Magazine Article | March 17, 2009

Web Exclusive! - Invest In Industrial-Strength Scanner To Decrease Failures

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

This delivery and logistics company recently eliminated a 70% scanner failure rate by switching from a consumer-grade bar code scanner to one designed for industrial use.

Integrated Solutions, January/February 2009

Dynamex is a company with 125 locations that provides same-day delivery and logistics services throughout the United States and Canada. One of the services the company offers is distribution, where a customer can outsource their delivery function to Dynamex. A customer will send an ASN (advanced shipment notice) to Dynamex that contains information on which product needs to be delivered to which location. Then, the customer delivers the product to Dynamex in the morning, the company receives and sorts the product using bar code scanners, determines delivery routes, loads the product onto trucks, and drivers deliver the product by end of day.

Until recently, Dynamex developed a custom software application for each distribution customer to complete deliveries. Because each  customer has a different set of requirements, Dynamex would adjust a set of code for each customer based on which services they desired. For instance, one customer may require Dynamex to scan their product in only during the receiving phase, while another may want the product scanned at each phase in the receiving, loading, and delivery process. Dynamex was unable to integrate these custom applications with its operating system, and it was time consuming to create a separate application for each customer. As the company's business grew, it became increasingly difficult to manage all of the different applications.

In addition, Dynamex was experiencing problems with the Bluetooth-connected bar code scanner the drivers used with mobile phones in the field to access the customer applications and scan the product (different branches use different phone models). "Seventy percent of the scanners didn't last longer than one year, so we were constantly replacing them," says Daniel Barfield, director, IS product management, Dynamex. "When a scanner would fail, we risked missing an SLA [service level agreement] of a customer that required their product to be scanned throughout the delivery process." Missed SLAs could result in Dynamex losing revenue, or even customers. Also, the company was incurring costs of shipping the bar code scanners and lost productivity while waiting for replacements.

In July 2007, Dynamex began working with Wintao Global, an IT services company, to develop dxMobile, a standard, configurable, Java application that supports all of Dynamex' customers and is integrated into the company's proprietary operating system. Customized configurations can be set for each customer, so customer-specific preferences and exceptions can be managed in one application rather than having to create separate applications for each customer. dxMobile can be used with any Java-enabled mobile phone or smartphone. In addition, dxMobile is integrated into dxNow, a Web-based visibility tool Dynamex created for customers to view the activity of their products by logging in to a website.

At the same time the companies were developing dxMobile, Dynamex also began looking for a new bar code scanner. Barfield wanted to replace the consumer-grade scanner Dynamex was using with a scanner designed for an industrial-type environment. The company compared six scanner vendors before choosing the 4820i from Honeywell. The 4820i is designed to withstand more than 50 drops to concrete from six feet. "We chose Honeywell not only for the strength of their product, but for their support," says Barfield. "Honeywell brought up the idea of being able to use the 4820i for signature capture, which was something more and more of our customers were requesting."

Dynamex worked for three months developing the standardized dxMobile application before beginning installation at its Dallas location. "We chose to implement the solution at Dallas first because it is our corporate office, and we had support from our QA team," says Barfield. Installation took about a week and consisted of setting up the dxMobile application within the operating system, using MAM (mobile application manager) to load the application onto the mobile phones via air, and training the drivers on how to use dxMobile and the Honeywell 4820i scanners. Dynamex' implementation team trained the drivers and the operations managers on the system by walking them through mock routes. Dynamex also provided the drivers with documentation for them to use in the field.

Industrial Bar Code Scanners Eliminate Employee Downtime
Today, dxMobile and the Honeywell 4820i scanners are used by 700 drivers at 25 of Dynamex' high-volume locations. Dynamex has experienced increased productivity since drivers began using the Honeywell 4820i scanners. "We went from a 70% failure rate to almost zero. We've been using 700 Honeywell scanners for over a year and have only experienced one or two failures in that time period," says Barfield. Diminished scanner failures have equated to less shipping costs and fewer instances of downtime that accompany waiting for repairs. In addition, the 4820i scanners enable signature capture, which many customers find important today. With the dxNow Web-based visibility tool, captured signatures are available for Dynamex' customers to view in near real time.

Since dxMobile is now integrated with Dynamex' operating system, driver activity is visible in near real-time by dispatchers and operations managers. There are also validation measures in place now to be sure drivers are performing the proper tasks. When an ASN comes in from a customer via EDI (electronic data interchange), it is translated and imported into the operating system and then sent to the mobile device. The dxMobile application audits driver activity to ensure the driver is complying with the ASN. For instance, the application will alert a driver if he loads the wrong product onto his truck. With the integration of dxMobile into its operating system, Dynamex is now able to create reports to measure driver and delivery service performance, which leads to increased customer satisfaction.