Categories
Data Interchange Field Sales and Delivery Mobility

3 Things to Look for in a Field Mobility Solution

Selecting the right field mobility solution for your business requires evaluating a number of different elements, including the features and functions available in the software, as well as making sure the solution vendor is a good fit for your company. Putting aside some of the more specific technical features, one of the most important areas to look at is whether or not the solution can help you meet your overall business goals. If you deploy the system, can you actually improve efficiency and customer service? Will you meet your key performance indicator benchmarks?

When it comes to making sure that the solution will help you meet your business goals, there are three key things to look for in a field mobility solution:

1. Usability

Is the new solution easier or harder for technicians to use than the solution or process you are replacing? Field service technicians can’t be bogged down by a sluggish user interface, clunky data entry options, or complex applications that require them to complete multiple steps or open multiple screens to do their work. If technicians work with gloves, then they should be able to enter data on a mobile device while wearing them.

The system cannot be cumbersome or duplicative, or users won’t embrace or possibly even use the solution.

Field mobility solutions are generally created to replace paper forms, and should be as straightforward to use as writing the information down — just much faster and more reliable. Even most rugged device manufacturers have adopted user interfaces that mimic consumer devices like the iPad because they know that end users are already familiar with them. The more intuitive the interface, the less time you have to invest in employee training. Technicians can be up and running on the new solution more quickly.

2. Empowerment

The new system should make mobile employees’ lives easier and empower them to provide better customer service. Your mobile employees want to do the best job possible, so the mobile technology should enable that level of service.

Deployment success will depend on support from the field technicians, so user adoption is critical. You should be able to demonstrate to your employees how the new field mobility solution will make it easier for them to do their jobs, complete work more quickly, provide greater customer satisfaction, and allow them to provide more value to the company.

Evaluate your field and back office processes to make sure you aren’t just automating poor processes. Putting technology on top of a flawed process simply gets you the wrong results faster. Work with a vendor or integrator that can help you take the critical process redesign steps to ensure a successful field mobility solution deployment.

3. Flexibility

The new solution should be flexible and scalable enough to grow and change with your own business requirements and customer volume. You should also be able to customize the system to meet your unique operational needs.

The system should provide straightforward integration with back-end systems, dispatch solutions, GPS fleet management technology, and other systems. Otherwise you’ll wind up moving your process bottlenecks from the field to your admin staff, who have to spend time manually moving information from one system to another.

The solution should also support multiple mobile hardware platforms and form factors. The mobile devices you deploy today can be obsolete in just a few years; you don’t want your field mobility solution tied to an outdated hardware platform.

By focusing on your own business needs, you’ll be able to select a system that is flexible enough for your operation, user-friendly, and that can empower your mobile workers to do their jobs faster and better.

Categories
Field Sales and Delivery Mobility Route Accounting

How Route Accounting Solutions Help Drivers Reach More Stops

When it comes to delivery and sales routes, efficiency is a key driver of profitability. The more stops the driver can successfully service in a shift, the higher the revenue that route can generate.

There are a number of factors that can impede route efficiency, but mobile route accounting solutions can make it possible for drivers to more quickly complete each stop while still providing more accurate service to each customer. Route accounting solutions also provide better data and improved visibility into route performance and untapped sales opportunities, too.

Even reducing each stop by just a few minutes can, in aggregate make it possible to add one or more stops per route. Even adding just one stop per day can significantly improve revenue and cash flow, important considerations in industries like baked goods and snacks, where margins are often razor thin.

According to a study conducted by the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), the most efficient direct store delivery (DSD) suppliers spend 13.8 fewer minutes for each delivery to large-format stores, and spend nearly twice as much time on merchandising than inefficient suppliers. In fact, efficient DSD personnel spend 50 percent of their time in stores merchandising, compared to just 27 percent for inefficient operators. A key part of that efficiency is the use of route accounting solutions.

Here’s how these mobile solutions can improve route efficiency:

1. Reduce Drive Time: Many route solutions include optimization engines that can help reorganize routes so that drivers spend less time behind the wheel and more time servicing accounts and merchandising.

2. Eliminate Paperwork: According to the GMA, DSD drivers spend as much as 6% of their time preparing invoices at customer locations. Route accounting solutions that leverage mobile computing technology allow drivers to quickly complete deliveries and automatically generate accurate invoices on their mobile devices and mobile printers.

3. Automate Check-In: The Direct Exchange electronic data interchange standard allows suppliers to automatically transmit invoice information to retailers. With DEX connectivity, a route accounting solution can help eliminate tedious check-n processes, while eliminating errors and administrative costs. According to the GMA study, automated check-in can reduce DSD receiving time by 60%.

4. Accelerate Inventory Processes: Using mobile computers with barcode scanning capability allows drivers to quickly scan merchandise off of their truck inventory, as well as speed up on-shelf inventory management. Drivers no longer have to spend time writing down inventory counts, and the data is typically more accurate.

5. Automate Reconciliation:With automated invoicing, more accurate inventory data, and DEX connectivity, route accounting solutions automate the entire reconciliation process. Drivers no longer have to spend time manually matching their paperwork, and administrative staff can receive accurate route information that can quickly be verified at the end of each shift.

