Case Study

VAR Service Model In Tractor Supply's Battery Management

Tractor Supply Store

A significant way modern organizations remain efficient is through the mobile devices that staff utilize daily. However, these barcode scanners, portable printers, and other key devices would be nothing without the source of their power: batteries. Despite their obvious importance, mobile device batteries remain a widely unmanaged segment of mobile operations for many companies. Read on to see how Tractor Supply Co. benefited from mobile device battery management services and how you can do the same for your clients.

In the Innovative Retail Technologies (IRT) cover story, “What Powers the TSC Supply Chain”, author Matt Pillar speaks with Tractor Supply’s VP of Technology and IT Strategy, Tom Hutchins about how managing mobile batteries has helped their business. In distribution centers (DC) like Tractor Supply’s, the scanning devices that fill the walls of their warehouses are a “cornerstone technology” for driving processes and recording data, but they’re only as effective as the power that keeps them running. As Hutchins explained, “if a battery fails mid shift, it creates a lot of footsteps. A team member with a failed battery must find a place to plug in an auxiliary charger and get to the RF [radio frequency] room to obtain a new battery before picking up where they left off. In a large distribution center, that can amount to a significant loss of productivity.”

The trouble doesn’t end there for organizations, however. Trying to visually determine a battery’s age or state of health is an exercise in futility. In large-scale enterprises “where thousands upon thousands of mobile device batteries are in service”, noted Pillar, identifying the good versus the bad batteries is impossible without a plan in place. Hutchins described Tractor Supply’s past attempts at battery management, such as having associates write the in-service date on new batteries, but, “that only gave us an indication as to when the battery might reach end of life if the marker didn’t wear off, as it typically did. So that method was ineffective.”

In 2014, Tractor Supply started using Global Technology Systems’ (GTS) battery management service, Test & Replace™. “This technology tells you the battery’s status, eliminating guesswork on our part,” said Hutchins. The service involves a compact testing device and mobile app that enables an associate, regardless of technical ability, to receive a PASS/FAIL result for a mobile device battery in 3-5 seconds. The service and patent-pending technology are entirely free to the customer - all they’re asked is to pledge to recycle their failed batteries responsibly and to replace them with GTS products when they’re needed. The service also provides essential testing data, Pillar explained: “on the back end, GTS receives data from the application and automates the resupply of fresh, modern mobile device batteries when they’re needed and where they’re needed.”

Mobile battery management is even simpler when you consider that GTS automatically includes another free service with Test & Replace™ that handles proper battery disposal, GTS’ Free Battery Recycling Program. Many modern brands, like Tractor Supply, aim to be environmentally-friendly and regularly participate in programs to try and do so. For example, some Tractor Supply locations seek to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certifications and actively reduce their energy footprint with LED lighting. As Hutchins reiterated, “GTS handles battery recycling for us at several locations and…there’s no question that to the extent that we can extend battery life and dispose of fewer batteries. The Test & Replace™ program is absolutely in line with our sustainability initiatives.”

According to Hutchins, ultimately the key for a supply chain is flexibility, and anything that streamlines mobility diminishes, as Pillar said, the “footstepswhether they’re necessary to pick and put or to change a battery — [they] are the antithesis of DC efficiency.” The productivity impact of the simple battery management plan, Test & Replace™, is what Hutchins refers to as the clearest benefit of the system. “There are so many steps to getting one piece of anything from start to finish in the supply chain. It’s a very complex environment. That 10-minute loss of time that’s so easy to imagine could mean a pallet doesn’t ship, and that’s what DCs are all about — getting products to stores and customers,” described Hutchins.

The last part of the Test & Replace™ solution includes replacing the failed batteries with GTS products. These replacement mobile device batteries are some of the most cost-effective in the industry, with leading warranties and high-quality components. Test & Replace™ as a whole brings a unique, problem-solving, complimentary solution to clients while displaying utmost value and support on the VAR side.

To learn more about Test & Replace™ for VARs visit: To read the IRT article referenced in this piece visit: