MI Data Solutions Limited (MIDSL) are independent specialists in portable data capture systems for the most demanding warehouse and retail operations.
For the past few years MIDSL has been providing UK-based repair facilities for ACD Gruppe manufactured portable data terminals that are used by a leading grocery retailer. ACD’s portable data terminals and truck-mounted ruggedized CE computers are designed and manufactured to the highest quality standards and offer first class performance and reliability in the most demanding of warehouse and retail operations.
MIDSL’s successful working relationship with ACD Gruppe has led to the German computing company appointing MIDSL as UK re-seller for its innovative MAX Mobile Workstation, which mobilises workplace IT resources in 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. I had considerable expertise and understanding of modem technologies and international approvals requirements and saw the need for an independent supplier and a provider of telecom related systems support services.
WLN – Which types of device do you specialise in and which industry sectors do you work with besides retail?
When we started we offered custom designed modem modules for integration into third party hardware intended primarily for telemetry data transmission applications in portable data collection terminal systems, postal franking machines, water and electricity meter reading, lift (elevator) control systems, to name a few. We also enjoyed success supplying modems as OEM products in the customer’s livery and carrying their logo. Of course, analogue data communications is now a bygone technology and we have adapted and moved on with the times.
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 not an option.
WLN – You have strong links with various supermarkets. How did that come about?
When we started MIDSL, a major German-owned supermarket was rolling out a new generation of portable data terminals and they were having comms problems connecting over telephone lines that also carried alarm signaling. This was actually a longstanding problem and was not due to any defect in the new equipment, but it did put into doubt the viability of the project.
I was called in to help. I understood the nature of the problem and together with the modem designers, I came up with a low-cost solution that rescued the project and saved the retailer hundreds of thousands of pounds in additional costs had they proceeded to install new telephone lines (as suggested by the telecom service provider) just to upload store stock orders. From there, I was asked to take on the maintenance of the new handheld devices in the UK. Having established our reputation for competence in this area we went on to win other contracts and provided simple costeffective solutions to problems that others said couldn’t be solved without spending huge sums.
WLN – And similarly, what led to you working with ACD?
10 years ago, my prime client had changed to use ACD portable data capture devices and they recommended me to ACD to maintain their machines in the UK. ACD Gruppe 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 were noticing visits to their website by UK companies who were clearly interested in the product, but they 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?
MAX is a mobile desk to mobilise IT equipment and with on-board electrical power to power it. It allows you to carry the tools, computing devices, scanners and high capacity label printers to the job, drastically reducing the operators’ working pathway, which in turn saves time, reduces errors and hence costs. 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 terminal and scanner, to the MAX BWS-R 1200 which incorporates a 1200VA inverter to provide ac power and the “roll change” battery system for use with MAX Power Station to facilitate rapid battery change. We can also offer a special version for cold store/freezer use, this is the MAX TK which has batteries only, no inverter option. To sum up, MAX is a productivity tool aimed at making the operators’ job easier and the warehouse operation more efficient.
WLN – What is the MAX’s battery life?
That depends on the load but a typical set-up which would include a computer/laptop, scanner and printer and the batteries should last for two eight-hour shifts and then be recharged overnight. All versions of MAX have a visible battery level indicator and audible warning if the battery level becomes critical. There is an on-board charger that is connected to a standard mains outlet.
WLN – What’s so different about MAX? What results do they deliver?
The ACD MAX is well designed and manufactured with heavy duty castors and corner buffers to take any bumps and shocks. It’s very manoeuvrable and there is a comprehensive range of optional extras enabling the user to configure MAX to suit their specific needs. With MAX you remove the need for static IT work station, you can take the tools to the job, independent of the mains electricity supply and carry on working. One aircraft parts supplier has seen a 20% plus improvement in productivity and has virtually eliminated picking errors by using MAX in the parts picking process.
WLN – What temperature range can they work in?
The cold store version can work down to –28ºC: standard models will operate at up to + 40ºC.
WLN – How long have ACD been selling MAX? Who is currently using them?
MAX sales in Germany produce about 30% of ACD Gruppe Portable Systems’ turnover. It was originally produced as a custom product for one customer and has now been selling in Germany for about ten years. Amazon are using them in Germany and 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 Heads of logistics and IT directors who have a responsibility for working procedures and 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 and even though we showcase MAX as mobilising IT resources it can equally be used to mobilise and power diagnostics equipment in the engineering sector.
WLN – How long does it take to deliver them?
They are direct-shipped from Germany and we can supply them nationwide in six to eight weeks from order.
WLN – How can people get their hands on a MAX Mobile Workstation?
They should contact Jonathan Dawson our Commercial Manager, or myself.
WLN – Will you be exhibiting at any trade shows?
Yes, we will be exhibiting MAX at IntraLogisteX 2018 (27th/28th February 2018) at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Meanwhile visit www.midsl.co.uk for more information about how MAX can benefit your operation.
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