2008 Best In Field Service

By  Teresa von Fuchs — November 06, 2008

Submit Your Entry For The 2009 Mobilizer Awards here.

In 1998, PODS Enterprises revolutionized the moving and storage industry by offering mobile storage containers, delivered and picked up from a customer's home. Ten years later, PODS is offering its Portable On Demand Storage service in the U.S., Canada and Australia, with more than 1 million reservations completed to date.

PODS wanted to improve its process efficiencies and compliance with estimated times of arrival at customer locations. As Tammy Carr, VP of Training and Development at PODS, explains: "We wanted to process containers as efficiently as FedEx and UPS process a 1-cubic-foot box, making it as easy for customers to order a container and move a household as it is to order a FedEx box and send cookies to a relative."

Previously, PODS had no fleet management system and no GPS guidance, and used a telephone time-stamping system for asset tracking. The business ran on paper-based maps, receipts and contracts; paper trails were slow and riddled with errors. Inefficiencies were limiting the company's ability to serve its market and expand business.

So, PODS went looking for a solution. Since its in-house programming department built the company's back-end system, it naturally built the Pod Pilot field application as well.

For hardware, PODS wanted a rugged device with voice and data capabilities. Company surveys showed that push-to-talk (PTT) was an important feature to drivers. These specifications led the company to Motorola's 9000 series rugged handhelds and Sprint's wireless services. Motorola's MC9097 comes with GPS radios and multiple data capture add-ons, so the  PODS software design team added contract acceptance and a GPS-based navigation tool.

Because PODS knew that driver acceptance was crucial to the solution's success, training was a big focus: the company began online, interactive simulation training before taking the solution live. PODS also set up a weekly Pod Pilot forum so that drivers and managers could communicate about issues and benefits of the solution. The company used info from the forum to make changes to the solution. PODS also created a central support line, so managers and drivers have just one number to call in case of difficulties.

Between November 2006 and June 2007, PODS deployed the solution to 1,000 drivers and 300 storage center locations in the continental U.S. and Hawaii. The overall cost of the program was $4 million. While definitive ROI is still being calculated, Bill Merriman, VP of Franchise Operations, explains that POD Pilot, "has increased our customer confidence by seeing PODS has an easy, efficient process for tracking their belongings. Our year-over-year sales are up during a time when the real estate market is down significantly and many companies in the moving industry are experiencing double-digit sales declines."

And, since the solution is easier for drivers, Merriman says that they now have "additional time to focus on the customer's needs."

As for the bottom line, Carr explains: "The largest return wireless mobilization brought to PODS is strategic advantage: improved operational efficiencies that allow PODS to process transactions faster and more accurately."






>Honorable Mention: Amica Mutual Insurance

Amica Mutual Insurance sought a solution that would automate aspects of its automobile appraisal process, as well as improve turnaround times for claims.

Amica chose Panasonic ToughBook CF-18 and CF-19 Touchscreen laptops, RAM vehicle mounts, Pentax PocketJet 3 mobile printers, Sprint EVDO wireless AirCards and AcceleNet 3.0 for data compression and session persistence.

Compared with a previous wireless solution, AcceleNet saves appraisers roughly 10 minutes per claim. Sean Welch, Senior Assistant VP at Amica, estimates that with the time saved, AcceleNet "paid for itself in the first two weeks." Amica estimates the equipment paying for itself in just six-months. Estimating cost of equipment at $268,000, Amica says that appraisers are now handling an average of 1,071 appraisals per year, compared to 836 previously. Average cycle times dropped from 3.3 days to 2.5 days, and same-day inspections increased from 4% of all inspections to 14.6%.

Jeff Patti, a regional Amica APD Manager, illustrates the positive results with this anecdote from one appraiser: "I was on my route this morning and got an email with another assignment. I called the owner and he was only two blocks away. I went there, inspected the vehicle, wrote the appraisal and was printing it out exactly 24 minutes after getting the assignment. Now that's service! This is the best tool for appraisers I have seen in my 20 years in the field."












>Honorable Mention: Bosch Security Projects

Software bridges the move from a paper process to mobile handhelds, reaping rewards for security firm

Bosch Security Projects
, a global supplier of high-end security systems located in the Netherlands, needed to improve its preventative maintenance processes.

For years, field technicians carried two large document folders: one with the forms that needed to be filled out for the thousands of devices they screened; and another with test instructions and regulations for each device. According to Roeland Staal, Operations Manager at Bosch, the process was prone to errors, including devices that went overlooked and untested.

A further impetus for revamping the system came when the Dutch Army requested easy access to Bosch's reports. The Army wanted a quick way to verify that its more than 150,000 pieces of equipment had been accurately screened. Bosch partnered with Sigmax PDA Solutions to develop a custom PDA app based on Sybase's iAnywhere OneBridge Mobile Platform.

Bosch field techs now receive work orders directly to their Symbol MC70 PDAs. (Bosch decided to go with PDAs rather than laptops to ensure a truly mobile solution.)

Completed maintenance checks are confirmed by scanning a barcode on each item. Test results are recorded and synchronized with back-office systems.

Since implementing the solution in December 2006, Bosch has improved its process efficiency and lowered administrative costs.

Bosch realized a complete ROI in less than two years, and the Dutch Army prolonged its contract without any complaints. Staal says that, due to the application, "Bosch also attracted new customers because we can now better meet Service Level Agreements."

See who won in the other categories:
BEST IN SUPPLY CHAIN

BEST ON CAMPUS

BEST MOBILE CRM

INDUSTRY PACE SETTER

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