Technology on the move



Mobile computing technology is fast becoming an essential tool for increasing profitability in today’s fast-paced, competitive world.
Mobile systems provide companies with the proverbial ‘win-win’ situation – saving time and money. For example, ECI2’s core mobile product, the RouteTrak proof-of-delivery system, helps you improve delivery efficiency and save time investigating delivery information.
The premise of ECI2’s core mobile product, RouteTrak Pro proof-of-delivery system, is simple – it helps you improve delivery efficiency and save time investigating delivery information. The delivery information is available on every PC and customers can track all the essential delivery data online.
It replaces paper-based delivery manifests with a UPS-style handheld device. Deliveries are automatically time and date-stamped, and drivers can capture electronic signatures during delivery. Delivery information is automatically uploaded to a central database upon the drivers’ return. Companies can use this information to streamline internal business processes or provide customers with online delivery confirmation via the internet.
It is easy to install and set up and can help users completely re-examine their delivery-related business processes, leveraging all manner of cost reductions. And as with all ECI2’s mobile solutions it is independent and will integrate seamlessly with any systems provider.
But as with so many technology products, some companies can easily be "blinded by the science." But if there are some companies out there thinking of adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, they might be interested to learn that mobile technology is not as new as many may think.
Global delivery company UPS, for example, launched its mobile solution 15 years ago and has since invested more than $200 million. Industry analyst firm Gartner Group forecasts that by the end of this year, the transportation industry will be spending $20.5 billion annually on technology.
There is little doubt that mobile computing is taking root. Maytag spent about $6 million to install a mobile computing system for its 830 field service workers, while Safeline Auto Glass in Wichita, Kansas rolled out a mobile application for 200 of its safety glass installers in 2003 at a cost of $100,000. And Coca-Cola Enterprises plans to deploy 28,000 Symbol units to route drivers in North America and Europe in a deal valued at about $30 million.
The OP industry is also readily embracing mobile products and reporting its positive impact. Indeed, Office Deport reports that its mobile signature-tracking and reporting systems solution resulted in reduced time to reconcile deliveries by 60-70 per cent.
Dealers that have utilised ECI2’s solution have also been enthusiastic in their reviews, with the likes of Office Source, A-Z Office Resources, and VIP Office all singing its praises. In fact, if David Lange, operations manager at Vesco Office and Computer Supplies, has one criticism, it is that RouteTrak Pro was not around 20 years ago!
All this positive feedback is because mobile technology works and boosts the bottom line. The math is quite simple. Increased delivery efficiency equals happier customers. And Fredrick Reichheld, author of The Loyalty Effect, observed that on average, over a five-year period, US companies lose as much as half of their customers. Just a 5 per cent shift in customer retention increases the value of a customer by 25-100 per cent.
Typical customer feedback reports improved delivery times by 40 per cent and several hours every week reclaimed, time that was originally spent on filing.
While RouteTrak Pro is ECI2’s flagship mobile product, it is by no means the only application in its mobile suite. The MobileRep wireless order entry system enables salespeople to enter orders right from the customer’s site. The PDA-based field order entry tool gives them wireless access to a whole range of customer and item information, including buying history and product pricing.
The ServiceTrak wireless service dispatch system, meanwhile, gives service technician access to schedules, pricing and information about customers, contracts and machines.
And the latest addition to the portfolio is RoutePerfect, which can work in harmony with the RouteTrak Pro. Although it was only released in August, ECI2 reports that it has "taken off like a rocket". Some of the many advantages of RoutePerfect includes the ability to reduce the daily delivery route miles and the number of trucks required for deliveries.
Analysis shows a 20-30 per cent gain in efficiency when using an optimisation solution. However, if you save as little as 15 miles a day, you will have paid for the entire solution in gas savings alone.


Case Study: The Supply Room cuts costs through RouteTrak


The Supply Room Companies was one of the first companies to purchase RouteTrak. Based in Ashland, Virgina, The Supply Room has 12 locations, including two retail stores and two furniture showrooms. It sells and delivers $50 million worth of office supplies and case goods furniture each year to companies throughout Virginia and Maryland.
Before The Supply Room signed on the dotted line, company management did its homework. The Supply Room reviewed both the product itself and the business case for the purchase. With 31 trucks and delivery routes covering Virginia and Maryland, the company estimated that savings from RouteTrak would reach $60,000-$70,000 per year within three years of implementation. The majority of the savings would come from efficiency improvements and reductions in postage and paper handling.
While The Supply Room is still in the first year of full implementation, VP of operations Jeff Schroeder is optimistic that savings from RouteTrak will equal or exceed projections.
"From a delivery standpoint, it gives you times and package counts to be able to understand productivity a little better," Schroeder explains. "It also helps to be able to see where the drivers have been from a stop standpoint to better route that vehicle. It’s an additional tool to help him manage those people on a day-to-day basis."
While important, benefits like improved delivery efficiency and less paper handling were expected, The Supply Room has also received unforeseen benefits that may be even more important. Schroeder credits RouteTrak with generating additional revenue and improving collections, as well as providing cost savings in several key areas.
RouteTrak integrates with The Supply Room’s ECI2 business system, providing the company’s employees with electronic access to captured delivery information. Customers can also view (or print) their invoices through the company’s Dealer
Station Web storefront. These invoices include the delivery information and captured signatures from RouteTrak.
RouteTrak helps resolve most delivery questions before they become billing disputes. However, on the few occasions where disputes do occur, it’s also a valuable tool for collections. As with customer service, collections personnel can access delivery information while on the telephone with customers, enabling them to respond to delivery questions immediately. And missing invoices are never a concern, since customers print a new copy directly from the Web site to send in with their payment.
As independent office products dealers go, The Supply Room is a large company with 12 locations and delivery routes spanning two states. However, Jeff believes the benefits of RouteTrak apply to virtually any company running a delivery operation. In fact, they may be even more significant for smaller companies.
"[Manual record-keeping] hurts worse on the smaller dealership side because you don’t have a whole lot of people in that environment to pass the work off to," Schroeder explains. Eliminating unnecessary paperwork and the related administrative tasks frees employees for more critical tasks. Even in cases where there is no direct cost savings, companies can see an improvement in sales revenue as the focus shifts to customers and issues directly related to growing the business.
"I don’t care if it’s a small or large environment," he adds. "The trickle-down effect savings are the same. …You’d rather have your people selling and talking to customers instead of filing manifests and delivery tickets."