Magazine Article | June 22, 2006

Real-Time Mobile Computing Saves Time In The Field

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

A furniture retailer implemented a mobile solution to automate its service orders, saving 32 man-hours per day.

Integrated Solutions, July 2006

Kane’s Furniture is one Florida’s fastest growing retailers and has 16 stores throughout Florida. As part of its business model, Kane’s delivers furniture items to its customers and also maintains a staff of approximately 20 field service representatives to take care of any problems with furniture. For example, if a customer purchased a coffee table and a leg breaks, Kane’s will send out a customer service representative to go to the customer’s home, assess the problem, and either fix it or arrange for a pick-up and replacement. Kane’s knew its existing service order system was costing it valuable time everyday due to costly data reentry, so it recently implemented a mobile solution to address that problem and improve its service reps’ efficiency.

Until recently, Kane’s used an inefficient, paper-based method to dispatch its service reps and collect information on their work in the field. The reps would go into their home office each morning where they’d receive a stack of paper with service calls. The reps would complete the calls, writing in what they did, and then return the papers to their offices at the end of the shift. Then, data entry staff would input the work orders into Kane’s legacy database. This process was not only inefficient, but was also prone to error due to the manual entry of data. For instance, a service rep could write a PO (purchase order) number in the wrong space on the service order; he might know what he meant, but the data entry clerk would not and the order would be input incorrectly. Kane’s wanted to improve the accuracy and completeness of data coming from the field, so it began looking for a mobile solution that would do just that.

After some searching, Kane’s did a Web search and found MobileDataforce, a mobile solutions provider. Kane’s gave MobileDataforce a list of its requirements, and the vendor developed a model and pricing estimate. Once Kane’s decided to go with MobileDataforce, the vendor worked with Kane’s to further refine the retailer’s requirements, drawing on the retailer’s business needs and knowledge, and the vendor’s mobile experience.

Kane’s used MobileDataforce PointSync Suite to develop a custom mobile solution for Windows Mobile Dell Axim wireless devices. PointSync consists of a server that connects the devices with Kane’s back end database and a user interface application that runs on the mobile devices. The terminology and flow of the application was designed to replicate the paper process the reps were used to so there wouldn’t be user adoption hurdles. To deploy the solution, MobileDataforce walked the staff at Kane’s through installing the server, configuring it correctly, and registering the appropriate users over the phone, all of which took approximately 30 minutes.

With the solution in place, the service reps receive their service orders on their devices at the start of every shift. Once finishing a call, the reps enter the work completed into the electronic form on the PointSync application. At the end of each shift, the reps connect to the database using standard USB cradles. The information automatically populates Kane’s back end database, eliminating the need for manual data entry and thus reducing the opportunity for data errors. “The PointSync Suite allowed us to quickly add mobility to our existing service order system,  and our payback has been more than we’d hoped for,” says Daniel Klein, CFO of Kane’s Furniture. “The solution saved us more than 32 man-hours per day across all of our locations.”

Kane’s has found the solution to be so beneficial for its service organization that it is considering expanding the solution further into its business. “Because of our experience with the vendor’s professional development team, we have begun the process of adding a mobile delivery management application for our delivery business,” says Klein.