6. On-Site Payment Processing:Using a route accounting solution and a mobile computer, drivers can even accept retailer payments at the point of delivery. There’s no paperwork to shuffle, and drivers don’t have to call the office to verify credit card numbers. Payments can be made quickly, which not only saves time for the driver but also accelerates the cash cycle.

Route accounting solutions can shave precious minutes from each stop on the delivery driver’s route. Drivers can add more stops per shift, improve data accuracy, and boost customer satisfaction.

Categories
Field Sales and Delivery Retail Route Accounting

How to Develop a Direct Store Delivery Model for Your Business

Competition in the retail world has intensified, and companies looking for a competitive advantage have to find ways to reduce costs, shorten delivery cycles, reduce inventory in the supply chain, and respond faster to demand. That’s why so many suppliers have moved away from multi-stage distribution to a direct story delivery (DSD) model.

DSD is particularly appealing for companies that require tight delivery windows for their products, and for smaller retail outlets (gas stations, convenience stores, drug stores, etc.) that need frequent replenishment. It has also become the favored distribution method in markets where freshness is important or product is produced locally — like beer, soft drinks, baked goods, and snacks.

Direct store delivery can help manufacturers be leaner and more responsive to market demand. Using DSD, suppliers can typically deliver goods within 24 to 48 hours of taking an order – much faster than if a centralized retail distribution center or a third-party distributor is involved.

This type of delivery model helps retailers that want to reduce inventory and operating costs, while offloading the merchandising activities to the delivery company rather than the retailer. For the distributor, that means they have more control over merchandising and presentation on the shelf, which can help drive sales. Retailers, meanwhile, don’t have to dedicate staff to stocking and merchandising high volume goods.

But direct store delivery isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Companies interested in shifting to DSD operations have to develop a model that will work for their business. Doing so involves several key steps:

  • Create a Demand Profile: Examine sales data to determine what type of retailers you are dealing with, and how much order volume they generate.
  • Determine Your Sales Approach: How much sales activity will occur during the delivery stop vs. online? Pre-sales help the distributor manage inventory and manage demand, but can tie up the driver when these sales activities are handled face to face. Evaluate your delivery staff and sales staff to determine the best way to manage the sales process.
  • Plan the Route: Use route planning tools to best serve the demand of those customers. Routes have to be built around a variety of factors (distance, speed limits, hours of service considerations, limits on truck size or hazardous material transport, etc.). Make sure the routes are optimized to take as much cost out of the distribution process as possible.
  • Track Your Trucks and Inventory: Direct store delivery can help reduce shrink and loss. Use GPS to monitor truck locations (and recover missing vehicles), as well as onboard inventory tracking to monitor shrink or merchandise theft.
  • Invest in Proof of Delivery: Don’t rely on paper. A combination of DSD software, barcode scanning and mobile computing can automatically track inventory, generate receipts and invoices, allow digital signature capture, and provide real-time visibility into deliveries. This can also improve the efficiency of the drivers, reduce the cash cycle, and eliminate delivery disputes with retailers.
  • Prepare to Analyze Delivery Data: Using real-time inventory and order information, manufacturers can get a better view of real demand across a category, a retailer, or a route. By tracking shrink/stales, suppliers can make better inventory recommendations to customers, and improve the profitability of each customer.

Direct store delivery is a growing part of the retail landscape. For specific types of companies, DSD can reduce costs and improve service and sales for retailers. Planning ahead and developing an effective DSD model that fits your business will help ensure you get the most benefit from your DSD system.

Categories
Field Sales and Delivery Route Accounting

5 Things to Look for in Proof of Delivery Software

In an increasingly competitive delivery market, documenting delivery performance has become a critical business function. It’s not enough to deliver the goods, or even provide in-transit visibility; customers want to know when a delivery occurred, who accepted the delivery, and what condition the goods were in when they were delivered.

Real-time proof of delivery software and mobile computing can provide the delivery confirmation data that your customers are demanding. Using a combination of signature capture, date/time stamps, barcode scanning, and optional GPS data, freight and delivery companies can provide automatic verification that a delivery was made, as well as document the condition of the goods and generate all necessary invoices and receipts.

These solutions can increase customer confidence, eliminate disputes with customers about delivery times/conditions, and even speed up the billing cycle and order-to-cash cycle. Drivers can eliminate the hassle of dealing with paper forms at the delivery site, as well as managing that paperwork during their route. They also won’t have to go through an inefficient, paper-based reconciliation process at the end of the route. Using these solutions can even reduce idling, since drivers will spend less time at each stop.

There are other benefits as well. Many retailers, for example, will levy chargebacks when deliveries are late, if there are mistakes in the delivery, or if the goods are damaged. With a proof of delivery solution, drivers can provide time-stamped records that can be used when there is a dispute about a delivery. This electronic record also provides a more accurate delivery record, and arms drivers with the information they need to address any potential problems (a damaged package or an inaccurate shipment) on the spot.

Because customers can sign off on the order directly on the mobile computer, orders and deliveries are more accurate and any discrepancies can be dealt with immediately. Equipped with rugged mobile computers, drivers can scan all barcoded packaging, and even take photos of any damaged merchandise.

