A number of companies are experimenting with tablets in warehouses. Avent, a global electronics distributor, is doing a small-scale trial of iPads in one of its distribution centers. Employees use them in areas that are too far from a kiosk to easily record data on items they need to pick up, and also in areas that are harder to access. Avnet's testing strategy is to invest carefully, and not assume the tablet will be a big productivity win. So, Avnet hasn't put a lot of bells and whistles on its warehouse app yet. For example, workers can use a bar code scanning app, using the iPad's camera, to collect data on an item they pick. But that app isn't integrated with the back-end system, so the employee must key it in using a kiosk.
Sean Valcamp, Avnet's director of IT architecture, wants to make sure the app is working in this environment before it invests too heavily. So far, the durability is holding up well, and the battery life has been impressive. Avnet did "iPad surgery," Valcamp says, to disable features warehouse workers didn't need, like Bluetooth and iTunes access. With that, Avnet has gotten as much as three days of use on a single charge.