January 28, 2006



Posted: 12.03
Tracking the Trekkers
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Distributor floored as GPS solution delivers cost savings.  

By Eric M. Zeman

Knowledge is power, as the old saw goes. And one thing that managers definitely like to be knowledgeable about is the location of their remote service workers. One way to keep track of them is through constant phone calls back and forth with the drivers, who have to report their whereabouts throughout the day. Unfortunately, this is often time-consuming and can lead to fewer customers serviced.

Another way is to get smart and deploy a GPS solution that monitors the location of your drivers for you. This is exactly what Butler-Johnson decided to do.

A distributor of flooring and surfacing products to more than 5,000 retail establishments, fabricators and installers in Northern California, Butler-Johnson has improved service to customers and increased the accuracy of its payroll calculations. The result: Butler-Johnson is on pace to save more than $140,000 in overtime expenses in the next year.

Working IT

As warehouse distribution manager at the company’s San Jose facility, Jon Bujuklian (otherwise known as “JB”) is responsible for supervising the activities of 20 delivery drivers. Seeking to continue a longstanding company tradition for providing excellent customer service, JB selected Xora GPS TimeTrack for locating and managing Butler-Johnson’s mobile workers. Equipping their delivery drivers with Motorola phones that leverage GPS technology on Nextel’s network, Butler-Johnson can identify the location of the drivers anytime during the day.

As a replacement for the old-fashioned time clock, Butler-Johnson drivers use the phones to clock in and out at the beginning and end of each day, and to record job numbers and project details. This information is then transmitted via wireless connection to the Xora data center, where it can be viewed on the Web in the form of maps and reports.

Instead of calling mobile workers to determine their location and job status, Butler-Johnson office managers simply refer to the maps and reports. This way, they have instant access to key employee and job data, enabling more efficient dispatching and routing of mobile workers. As a result, Butler-Johnson was able to cut costs associated with managing and executing field operations, while generating new revenue and improving service to customers.

“When a customer calls with a question about the status of their delivery, I can use the Xora service to pull up a map that displays the location of each of my drivers in real time,” says JB. “Within minutes I can tell the customer the precise location of their shipment and make a credible prediction as to when it will arrive.”

Each of JB’s delivery drivers carries the GPS-enabled mobile phone that runs the Xora service. Therefore, JB can keep track of his workers whether or not they are in their trucks. This suits JB just fine. “Sure, we looked at those location-based services that use devices which are hard-mounted to the vehicle, but they were too expensive. TimeTrack costs less and allows us to locate workers, not vehicles. Also, we have a great relationship with Nextel and they are the only carrier to provide this service,” notes JB.

Xora’s dispatching module allows JB to find the nearest delivery driver to a job address using a GPS location and advanced routing technology. In addition, detailed driving directions to the next job site can be transmitted to the Java-ready phone. As a result, Butler-Johnson and its drivers can more quickly respond to changing customer needs, new job orders and emergency calls. It also allows the drivers to record, on the mobile phone, customer and project information that is specific to Butler-Johnson’s business process.

Gathering Knowledge

JB knows the exact time his drivers start and finish their work each day. This allows him to more accurately calculate payroll, in particular the amount of overtime each driver earns. Prior to implementing the solution, JB’s drivers were putting in at least 30 hours of overtime for each two-week work period. Since the company began using Xora, total overtime hours have been cut in half.

“[This] will help us reduce overtime expenses by more than $140,000 this year,” remarks JB. “Even after we take into account the cost of the Nextel phones and Xora service, we will still save well over $100,000. I can’t say that about any other product or service I am using.”

JB also uses the solution to ensure his drivers are traveling at a safe speed. Because he set up the service to update driver status every five minutes, he can quickly determine if a driver is exceeding the speed limit. “This helps to ensure the safety of our drivers and other motorists, while protecting our customers’ shipments. And, if our drivers have better driving records, we can keep insurance costs down,” claims JB.

Keeping costs down and driving revenues is what every manager dreams their field force will do. Looks like JB and Butler-Johnson’s dreams have come true. •

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