Let me begin by saying I could live on bread. Not just any bread, you know (Wonder Bread is not on my list). I’m talking about the baguette-ish kind, or the ciabatta kind, or even the bolle kind. The good stuff. The stuff that makes life worth living.
Having said that, it’s important that my local baked goods shop has EXACTLY what I want, when I want it. And I’m lucky, because they’re usually spot on with their inventory of freshly baked breads.
Knead the Dough
When you find something you like, you tend to stick with it. In the case of my weekly bread run, I try to pay careful attention to the operations so I can be on the very cusp of freshness. Let’s face it, day old bread is for the birds.
Because this particular shop has a number of locations, the goods are actually made at HQ and then delivered to all their individual shops as well as local and regional grocery stores, co-ops, and everything in between. To manage a route like that, you’ve got to have a good system in place. And these guys, well, they do.
Let it Rise
On one particular sunny day, I was enjoying a delicious, toasty, cream cheesy bagel on a rather uncomfortable bench when the delivery guy arrived. When he rolled in with his cargo of tastiness, I noticed he was working a mobile computer – which impressed me immediately. I mean, this is just a small-town, mom and pop organization – – do they really need data automation? I watched intently as my bagel got cold; he punched a few buttons, scanned a bar code on the first bin, scrolled the stylus around and tapped a couple of spots on the screen, punched a few more buttons and scanned the next crate of deliciousness. It was a beautiful thing. As his associate removed each bin, I noticed he began talking on this device – which increased my amazement! I didn’t realize how tech savvy this company really was.
Bake to Perfection
No longer being able to maintain my enthusiasm (it’s an illness, I know), I walked up to the guy and asked him how he liked using that device. I did this for two reasons: First, I really wanted to know which device it was, and second, I really wanted to know if it truly improved their process (I need my daily bread).
At first he was a little surprised that I cared, but I quickly resolved that by telling him I was a bit of a techno-geek and somehow made a career of it. Since he wasn’t really interested in hauling dollies of bread into the shop, he was more than happy to take the time to chat with me. This marvel was actually the Motorola Solutions MC67 Mobile Computer. And it was marvelous, indeed. He told me:
- It’s an Android device, so learning how to use it was a breeze.
- The MC67 works as a computer and a phone – at 4G and HSPA+ speed; eliminating the need to carry around his work cell phone.
- Durable doesn’t begin to describe how great it works in varying temps, elements and even tumbles to pavement.
- He no longer needed his delivery binder, inventory book or GPS. It’s all wrapped up in this cool little package.
Another On-Time Delivery
I asked him about scanning the bar codes; with all this functionality does it really scan like a champ? “As a matter of fact,” he said “it scans the best of them and the worst of them.” He explained that goods from third-party vendors often have bar codes that are a little smeary from items being piled on top of each other when the goods are still warm, but it doesn’t seem to stop this device from accurately scanning each bar code. It truly is robust.
From an operational standpoint, I asked him to name 3 things that have changed since automating the delivery process. He actually listed four, so here they are:
- Their on-time delivery metric has improved dramatically (which means he’s employee of the month every now and again)
- He can set his work day by his watch – no longer having to make a run back to HQ because he forgot to load an order
- Error rates drastically reduced; their paper-based process forced them to do a lot of calculations, and their handwriting wasn’t the best so the data entry folks used to make a mistake now and then, etc.
- The entire delivery process improved with the ability to place and confirm orders, as well as manage delivery confirmation signatures right on the device.
As the truck pulled out of the parking lot, I wondered where he was headed to next. And I took comfort in knowing he’d be here again, same time same place, thanks to the wonders of technology.
Tags: bar code scanning, Motorola Solutions, MC67, mobile computing, inventory management, DSD, direct-store delivery, route accounting, data automation, hand-held computing, Android OS