Room & Board is a privately held furnishings retailer based in Golden Valley, Minn. Founded in 1980, the company has become a leader in expertly crafted, modern furniture known for quality, design longevity and environmental sustainability.
Its furniture collections include contemporary, American-made sofas, chairs, vanities, and tables, as well as office, bedroom, and outdoor furniture sold in retail stores across the U.S. Room & Board’s successful operating philosophy places high value on “accountability, problem solving and doing the right thing.”
In 2022, that modus operandi for doing business paid off again for the company when it upgraded its handheld scanning devices in its Otsego, Minn., warehouse and a distribution center in Newton, North Carolina.
Chris Schurke, a Room & Board leadership associate, says the improvements cut picking errors by more than 20 percent, as well as improved device connectivity and reliability.
“We had been using button-operated, radiofrequency scanner guns to receive and pick furniture items,” Schurke said. “The devices did not offer many functions, frequently dropped network connections and had to be replaced with backups two-to-three times per month. All of that required technician support as well as managing a large backup parts inventory.”
Schurke explained the scanners were replaced by Honeywell CT60 Dolphin handheld computers, connected by Bluetooth to Room & Board’s SAP management system, using StayLinked SmartTE terminal emulation software.
Today, the computers are used to seamlessly receive and inventory furniture items in both locations. Deliveries are scheduled as orders are processed by the customer sales department. The warehouse team then reviews the orders from a daily pick sheet and barcodes are scanned. The pieces of furniture are finally shipped to Room & Board last-mile delivery centers across the United States.
New Functionality Improves Productivity
Before the upgrade, limited device functionality resulted in lower productivity and higher error rates, ultimately impacting Room & Board’s bottom line.
“We had no way to streamline the process in SAP for picking and receiving,” Schurke said. “Item description space was limited, and the screen layout was far from ideal. Navigating through functions required more steps than necessary. The previous devices also required frequent repair or replacement due to being wired, resulting in increased hardware expense.”
Schurke credits StayLinked SmartTE terminal emulation software for helping with the seamless success of the upgrade.
“The layout we created using SmartTE and the CT60s puts less stress on the pickers,” Schurke said. “It also allows us to track where the users are on the pick list. In the past, if they had to pick 140 lines, for example, there was no way for them to see what line they were on. It was a guessing game. This increased functionality and simplified operation are big reasons we have reduced picking errors by 20 percent.”
Room & Board was able to easily add new and block existing functions because the SmartTE terminal emulation platform transforms ‘green screen’ application screens into intuitive, graphical screens with no changes to the underlying enterprise applications. These applications look and act like native applications on the Honeywell CT60 Dolphin handheld computer. Schurke believes the wearable computer and software combination now gives Room & Board an intuitive and modern web-based application experience.
“We have a much better user interface display,” he said. “We can see a description of a piece, for example, and have more characters to work with. In the past we had to hit four buttons to get a function. Today, we touch just one.”
Improved Connectivity Lowers Costs
Schurke said now that the devices are Bluetooth connected, picker productivity has risen, and overhead costs have been lowered.
“In the past, everything was hardwired,” he said. “Each piece of equipment had a charging dock that was tied to batteries. Every device had to charge overnight. When a connection failed, we often had to buy a new charging dock or a scanning gun. For every lost connection, a service technician would be called to reestablish that connection. It was expensive and time consuming.”
Now that the warehouses operate using Bluetooth and the devices are battery powered, the connection issues have been solved and there is no need to recharge the devices overnight. Schurke said this part of the upgrade has taken the concern of “will it work today?” out of the discussion.
“In the past, we also had to inventory parts and devices to be ready in case of connection failures,” said Schurke. “Sometimes we would not have the right component in stock, and it could take a week or two to get a new charging dock, scanner or cord. Those delays and costs have almost gone away.”
Further, if a Bluetooth connection is interrupted during picking, the SmartTE software brings the workers back to where they were in the process.
“We never have to start over from the beginning and reenter data. We now have very, very few network issues. The only connection problems we run into are based on our own network within our building. But the StayLinked connection between Bluetooth and the gun has been fantastic.”
More to the Bottom Line
Following successful upgrades in both Room & Board facilities, the company is rolling out the Bluetooth connected Honeywell CT60 Dolphin handheld computers and StayLinked SmartTE terminal emulation software in every company distribution center. Soon the entire Room & Board warehouse and distribution system will reap the benefits of improved device functionality and connectivity.
“Improving productivity and reducing picking error rates have had a positive impact on our bottom line,” Schurke said. “Even though SAP limits some of our big ideas, we achieved almost all the end goals with the help and expertise of the StayLinked team."