Magazine Article | August 1, 2003

Milking Mobile Computing Technology

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

With a mobile computing solution, a dairy plans to cut hardware repair costs by 75% annually, while improving delivery driver efficiency.

Integrated Solutions, August 2003

A mobile computing solution has helped one of the largest dairies on the East Coast make all of its direct store delivery processes more efficient. Galliker Dairy Company (Johnstown, PA) has 95 routes and 12 depots in the eastern United States. With an outdated mobile solution, the dairy lacked the information and technology it needed to cut costs and track delivery data. It needed a mobile computing solution to eliminate double data entry, provide drivers on the road with pertinent data, and cut costs related to outdated equipment.

Outdated Software Prohibits Upgrades
Galliker implemented its original DOS-based mobile computing system 12 years ago, and problems due to equipment repairs led the dairy to the conclusion that the system needed to be replaced. "The old system wasn't supported anymore. Because the software was so outdated, we were unable to make any updates or changes," explains Cathy Dickey, IT director at Galliker. According to Dickey, the dairy was spending $20,000 a year to keep the equipment running and make repairs.

Another problem the dairy was having centered on double data entry. Order takers would key in orders in the office and then pass that information on to delivery drivers. The drivers would re-key the information into their handhelds before starting their routes. Also, drivers had no access to important data, such as how much product they had on board, mileage at each stop, and delivery route information.

Before choosing a mobile computing solution, Galliker explored about eight different vendors' products. Since Galliker required special software features to develop the applications it wanted (mileage, inventory, etc.), the dairy focused on custom-designed software to fit its needs. "Almost all of the vendors we talked to had software partners with software package already written. These canned packages didn't fit well with what we were doing," says Dickey.

Efficiency in asset tracking, customer service, billing, and product delivery were the determining factors in which system the dairy chose. Keeping these criteria in mind, Galliker chose PEAK Technologies (Columbia, MD) hardware using Agentek-developed software for route accounting.

Integrate New Software With Legacy Database
One hundred ten of Symbol's PDT 8100 mobile computers were implemented along with 110 O'Neill Printers and 110 cradles for the delivery trucks. Ethernet cradles were installed at three separate Galliker distribution centers to synchronize and deliver data over a WAN (wide area network).

Agentek developed the software according to Galliker's needs. "We wanted to administer a time and attendance application through the handhelds. Since we have so many depots, every employee cannot come in to swipe a time card. Using the handhelds, we can scan badges at the beginning and the end of the day to maintain payroll information. Agentek was able to customize this so it integrated with our whole system," says Dickey. The information from the handhelds goes into an Agent SQL database. Agentek wrote an interface to extract that information and update it to an Access database. To transfer the data from there to its legacy system, Galliker had to write an interface. This process is necessary because Access is a single user application, so the dairy could not use it for all of the office users and the handhelds.

Hardware Repair Costs Cut By 75%
All routes have been up and running on the system since February 2003. Galliker's has been able to eliminate double data entry, significantly reduce repair costs, and provide drivers with more information to improve efficiency. "Drivers now communicate twice a day with employees in the office. In the morning they download the orders for the day from the order takers via handheld. This has eliminated the entry and reentry of data problems we were experiencing," says Dickey. This gives drivers more time during the work day. Also, drivers now have access to information that previously was unavailable. For instance, they can automatically upload or download order and inventory adjustments and proof of delivery information, as well as print out data to a mobile printer. With this system, drivers have data on case information, mileage, and route details on their handhelds. At the end of the workday, drivers download all of the information they have collected from their routes to update inventory and delivery schedules.

Galliker's biggest problem with repair costs has almost been eliminated. "This year we expect to cut repair costs by 75% or more," states Dickey. Recently, Galliker has added on to its software with an accounts receivable feature. Using this, the dairy can bill customers by open items, rather than by product. Galliker is not planning on stopping there. Dickey hopes that within the next year, the dairy will have a warehouse management solution to help eliminate paper costs in the distribution centers. The warehouse is integrated in the system, but there are no handhelds. When an order comes in, it has to be printed before the products are picked. By implementing handhelds, the dairy will not only cut down on paper costs, but it will also reduce errors.