Magazine Article | August 25, 2009

Mobile Computing Boosts Safety, Efficiency

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Cash logistics company Loomis found integrating handheld computers into the company’s enterprise network improved customer service and saved money.

Integrated Solutions, September 2009
Moving large amounts of money from one place to another is a risky business. Cash logistics companies rely on a combination of heavily armored vehicles, armed guards, and tight security procedures to safely and promptly transport their clients' cash, coin, and other valuables. These companies also have to be fast and efficient; the longer employees spend dealing with paperwork or standing outside a vehicle, the more vulnerable they are.

Loomis, the nation's second-largest cash transport company, had its employees' safety — as well as its customer service capabilities — in mind when executives began investigating a wireless mobile computing solution for its armored trucks. The challenge for Loomis was that messengers in the field had to fill out a significant amount of paperwork during the delivery process, and data had to be manually keyed into the Loomis enterprise systems. When customers called looking for information on past shipments, it could take hours or even days for Loomis to respond. With thousands of employees at nearly 200 locations, Loomis needed a wireless solution that could be effectively deployed across the country. "We had tried before to build a stand-alone mobility application, but we didn't consider the bigger picture of how the data would integrate with the entire enterprise," says Wayne Sadin, SVP and CIO of Loomis. "Early solutions used fragile devices and didn't extend past data entry. If you aren't handling signature capture and providing quick, accurate bar code scanning, you've only built a partial solution." Loomis began searching for a rugged, reliable system that collected pickup and delivery information at the point of service that could then be shared and utilized throughout the company.

Simultaneously, Loomis also launched a new Customer Contact Center (CCC) that would not only provide a centralized point of contact for Loomis customers, but would also be able to leverage the real-time data provided by the mobility solution to provide fast, accurate information about shipments. "Our vision was that we needed a way to run armored cars as efficiently as FedEx or UPS, but our industry has an added complexity: We manage what's inside the bag as well as where it goes," Sadin says. "Our customers are some of the biggest banks and the biggest retailers in the world, and they don't want to have to call every branch to ask for paper receipts." Loomis selected the Windows Mobile-based MC70 handheld computer from Motorola for its trucks and designed and built a custom mobility application in partnership with technology consultancy Combitech.

Mobile Data Improves Safety For Messengers
When messengers load their trucks, they are issued a handheld computer that is preloaded with their route information. During stops, the messenger scans a truck-mounted bar code to time-stamp the stop. Customers then confirm deliveries by signing the mobile computer. If there is something to be picked up, the messenger scans the bar-coded packages, enters the amounts contained within, carries the packages back to the truck, and then scans the bar code inside the truck to close out the stop. When a stop is closed, the mobile computer sends the stop data back to Loomis' central system via an AT&T wireless network, secured with a custom access point name (APN) and in conjunction with the carrier's PremierSERV network-based virtual private network (VPN). If dispatchers have to add or change stops to the route during the course of the day, that information is sent wirelessly to the mobile device.

Data from the handhelds is automatically uploaded into the company's Oracle E-Business Suite Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. That allows anyone in the company with appropriate security clearance to access the stop data. Now, when customers call the CCC with questions about shipments, or ask for proof-of-delivery (POD), Loomis is able to provide answers and documents within seconds. Eventually, some customers will be able to log on to a secure website for information about shipments. The company successfully piloted the mobile solution at a number of branch offices before rolling out 2,200 of the handheld units across the United States. Sadin says that the physical rollout has been essentially completed, with approximately 80% of the total fleet using the new system.

One deployment challenge was finding room inside the trucks for the mobile computers and building the network infrastructure at its branch offices to manage the devices. Surprisingly, the easiest part of the project was handing the devices to the messengers. "We had a lot of trepidation," says Sadin. "We weren't sure how our messengers would adapt to having their traditional paper replaced with handheld devices. But the people in the field have really taken to the mobile computers."

By collecting data at the point of activity, Loomis has been able to eliminate paperwork and manual data entry at its branch offices, providing more accurate data in a timely manner to employees and customers. Drivers now spend less time outside the truck, reducing their risk, and are able to complete their routes more quickly. "Route crews have better information about deliveries, stop data is automatically and accurately recorded, routes are done more quickly, and our messengers are exposed to less risk," says Sadin.