Retail Technology Review Chief Editor, Ed Holden, spoke with Karen Peacock, head of print solutions, Dakota Integrated Solutions, about the company’s printing and labelling solutions offerings, together with its extensive customer support packages designed to help users remain fully operational, productive and profitable.
With over 150 years’ combined industry experience, the team at Dakota Integrated Solutions 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. Complementary to its proven knowhow within the AIDC solutions space, the company also provides an extensive portfolio of printing and labelling solutions.
This includes a wide range of Zebra printing and labelling solutions, ribbons and other consumables for every printing application. From traditional compliance labels to water/temperature resistant labels through to synthetic labels for the electronics and appliance manufacturers, Dakota Integrated Solutions can help its customers to find the optimum solution for their needs.
Dakota Integrated Solutions’ head of print solutions, Karen Peacock, explains that one of the company’s primary remits is to provide labelling solutions that are perfectly tailored to a customer’s specific company and industry requirements. She adds that Dakota serves a wide range of vertical sectors for their printing and labelling requirements; from manufacturing & warehousing (product labelling), hospitality (events wristbands, leisure centre visitor management wristbands, queue busting applications etc), retail (pricing labelling, shelf-edge labelling etc), and healthcare (patient wristband, blood bag labelling, pharmacy and specimen labelling etc).
Dakota can also provide mobile printing and labelling solutions to companies for their field workforce. “All these sectors have their own particular printing and labelling needs; indeed, companies within the same sectors can have different requirements,” says Peacock. “So, over the years, Dakota has got to know how these companies operate and what solutions would afford them the best results.”
360-degree solutions provision, service and support
However, Dakota’s services to customers go far beyond the solutions themselves. A case in point is the company’s comprehensive support packages including pre-sales consultancy services (wireless survey, pilot testing) and fully managed services and maintenance contracts, customisation and training. “One of our main priorities is to help our customers to drive their label and ribbon efficiencies up while costs down wherever possible,” says Peacock. “For example, we can provide a completely no-obligation, label audit at the customer’s workplace to help rationalise the number of labels they have. We can also manage their entire label and ribbon portfolio, ensuring they don’t run out of supplies and, as a consequence, suffer expensive downtime. Our inside sales operatives can contact customers to point out that they are going to receive a delivery of labels because, according to our records, they are about to run out.”
As part of this commitment to customers in terms of service, support and maintenance, Dakota is part of the Zebra OneCare scheme to maximise the availability and productivity of customers’ printers. “If your Zebra barcode printer breaks down and you’re unable to fix it, this can naturally prove costly and inconvenient for your operations,” says Peacock. “However, with a Zebra OneCare contract, you can enjoy complete peace of mind knowing your Zebra printers will continue to operate at optimum performance levels. There is a choice of Zebra OneCare service levels to choose from, so you can select the service offering that best meets requirements of your business.”
Dakota also holds Zebra Elite Channel Partner status and is currently Zebra’s largest consumables reseller in the UK. “Zebra supports us all the way,” says Peacock. “This means we are able to offer the full range of Zebra products – both in terms of hardware and consumables. So, by working very closely with Zebra Technologies we are able to benefit from discounted prices, which we can then supply to our customers at highly competitive rates.”
Rising to the challenge of COVID-19
Peacock adds that in order to further enhance this service, Dakota is currently on a recruitment drive to bolster its solutions integration and sales and support teams. “Many companies within our marketplace aren't currently recruiting due to the current pandemic and subsequent challenging economic conditions. In fact, some companies are even laying off staff. However, we see recruitment as vitally important to continue to move the company forward. Despite the difficulties during 2020, we have continued to work closely with our customers, both large and small.
By doing this, we have also been able to gauge the level of activity within individual companies and sectors in general. For example, we have observed many manufacturing companies that put projects on hold earlier in the year are now bringing these forward, and we can help them move faster by supplying the right printing and labelling solutions for their needs. The pharmaceutical industry, for instance, has really flourished and there has been a major upturn in orders for health care products. And because we have held stock in anticipation of an upturn in demand, this has enabled us to supply to order within a very short timeline, even though national supply chains in general have been compromised due to the pandemic.”
One of many of Dakota’s success stories was to create and develop a uniform, automated ordering system for Alliance Healthcare (Distribution) Ltd, part of the Walgreens Boots Alliance group. Alliance Healthcare’s pharmaceutical wholesale businesses, together with associates and joint ventures, supply medicines, other healthcare products and related services to more than 16,000 dispensing points through their network of 12 distribution centres in the UK.
Dakota visited 9 of Alliance Healthcare’s 13 UK distribution centres and following an initial audit compiled a list of requisite stock products that we committed to store in our own warehouse facility in Carrington, Manchester to ensure a fast response with the ability to ship consumables on a ‘next day’ basis to any of their UK distribution centres. The main approach centred around a uniform pricing structure from an internal catalogue with each site having the ability to place orders directly with Dakota against a fixed price, guaranteed for 12 months. From Alliance’s perspective this provided the stability required to budget each site’s annual spend on thermal label & ribbon requirements without having to build in a percentage factor in case of price fluctuations.
Peacock concludes: “It’s all about keeping close to customers and their precise needs as a business. At Dakota, we know how important it is not just to provide the right solutions at the right price, but also to be there to give help and guidance as and when required. We see our relationship with our customers, large and small, as very much a partnership.”