MI Data Solutions Limited (MIDSL) are independent specialists in telecoms, mobile computer and telemetry devices and portable data collection terminal systems, and are well known as providers of IT backup systems for the most demanding warehouse and retail operations.

Marcus Dawson Founder and CEO of MI Data Solutions Limited.

For the past few years MIDSL has been providing UK-based repair facilities for ACD mobile computers, used by the leading UK grocery retailers to support their missioncritical mobile computer systems.

ACD’s mobile computers and truckmounted ruggedized CE computers are state-of-the-art devices offering first class performance and reliability in the most demanding of warehouse and retail operations.

MIDSL’s successful working relationship with ACD has led to the German-based computing company recently appointing MIDSL as UK reseller for its innovative Max Mobile Workstation, which mobilises workplace IT systems, offering first class performance and full reliability of data exchange and suited to retail environments, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and wider supply chain operations.

MIDSL’s founder and CEO Marcus Dawson spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.

Warehouse & Logistics News – Marcus, when did you set up MI Data Solutions and what were you doing before that?

I started MI in 1995 after leaving Symbol Technologies. Our initial business was an extension of my work there as a senior engineer, which involved integrating modems into handheld computers, taking American products and adapting them for the UK and Europe. In the process I had gained considerable expertise and understanding of modem technologies and international approvals requirements and saw the need for an independent supplier and a provider of specialised telecom related systems support.

WLN – Which types of device do you specialise in and which industry sectors do you work with besides retail?

When we started we offered high performance modem modules for integration into third party hardware intended primarily for telemetry applications in postal franking machines, water and electricity meter reading, lift (elevator) control systems, to name three. We were very successful in offering modems as OEM products in the customer’s livery and logo. Of course, analogue data communications is now a bygone technology and we have moved on, but there are still some areas where a modem is the best solution.

WLN – Whereabouts in the UK are you based? Do you cover the whole UK?

We are based in Ringwood, Hampshire on the edge of the New Forest National Park and go where the business is.

WLN – Can you tell us about some of your clients and the work you do for them?

Today our main job is supporting ACD products in the UK. MIDSL has developed and custom designed comms equipment for a leading service company in the utilities sector.

WLN – What’s been your biggest project to date?

Difficult to identify one in particular, just let me say, a small company has the flexibility to take on projects that are not interesting – for a number of reasons -to large organisations and for the small company failure is never an option.

WLN – You have strong links with various supermarkets. How did that come about?

Soon after we started MIDSL, one of the major German supermarkets decommissioned its Symbol-MSI handheld terminal devices supplier and placed a major order with the now defunct INFOS GmbH (Germany), whose solution was having datacomms problems over telephone lines that also carried alarm signaling. This had been a longstanding problem and was not due to any deficiency in the INFOS equipment, but it did put into doubt the viability of the project.

The modem supplier to INFOS recommended me and I was called in to help. I understood the nature of the problem and came up with a solution that rescued the project and saved the retailer hundreds of thousands of pounds. From there, the retailer asked me to take on the maintenance of all the INFOS handheld devices in the UK. As our reputation for competence in this area grew, we went on to win other contracts and provided solutions to problems that others said couldn’t be solved without spending huge sums.

WLN – And similarly, what led to you working with ACD?

Some 10 years ago, my prime client had started to use ACD handheld computers and they recommended me to ACD to maintain their machines in the UK. ACD Elektronik GmbH are a world-class electronics engineering company based in Southern Germany and we got on well from the outset.

The MAX Mobile Workstation sells well in Germany and ACD approached us eight months ago because they were noticing a lot of hits on their website from UK companies who were clearly interested in the product, but didn’t have anyone on the ground here to follow it up. ACD have now appointed us as the authorised UK reseller of their products and we are very excited to take on the challenge.

WLN – So can you tell us about the ACD Max Mobile Workstation?

The ACD Max is basically a desk on wheels with on-board electrical power for whatever the IT needs – if you want to save scanning data minute by minute and print labels the Max can carry it. There is a range of models, from the entry level MAX 200 with 24V (2 x 12V 50Ah) battery to power a ruggedized industrial tablet computer and scanner, to the MAX BWS-R 1200 which, in addition, has a 1200VA inverter and “roll change” system for use with MAX Power Station to facilitate rapid battery change. MAX TK is a cold store version with batteries only, no inverter. MAX allows the user to take the IT resources to the job, reducing the work path way and hence increasing productivity.

WLN – What is the MAX’s battery life?

That depends on the load but with a laptop, scanner and printer the batteries would last for two eighthour shifts and are then recharged overnight. There are audible and visible low battery warnings and an on-board charger that is plugged into the mains supply.

WLN – What’s so different about MAX? What results do they deliver?

The ACD MAX is very robust, with heavy duty castors and corner buffers to take bumps and shocks. They are beautifully engineered with a lot of possibility for customisation, including badging in house colours, and give you the flexibility to move IT equipment around the workplace to the locations where it is needed, reducing the working pathway and improving accuracy. One aircraft parts supplier has seen a 20% plus improvement in productivity and has virtually eliminated picking errors.

WLN – What temperature range can they work in?

The cold store version can work at – 28 degrees C: standard models will operate at up to + 40 degrees C.

WLN – How long have ACD been selling MAX? Who is currently using them?

MAX sales in Germany produce about 30% of ACD Portable Systems’ turnover. It was originally produced as a custom product for one customer and has now have been selling in Germany for about ten years. Amazon are using a lot of them in Germany and here in the UK and a major forklift truck company supplies them as part of its own warehouse management systems solution.

WLN – Which people within an organisation are the target users for the MAX?

We’re targeting warehouse supervisors, logistics managers and others in the warehouse and on the shop-floor who are responsible for staff productivity.

WLN – Which industry sectors are you targeting?

We’re casting the net as wide as possible. MAX is ideal for anyone running a warehouse who wants to maintain control and improve their operation.

WLN – How long does it take to deliver them?

They are shipped direct from Germany and we can supply them nationwide in six to eight weeks from order.

WLN – How can people get their hands on these power trolleys?

They should contact Jonathan Dawson, our Sales Manager, or myself.

WLN – Will you be exhibiting at any trade shows?

We will be identifying trade shows in due course.

WLN – What are your initial sales targets for the MAX?

We hope to be supplying 120 plus units a year within the first three years along with other ACD products. We have the infrastructure of a Euro 67 million turnover manufacturing company in Germany behind us, who are experts in portable systems and industrial electronics. Their customer base includes flagship German companies and major European supermarkets and they also have a presence in the US and Australia.

M.I. DATA SOLUTIONS LTD

Tel: 01425 489234

Email: sales@midsl.co.uk

www.midsl.co.uk