative retail trading company. The company stocks up to 12,000 drugstore articles so it is keen to keep stock-keeping processes – such as counts, correction and item searches – as simple as possible. To help them, the Karlsruhe-based Steinbeis Transfer Center Innovation > Development > Application (IDA) worked together intensively with dm to optimize data interchange between computer systems in each outlet and the mobile scanning devices. New software was developed for a PDA-based capturing device, a type of minicomputer with built-in barcode scanner and wireless connection. In future sales staff will use upgraded online capturing devices to read data straight from the point of sale and elsewhere in the outlet before transmitting it directly to the branch server. Errors are less likely and processes more streamlined, freeing up workers to serve the customer.
In spring of 2005 the mobile scanners will go into first -stage piloting before being rolled out across all 1,500 branches. However, dm is not stopping there: together with the Steinbeis Transfer Center Industrial Data Processing one of the software specialists’ main areas of focus at the moment is research into PDA-based voice recognition systems. One day, sales staff could actually do away with the stylus input pen; scanners could become even more ergonomic, taking retailing one step closer to the future.