Inventory Management in Real Time with Digital Pens
By Tony Rizzo, Editor in Chief
Sometimes the most cutting edge of mobile technology capabilities isn't the approach to solving a field service problem. Being able to integrate new mobile solutions with existing - and well understood - processes is a better alternative.
Such is the case with a recently joint project between digital pen technology vendor Anoto Group and data document production software vendor Objectif Lune, which combine advanced mobile technology with an already established paper-based process - a project where maintaining an underlying old school "paper" process made more sense than trying to eliminate it.
Anoto and Objectif Lune have very recently created such a system for R&R Marketing, one of the largest wine and spirits distributors in New Jersey. R&R Marketing is now using their joint solutions to automate workflow in order to create a more responsive order processing capability.
Since New Jersey law requires that there be physical invoices with all product deliveries, R&R Marketing was challenged with managing inventory and same-day delivery services with their paper-based will-call process. They needed to find a way to automate while also continuing to keep their physical documentation procedures in place - a clear case of old school meets new school and both need to live in harmony.
The company turned to a solution that combines Anoto's digital pen and paper technology with Objectif Lune’s PlanetPress Suite and a workflow created by The Printer Source, which was customized for R&R’s specific needs. With this new joint solution in place, R&R can now use paper forms for customer will-call orders while also immediately digitizing the recorded data. R&R can now quickly react to order changes or new requests from its customers (retailers), while still maintaining a physical record.
The system works exactly like traditional paper-based forms. Documents are printed on industry standard laser printers at their rated print speeds. These documents are then distributed according to company protocol. The technology allows the handwritten information to be recorded onto a chip in the digital pen. When a document is completed and signed, the data in the pen is routed automatically through a USB connection to a PC or through a Bluetooth connection using a cell phone. The handwritten information is converted into electronic data for immediate use.
This new process now allows:
- Sales people to be notified immediately about when their orders are ready for pick-up
- Customers to be alerted as to when their orders are being delivered
- R&R Marketing to make order changes in real-time for its customers, while also continuing to provide hard copy documentation for all deliveries
- R&R Marketing to communicate challenges with invoices “in-transit” in real-time to sales people, shipping and delivery departments and to customer service so they can quickly resolve any issues for next-day service
"Prior to leveraging the Anoto and Objectif Lune technology, our will-call sales process was very inefficient because it forced our sales force to come off the road and wait for an order to be picked," said Douglas Siegel, vice president of R&R Marketing. "Now the sales teams know when merchandise is ready for pick-up. Further, the software enables us to communicate with the customer and provide notice that the delivery is forthcoming."
Siegal also says that, "The new solution affords us the luxury of eliminating the handling of documents and allows for immediate posting to our website for customer retrieval. Because the technology is easily understood by our workforce - a key issue, we plan on leveraging it in field operations very soon. This process allows us to mitigate missing invoices and ensures accurate capture of customer signatures. The Anoto-Objectif Lune technology has enabled us to communicate in real-time, resulting in better accountability and sales execution."
According to Siegal, additional benefits include:
- ROI based on the elimination of scanning, reduction in head count, better management of inventory and an overall gain in efficiencies
- Real-time access to the original documents and the handwritten changes to them
- Improved document control throughout the process, including ordering, returns, inventory management, and so on
- A check and balance system so that there is a lower chance of theft due to more comprehensive workflow documentation, which includes immediate availability of data
- Better accountability and management of merchandise