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Supply chain efficiencies


For The Home Depot, supply chain efficiency is about getting product from vendor partners down to store level, or directly onto the front porch of its shoppers — all without increasing overhead costs.

With an eye on modernization, the retailer is leveraging its mobile device management platform to ease its upcoming transition to a new fleet of ruggedized handhelds across its supply chain.

As far back as 2009, Home Depot was among the first retailers to put mobile devices into the hands of its store-level associates. By 2010, the chain had 30,000 devices in use across just shy of 2,000 stores. Fast-forward to 2016, and the company now manages a total of 75,000 mobile devices enterprise-wide. The supply chain alone accounts for “a few thousand devices,” according to Drew Engel, the chain’s senior IT architect.


More than five years ago, Home Depot realized its increasingly growing mobile enterprise needed more accurate management. As a result, the retailer began controlling its enterprise handhelds with a cloud-based infrastructure solution from VMware that manages workforce mobility needs.

The solution — AirWatch Mobile Device Management — enables businesses to deploy devices across their enterprise, configure and update device settings through the cloud and secure mobile devices. The Home Depot is also able to manage all tasks remotely through a dedicated portal.

The next project on the chain’s drawing board is to leverage this infrastructure as it transitions to next-generation, warehouse-grade handheld devices.

“Our almost 15-year-old mobile platform is nearing the end of its life, and as a result, we have to make a decision about whether our next-generation handheld device will be based on iOS, Android or modern Windows 10,” Engel said.

The chain’s new ruggedized devices must also be loaded with accurate, speed-centric warehouse management systems software and embedded with 2D barcode scanners.

“AirWatch will help us manage the transition, as well as control all devices’ configuration and security policies,” he said.

Over the next six months, The Home Depot will evaluate form factors, models and the best operating system. The project is clearly a huge undertaking. However, what is giving Engel peace of mind is that the chain doesn’t have to simultaneously search for an MDM solution, as well.

“Our MDM platform is maturely integrated within our business environment,” he said. “It already controls our corporate in-store devices, and now it will oversee our distribution center refresh.”

This tight integration will foster additional efficiencies, “and manage more devices with same headcount,” Engel said.

“This operational automation has been key to driving MDM maturity across our chain,” he said. “It lets us run leaner as an IT organization so we can focus our resources on things that give us a competitive retail advantage, instead of having to spend our resources maintaining various enterprise mobility management tools on premise.”

The Home Depot’s device refresh will filter through more than 60 warehouses, including three direct fulfillment centers, all of which house 100,000 stock keeping units.

“Once we choose the ideal device, we will tackle each distribution center, one at a time,” Engel said. “It is a journey that we expect to span between 24 and 36 months.”

He declined to specify when the refresh would launch.

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