The Power Really Is In Your Hands

Handhelds are providing automation, cost savings for DSD.


Handheld mobile computers are a common site in the DSD (direct story delivery) arena. That's because today's devices contain a wealth of information and tools, such as GPS and inventory management software, that enable route drivers to be more productive during the day, while reducing costs.

A driver's day actually begins to take shape the night before, with the downloading of sales information from his day.

"He knows what he needs to have on his truck when he comes back from his day," says Charles Gaskamp, IT manager for Blue Bell Creameries, Burnham, TX. Blue Bell recently began outfitting its drivers with handhelds--Motorola NC70s--to keep track of their routes. "He can send that data to us and back at the warehouse they can be pulling the inventory that he's going to need the next day."

Gaskamp says this makes the loading process simpler and quicker, eliminating the time the driver has to spend in line in the morning, waiting for his truck to get loaded. Less time at the warehouse means more time the driver can spend making deliveries and taking orders for their product. Productivity is further enhanced because when a driver grabs his handheld in the morning it already has the route he's going to run programmed into it.

"Having the actual bill of laden to be delivered right there in the driver's hand, in non-paper form, actually increases their productivity," says Frank Moreno, vice president of marketing and product management for Manchester, NH-based Cadec. "They don't have to worry about losing pages or flipping through sheets of paper on the road. They scan the pallet and immediately know what's designated for the next customer. It's an electronic clipboard that is synchronized with dispatch and routing and even customer service."

Mobileaware, based in Cranberry, NJ, is a provider of mobile service infrastructure and manages mobile data solutions. One of its customers, a beverage manufacturer and distributor, used Mobileaware's applications to create customized middleware software that synchs the driver's handheld with the company's back end server, allowing the back office to do scheduling and ordering, as well as continual updates to the handhelds of their delivery drivers.

The updates give them guidance as to where they should be going, what they should be delivering and what they should be picking up during their day.

"This contributes to what they call 'the perfect load,'" says Todd Shingler, CEO for Mobileaware. "With this updated information, the drivers go out to their trucks in the morning, which are sealed up and loaded with only the beverages they're supposed to deliver."

The driver signs off on the load, with the expectation that he's going to deliver just what has been ordered, nothing more or less and that he'll return at the end of the day with an empty truck.

Telematics Integration

Handhelds can now integrate the information from a truck's telematics system, providing a driver with the kind of real-time information that he needs to do his job, at hand's length. This means that delivery people are able to utilize GPS-enabled technology, which is turning out to be a cost-savings bonanza for food companies.

Motorola, Schaumburg, IL, conducted a survey on the value of GPS technologies for mobile field workers. The survey found that respondents reported an average reduction in distances traveled by their workers of 231.2 miles per week and an annual fuel savings of $51,582 per driver. This could make for a potential industry-wide annual fuel savings of $53 billion.

"Companies are also optimizing their routes as a result of utilizing GPS technologies on drivers' handhelds," notes Jerry Mcnerney, senior director at Motorola. "They can go from point A to point B and do it in a much safer, more deliberate fashion and also take miles out of the equation."

In addition, the Motorola survey states that enterprises employing GPS saved an average of 54 minutes per day, which translates into an annual recouped labor savings of $5,484 per employee and $5.4 million per enterprise.

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