quality and relevancy of customer communications. What makes it most impactful is driving the data on these panels directly from your ERP. Imagine having real-time picking counts and data throughout your warehouse and knowing immediately when you’re ahead or behind. Or, think about the improved engagement you’d have if sales leaderboards were updated in real-time. You can even have pictures and videos of promotions and specials driven from your ERP to your showroom panel. Electronic signature – Electronic

signature products including DocuSign and Adobe Sign have made getting signatures on quotes, sales orders and contracts easier – especially given our challenges with COVID-19. Not only does it improve the experience for your customer, it saves your sales team time where every minute saved adds up. Further, embedding these tools into your ERP enables your sales and finance teams to generate quotes and contracts with just a few clicks. It also ensures the current version of your template or agreement is used and that a signed copy of the document is automatically stored on the customer record or sales order in your ERP. IoT – The Internet of Things (IoT) is making it easier to connect business devices for data measurement and communication. Common uses include predicting machine wear, tracking warehouse traffic, and transmitting vehicle data to track truck routes and mileage. IoT can also help automate lighting and other electronics throughout your facility.

Technology on the way —

are you considering these? Advanced labeling – While QR codes, NFC, and RFID have been around for a decade or so, we’re only a few years away from product

58 FEDA News & Views

and shelf labels that include nanochips and atomic clocks. This will enable a new and inexpensive way to manage inventory and the movement of items through the entire supply chain. From raw materials through assembly, into the warehouse, and to installation, you’ll gain real-time visibility to pieces rather than only the finished product. Plus, unlike active RFID tags that require a very small battery, these advanced labels with atomic clocks will be powered by radio waves and provide the ability to read from much farther distances.

3-D printing – Think of all the plastic and metal parts you buy, inventory, sell, and service which require ordering, shipping, and warehouse/bin space. The technology to print just about any solid object both big and small is already here. Some service parts are being printed locally, right at the warehouse or showroom. The next generation of 3-D printing technology will provide better precision, faster printing, more advanced materials, and the ability to print larger objects. This will save you time and space, not to mention inventory cost.

Autonomous vehicles – As much as I look forward to the benefits of driverless vehicles, we’re still years away from the perfection needed from autonomous systems for consumers and government agencies to be comfortable. The grounding of Boeing’s 767 Max aircraft across the United and Southwest fleet is a clear reminder that the public is not going to allow for many imperfections. While the ability to “summon” your Tesla or enjoy “full self-driving” is here and is quite innovative, we’re just not there yet for mass, daily business use. It’s coming! When it gets here, your trucks and delivery vehicles can leverage autonomous driving.

Drones and robotics – For distributors with larger warehouses and multiple locations, drones and robotics are changing the way we think about inventory management, item picking, and movement through the warehouse. The combination of warehouse drones and passive RFID is becoming very feasible for more frequent and less costly cycle counting. As this technology improves and the cost of entry drops, drones and robotics will help us with all types of warehouse operations including security, inspection, and surveillance. Mixed reality – When your customer wants to know what a restaurant kitchen will look like once various equipment is installed, mixed reality technology will show them. You’ll be able to show a customized layout without leaving your desk. IKEA’s use of Apple’s ARKit technology is one early example of what’s possible and what is only going to get better. Quantum technology and computing – This technology could have the most profound impact on how we process information and automate tasks. It’s the biggest shift in computing since the cloud – and possibly the emerging technology that’s most difficult to get your head around. An emerging field of physics and engineering, quantum technology is based on the principles of quantum physics. Generally, this is the ability for bits of information to exist in multiple states at the same time – what’s known as “superposition.” I know, this seems to break a basic law of physics. Yet, it’s already been proven and well documented. Heavily funded by technology leaders and governments, this technology will usher in a whole new level of processing power, speed, and machine learning. We’ll have to wait and see how it will best apply to restaurant distribution.

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