As business enterprise technology is constantly changing, distributors are faced with the challenge of understanding the range of available tools, and more importantly, determining how they can leverage them to help increase operational efficiencies.
One of the hottest technology trends today is the idea of utilizing mobile computing to improve an end user’s capabilities outside the four walls of the distributor. Specifically, many companies are looking for ways to incorporate Smartphone and iPad technologies into their daily operations, for better communication and workflow.
High on the list of opportunities for using mobile devices is tracking and capturing information as product is delivered to the customer; more specifically, obtaining an electronic proof of delivery (POD) as material changes hands. Capturing an electronic signature immediately improves efficiency: not only does it replace the need for multiple pieces of documentation (which inevitably fall between the seats of the truck), but it can also generate a real-time delivery confirmation by communicating wirelessly with a distributor’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software system.
This signature is then stored in the ERP, and printed on the customer’s invoice. In addition, the signature can be quickly recalled through a customer inquiry window, showing not only who signed, but other important information like date, time, and driver details.
Distributors can also take advantage of the additional features and functionality that mobile devices already offer. For example, Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities allow the driver to call up turn-by-turn directions from one stop to the next, and give the distributor visibility into specific route details, such as distance travelled, time spent, and current position. This information could easily be compiled to help the distributor reorganize their truck routes, potentially reducing the overall cost of delivery.
Features like the built-in camera can help to answer questions about damaged or defective materials, potentially alleviating drawn-out disputes with the customer. Finally, customer contact information delivered directly from the distributor’s ERP can aid the driver in quickly communicating with the customer when an issue does arise.
By providing real-time delivery information, an integrated mobile POD application can have a direct effect on the efficiencies of a distributor. While this visibility supports improved customer service, there will also be efficiency gains in the back office. Time is saved by eliminating the need to manually enter delivery information into the ERP system and file signed shipping tickets at the end of the day. At the same time, paper costs are reduced and accuracy is increased. Because customers have come to expect the use of up-to-the-minute technology, POD is steadily becoming more of a “need to have” than a “nice to have.”
Posted by Mike Mazzoni and Diane Dunbar are Industry Segment Managers, Epicor Software