So much more than systems integration

Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke with John Greenwood, systems integration specialist, Dakota Integrated Solutions, about the company’s commitment to ensuring customers receive tailored IT solutions that are the best possible fit for their organisation, backed up by full ongoing service and support.

John Greenwood: “For many of our customers, investment in new technology is largely about staying one step ahead of the competition, and for us as a solutions and service provider the same rules apply.”

Dakota Integrated Solutions is a company that has all the expertise and experience to address any customer's mobile computing and data collection requirements, covering everything from consultancy, design, wireless survey, pilot testing and recommendation through to the supply of hardware, pre-configuration, installation and commissioning.

With over 150 years’ combined industry experience, the team at Dakota has built a solid reputation in the provision of scalable, customisable and fully integrated back-office and mobility solutions across a broad range of business sectors; including distribution, manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, field service and healthcare. The range of solutions and services includes everything from data capture solutions, RF tag encoding and barcode label printing through to application design, hardware recommendations, systems integration, managed services, maintenance, and post sales training and support. 

Proven pedigree

The company has a long and proven pedigree of deploying successful integration projects to a wide range of organisations, whether at large enterprise or SME level. Clients include prestigious names such as Walgreens Boots Alliance, pharmaceutical company Thornton & Ross, TATA Global Beverages, Conair and Vantec Europe, Kronospan, Billabong and Historic Royal Palaces.

John Greenwood, systems integration specialist, Dakota, explains that many of the company’s clients have been enterprise-level organisations with extensive implementation and roll-out requirements. However, he points out that a large portion of Dakota’s clientele also comprises small- to medium-sized companies (SMEs). “Many of these companies have relied on fairly basic spreadsheets and accounting packages for many years – some even running on a largely paper-based regime,” he says. “So, part of our mission at Dakota is to make these companies more aware of the business and operational benefits of state-of-the-art systems that are specifically designed for SMEs – ERP, MRP, warehouse management and supply chain management systems, for example.

The best of these systems can now offer a host of valuable business and operational functionality features – even including analytics and legal compliance features as standard. They can also be highly affordable and offer speedy implementation, ease of integration and a fast return on investment. In other words, they can be truly compelling. Furthermore, if prospective users have any concerns about not being able to gain the maximum benefit from these systems, we at Dakota are here to guide them through every step, both during the consultation stage through to implementation and go live, as well as by means of ongoing service and support.”

Similarly, in terms of mobility solutions, Greenwood adds that protecting mobile scanning and printing technology – both hardware and software – with a full support package from Dakota will ensure the longevity and productive lifecycle of the system. “Our support is fully comprehensive, covering everything from device replacement, fault diagnosis and even accidental damage repair,” he explains. “Interestingly, although at first it might appear that a fault has occurred on a device, we know from long experience that the issue could be something that can be fixed within five minutes by providing simple guidance over the phone.

Our technical team at Dakota Managed Services (DMS) is there to take those types of calls and help people resolve issues within a short timeline, whether they be quick fixes or things that need more complex remedies. We are ready to react quickly in order to minimise any downtime experienced by a customer.

Understanding the customer

Greenwood emphasises the importance for Dakota in fully understanding a customer’s precise solution and service requirements from the outset. “During the initial face-to-face consultation with a customer, we set out to obtain a detailed understanding of what the company wants to achieve by investing in new solutions, both as a business and operational level,” he points out. “Then, drawing on our in-depth solutions knowledge we determine, for example, what type of scanning solution would be the best fit for the customer – laser versus imager, multiple barcode capture on an individual label versus single code capture and so on. By getting up close to the customer this gives us the best opportunity to get things right first time and ensure the customer realises its goals from the get-go.”

Game-changing technology

Greenwood reflects that although much of the technology within the mobility world can start out as highly innovative and become commoditised quickly, some solutions remain at the cutting edge. “For example, one of the most exciting developments I have seen within the mobility marketplace over the past couple of years is Zebra’s DS3608-ER extended range imager,” he says. “It remains one of the very best high-performance imagers for extended range scanning. This image engine can be integrated within handheld scanning devices enabling people to do certain things in customer environments that they weren't physically able to do previously.”

Greenwood also highlights Zebra’s ‘Picklist Mode’ scanning feature as something that remains cutting edge. This function can be enabled on Zebra’s range of mobile computers using Zebra’s DataWedge, which allows users to easily capture data via the integrated barcode scanner and Bluetooth cordless ring scanners. Picklist Mode allows the imager to decode only the barcode that is directly under the crosshair/reticle (+) part of the pattern. This feature is useful in applications where multiple barcodes may appear in the imager’s field of view when only one of them is required to be scanned.

Another solution Greenwood sees as very much state of the art is Zebra’s SimulScan application. “With SimulScan, users can streamline their operations, maximise worker productivity, error-proof their processes and so on,” he explains. “It can be integrated into a user’s native Android applications to take process automation to the next level. Workers can capture multiple barcodes on a label with a single scan, while the Document Capture feature enables workers to capture contents on a structured form in a single scan, including bar codes, text fields, phone numbers, signatures and more. At Dakota, we have found all these Android-based solutions extremely popular among our client base because of the added convenience, efficiencies and cost savings involved.”

Current market trends and effects

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Greenwood has witnessed two quite distinct effects this has had on companies from a technology point of view. “Some existing or prospective customers had projects lined up but suddenly found themselves fighting for survival because of particular nuances of their business, while other companies have decided business must go on and have sought to revamp themselves technologically in order to improve their service offering or facilitate other ways to take their products or services to market. Fortunately, there are many of the latter variety, so much so that Dakota has enjoyed what I can only describe as phenomenal business growth over the past quarter.”

Greenwood views Dakota as a company whose core raison d'être is to help companies deal both with internal strategic-type plans for change, but also to help companies to deal with more widespread market changes that can force companies to have to re-think how they run their business. “For example, we all know that the high street has been under threat from ecommerce for many years now – something that has become even more prevalent due to the current pandemic – and will likely look a very different place in the not so distant future,” he says. “Also, Covid-19 has arguably speeded up the demise of cash transactions by about five years or so, with more people now being asked to use chip and pin or contactless card payments. Because of this, some companies may disappear quicker than anticipated while others are going to benefit by embracing current internet retailing and cashless payment trends and the like.”

Staying one step ahead

Looking ahead, Greenwood explains that in order to remain at the forefront of the systems integration, solutions and services marketplace, and to continue to provide the very best service to customers, Dakota is currently in the process of revamping its website to make it even more feature rich, with video and social media-related content as well as company, solution and customer news updates. “For many of our customers, investment in new technology is largely about staying one step ahead of the competition, and for us as a solutions and service provider the same rules apply. In today’s marketplace no one can afford to stand still.”

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