Friday, April 13, 2007

Furniture Delivery & Mobile Handheld PDA Solutions

I had a piece of furniture delivered this week and it was an interesting experience with a mobile software application for handheld PDAs. The delivery team had an Intermec 700C Pocket PC with an integrated data card and a bar code scanner with them. I asked them to tell me what they do with it and here is what they said.

  1. They first scan all boxed furniture as they load it into the trucks. This allows the office to see where any piece of furniture is at any time.

  2. The scan is synchronized with the enterprise database and the addresses of the delivery location and the customer information is pulled down to the handheld computer.

  3. When they unload the furniture at the delivery location, they scan the bar code on the label of the boxed furniture and fill out an electronic delivery form on the handheld computer with the deliver driver's name, date and time stamp on it.

  4. They carry the boxes into the house and remove the furniture from it.

  5. They inspect the furniture for damage

  6. They ask the customer to inspect the furniture for any damage and then sign their digital signature on the Intermec bar code scanner screen.
  7. Any identified damage that is documented activates an additional "damage report" form on the handheld computer.

  8. The driver also signs his name on the screen to verify his delivery.

  9. The Intermec bar code scanner synchronizes the data via GPRS back to the enterprise database.

  10. Any changes to the driver's routes or deliveries are synchronized out to the driver's handheld computer and a pop-up window with an alert bell informs the driver of a new dispatch.

The above list contains a good example of how to effectively use handheld solution for the following:

  • proof-of-delivery
  • scheduling of deliveries
  • near real-time dispatch
  • near real-time notification of deliveries
  • near real-time notification of route progress
  • inventory tracking
  • damaged goods inspection and reporting
  • work order management

The problem - the delivery man still had me sign 4 copies of paper forms. What was that all about? 2 copies of delivery forms, and 2 customer service forms verifying there was no damage to the furniture upon delivery. I also had to sign my initials verifying the time of delivery. I asked him if the handheld computer saved him time and he answered no and that it added time to the delivery because he must climb into the back of the truck and scan all of the bar codes before leaving the warehouse, and scan then all again upon fill out the same information on paper forms. OK, that is a problem.

The delivery company had not integrated many of the associated business processes yet. They had made a good first step, but they needed to get all the paper forms on the handheld. The driver does not want to carry a handheld computer in one hand, and a stack of papers in the other. You want to reduce work, not add another layer of it.

The furniture delivery company had automated part of the process (dispatch and proof-of-delivery), but not the customer service forms and the furniture company's inspection reporting documentation.

A complete integration of business processes would have all the data collection requirements for all the various third parties on the same handheld device. The device would synchronize the data back to the office and all the relevant "data" would be forwarded to the appropriate business partners and integrated with their IT systems. This solution would save a great deal of delivery time, internal staff resources and paper.