More Fleets Are Calling On Smartphones

GPS-enabled cell phones are allowing drivers to do more--for a lot less.


"You can also connect different devices to these phones, like a barcode scanner," says Appian's Stevenson. "There's a company called Baracoda that makes these little barcode scanners that work off of blue tooth."

Expanding Capabilities

Some scanners are already installed in the phones, which is the case with some of Motorola's high-end devices.

One of the advantages to these devices is that smartphones have enough memory installed in them to allow them to perform real-time checking against a manifest, at line item level detail, when a driver is scanning product.

"It's synching up in real time, which means that it can give you the confirmation that what you're scanning is right," says Appian's Stevenson. "Otherwise, you could scan all the items and when you go back to the truck and let it synch up with the hub, it would then tell you that you screwed up--after the fact."

The ability to do line item detail is a positive development for a smaller company that had previously been using a regular "dumb" cell phone in conjunction with paper invoicing. For example, a particular delivery stop might be due to receive two or more individual orders that were placed the previous day, at different times.

The first order had already been picked and wrapped by warehouse workers and therefore, when the second order was called in, it forced the creation of a second invoice. The next day, the driver would be arriving at the location with multiple paper invoices that could prove difficult to reconcile. The smartphone makes reconciling much easier.

"Each one of those line items, when you start breaking them down, is a lot of data to try and push out to a non-Windows mobile phone. Still the driver needs access to it electronically because he's out in the field trying to reconcile invoices with the customer," says Stevenson.

The other capability that a smartphone brings to the field is the ability to do customer signature capture, which was formerly something only the expensive handhelds could do. Companies such as Motorola have smartphones with touchscreen select capability, which allows a customer to sign the unit at the receiving dock, indicating that a delivery has been received.

Then, just like on a handheld, the information is sent back through a wireless network system to the company's order management system, which can then generate an invoice and thereby accelerate the billing cycle, as opposed to waiting for a piece of paper to come back to the office.

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