Here are five key features you should look for in a proof of delivery solution:

Automated Data Capture: The ability to scan barcodes at the point of delivery will eliminate paperwork and manual data entry, and tie the delivery automatically to the purchase order, as well as the inventory and billing systems.

Electronic Reconciliation: The solution should provide electronic signature capture, as well as the ability to generate electronic receipts and invoices that can be e-mailed directly to customers upon completion of a delivery. This enables same-day invoicing.

Real-time, Secure Communications: Wireless communication with back-end systems will improve efficiency and provide up-to-date information to customers. The proof of delivery software, the mobile device, and the wireless connection should provide end-to-end encryption of all customer data — especially sensitive payment information.

Integrated Location and Hours of Service Tracking: GPS data will ensure that customers know exactly where and when each delivery was made. For companies that fall under federal Hours of Service or International Fuel Tax Association (IFTA), the ability to automatically track and record this information will make drivers even more efficient by eliminating paper logs.

Flexible Hardware Support: Mobile computers are evolving rapidly. The solution you deploy today could be obsolete in a few years. Choose a proof of delivery solution that is open and flexible enough to support your hardware needs today and in the future, regardless of operating system or form factor (tablet, smartphone, rugged handheld).

By selecting proof of delivery software that provides the above features and functions, your company can easily meet your customers’ requirements, while streamlining your own internal operations.

omniQ’s newest enterprise software solution, Route Edge, is the ideal mobile solution for improving the cost-effectiveness of DSD. Route Edge eliminates time-consuming errors in the field and workers can manage inventory, orders, returns, deliveries, and collect cash or check payments. Learn more about this configurable, scalable solution by downloading the Route Edge brochure!

Categories
Field Sales and Delivery Mobility Route Accounting Transportation and Logistics

4 Ways Mobile Solutions are Improving the Cost-Effectiveness of DSD

The popularity of mobile solutions has grown immensely over the past decade, mainly due to their convenience, but also because they benefit companies of all types and sizes in a variety of ways. This is especially true for companies dealing with route accounting and direct store delivery (DSD) solutions. When workers travel from place to place, mobile technology is required to get the job done. Mobile solutions provide huge improvements in accuracy and efficiency for DSD, which, in turn, leads to larger profits for businesses.

There are four main ways mobile solutions help improve the cost-effectiveness of DSD:

Real-time information access throughout the enterprise

Having real-time visibility throughout an enterprise can be a daunting feat. For businesses with direct store delivery solutions, the challenge is to receive detailed and error-free information from workers in the field.  Mobile devices can greatly reduce invoice errors, and they also allow invoices to be sent and received faster than ever. Every invoice error creates problems, not only because time is wasted while trying to correct the information, but because a company’s reputation can be damaged and customers can be lost.

Having mobile devices that can print invoices at the time of delivery can greatly reduce disputes or errors because they can be reviewed with the customer.  In addition to reducing conflicts, sending invoices with a mobile computer means the billing cycle can begin immediately. More accurate and efficient invoices will keep customers satisfied and can potentially lead to more business.

Inventory management

Real-time information access can also be vital to inventory management. Mobile solutions offer organized forms that allow workers to update the status of deliveries faster than ever. Safeguards can even be put in place to validate the data entry from workers; ambiguous entries can be flagged for evaluation.  The use of mobile devices in DSD will keep inventory levels accurate, which means shrinkage can be eliminated and items can always be kept in stock.  An accurate and up-to-date inventory is essential for businesses looking to improve the cost-effectiveness of their operations.

Route scheduling

Direct store delivery operations rely greatly on the efficiency of their drivers. In order to truly improve the cost-effectiveness of DSD, businesses need to ensure that their drivers are being productive and that they are following the most efficient routes. Mobile devices often feature GPS technology that gives managers visibility into their drivers’ locations, productivity, and route capacity. This real-time information can help business owners make better decisions in regards to routes, and it can even give them the power to change routes in the middle of a schedule.

More efficient operations

Mobile solutions can go wherever employees go, so there is no running back and forth and no time wasted. Handheld mobile computers have become the preferred DSD solution thanks to the wide number of applications they can handle.  Instead of carrying multiple devices, workers can utilize a mobile device that offers computing, signature capture, barcode scanning, and voice communication.

Mobile devices come in a variety of sizes or keypad layouts and offer varying degrees of ruggedness, which means businesses offering DSD can find the perfect fit for their solutions. Mobile computers can also be integrated with peripherals.

The pervasive nature of technology in the world today has led to extremely competitive industries.  The best performing DSD businesses have all adopted the most efficient, profitable, and accurate technologies.  Mobile solutions offer a variety of tangible benefits to direct store delivery; businesses looking to improve the cost-effectiveness of their operations should invest in mobile devices.

omniQ’s newest enterprise software solution, Route Edge, is the ideal mobile solution for improving the cost-effectiveness of DSD. Route Edge eliminates time-consuming errors in the field and workers can manage inventory, orders, returns, deliveries, and collect cash or check payments. Learn more about this configurable, scalable solution by downloading the Route Edge brochure!