FedEx is slated to begin its deployment of the new Motorola MC9500 rugged handheld mobile computer to its couriers in about nine months, according to Matt Berardi, Managing Director of Field Technology Operations at FedEx Ground.
Berardi and Ken Pasley, Director for Wireless System Development & IT Architecture at FedEx Express, spoke with Mobile Enterprise on Sept. 15, 2009, during a launch event in New York City for the new Motorola device.
Pasley says the company already has been testing out a few hundred "engineering models" of the MC9500. Pricing for the MC9500 ranges from $2,495 to $3,295. Get the details here.
FedEx currently has about 100,000 wireless handheld devices in the field worldwide and scans 7.5 million packages per day. The new device comes with a host of features that the company plans to leverage in the future, according to Berardi. These include its 3.5G WAN connectivity, image capture through advanced barcode scanning technology as well as the unit's 3 megapixel camera, RFID, and built-in GPS and Bluetooth.
FedEx's previous mobile deployment "took four years to roll out across the whole world," says Pasley. "We typically roll out a city at a time, and then move from there into regional rollouts."
Pasley explains that the company takes what it calls a "pure station" approach to a new device rollout, which means that all the couriers at any given station will all be deployed simultaneously with the new devices.
Pasley says FedEx was particularly interested in several key features of the MC9500, including its new intelligent battery design, which enables users to get an accurate reading of the life left in the device's battery. In addition, says Berardi, the device's overall processor and memory design is important as the company looks to extend more of its core business applications out into the field.
All of FedEx's back-end business applications, from its CRM solution to its route accounting program, are proprietary and were developed in-house, notes Berardi.
Among the criteria FedEx will be using to evaluate the success of the MC 9500 deployment are:
"When we send our couriers into the field, we think of it like a soldier going into battle," says Pasley. "He leaves everything behind except that one critical piece of equipment he needs."
- Overall total cost of ownership from a software development and speed-to-market perspective
- Overall repair and replace frequency
- Reliability in the field
Berardi adds that potential uses for the device are widespread at the company. "At FedEx, this is a premium-level investment, with a lot of opportunity within our organization as well as in the field," he says.