The following offers a snapshot of some of the markets taking advantage of data capture solutions, and the features that they have in common.
Applications for Data Capture
Let’s consider the potential applications for data capture solutions, depending on the market you are targeting:
- Retail – Retail is the first application that comes to mind for data capture. Bar code scanners and RFID are needed to handle purchases but retail data capture is more than just supporting checkout transactions. The data capture hardware has to integrate with managerial and operational functions to manage inventory, pricing, customer relations, and staffing.
- Logistics and Manufacturing – Data capture solutions also are used extensively in delivery and logistics. Bar code and handheld scanners have become essential for tracking packages at each step, providing a chain of custody and proof of delivery using electronic signature capture. Data capture solutions are expected to confirm delivery, provide GPS tracking and route reconciliation, track payments, and maintain automatic timestamps. Similarly, manufacturing facilities use data capture solutions to track parts inventory, manage quality control, and provide details at each step of the design and assembly process.
- Field Service – For field service applications, data capture solutions are adapted to track worker activity, such as travel time, time spent on the job, and materials used for service or repairs. Data capture can be used for work allocation, to manage appointment times, and to generate an electronic audit trail of work performed. It even tracks inventory used from the truck and captures proof of service with a time stamp, materials list, and electronic signature.
- Health Care – And data capture solutions are having an increasingly larger impact on health care. Using data capture technology makes it easier to more accurately manage patient records, track prescriptions and medical charts, facilitate billing, cut costs, and prove compliance with government regulations.
What Data Capture Capabilities to Consider
When shopping for data capture solutions, you obviously want to choose a system with specific features that are best suited to your needs. However, there are four features to consider that are important for any data capture application:
- Ease of use – The first consideration is whether the data capture platform is easy to use. Any technology that is considered critical to business processes has to be easy to train and use or employees won’t use it. That means being easy to use both at the point of capture, whether it’s at a cash register or at a customer site, but also at the back end to install and program.
- Integration – The data capture solution also has to be able to integrate into back-end business systems. In order to harness the POS data to manage operations, the system has to be integrated into product tracking, accounting, time management, and other systems. Compatibility with the software used to actually run operations will be an important factor when choosing a data capture solution.
- Mobility – Increasingly data capture solutions have to be handheld. Retailers use handheld scanners for inventory management or serving customer in the showroom. And users in the field, on the factory floor, or in the doctor’s office need handheld devices to both capture and retrieve critical data. Many users are finding that iPads or tablet computers are perfect for data capture because they offer so many other functions in the same device.
- Versatility – Your data capture solution also has to be able to adapt to changing business needs. The system needs to be programmable to accommodate new retail products, on-site service protocols, manufacturing processes, or medical office procedures. The data capture technology also has to be adaptable to accommodate new systems, both at the point of capture and with back-end processes, so it can grow with the business.
These are just four of the most important considerations when shopping for data capture systems. Depending on the application and unique business requirements there will be others. The important thing is to think through the data capture needs in advance, before making a purchase. Without proper planning your data capture system can become obsolete in no time.