Logistics isn't just about meeting delivery deadlines and managing inventory anymore. A wealth of data can be generated, collected and analyzed from these operations to improve service, cut expenses, and benefit employees and customers.
One of the best means for collecting and leveraging this data is through a mobile workforce management solution. Apps that comprise this type of solution can track mileage, give greater visibility into routes driven, enable you to provide proof-of-delivery and dispatch nearby drivers. Here are five strategies for implementing mobile workforce management solutions that can drive greater efficiency from your employees and more profits into your company's bottom line.
1. Manage Inventory
When inventory is constantly on the move from your business to customer locations, you need an inventory management system that is mobile as well. However, not every small business can afford this type of solution. Using a mobile app makes it possible for management to have a bird's-eye-view of stock levels and know when to replenish supplies.
Koncerted, a home automation company based outside of Boston, uses mobile workforce management apps to maximize its efficiency, in terms of the wide variety of inventory that its mobile workers require for each job. When designing, installing and programming its high-end audio, video, heating, lighting and computer systems, Koncerted needed real-time visibility into what parts are used on each job. Use of a mobile app has had a major positive impact on customer billing accuracy and given the company tighter control of its inventory.
2. Optimize Workloads
By combining a workforce management solution and GPS-enabled smartphones or tablets used by field staff, managers can gain visibility into where their employees are at any given time. Managers also can establish geofences—defined geographic areas in which employees are assigned to work—to ensure that all drivers are limiting their mileage and focusing on their core territory. Geofencing also enables managers to see which driver may be available within a given area for quick response to a customer's request.
Located outside of Buffalo, N.Y., the Town of Cheektowaga has been using geofencing to better coordinate drivers in its highway department. These drivers are responsible for maintaining 400 roads for the town via snow and ice removal and other tasks. Its mobile workforce management solution enables the department's superintendents and foremen to view vehicle locations; analyze driver routes, stops, and drive time; and improve fleet productivity.
Geofences were set up and employees were assigned to specific zones and routes in the town. With this tool, the town is able to balance the workload when it comes to snow plowing and other time-sensitive needs. For example, managers can see when one employee completes his or her plowing route, and if another employee is falling behind, they can move other drivers around to get the plowing completed as quickly and effectively as possible.
Since the implementation of its mobile workforce management solution, the highway department notes that it has been able to streamline field employees' routes, which in turn saves time and vehicle mileage. The resulting savings amount to $100,000 annually.
3. Analyze and Adjust Routes
Mobile workforce management solutions not only enable logistics managers to see the current location of field employees equipped with GPS-enabled devices, but they are also able to collect historical data of where employees have been, which routes they've taken and how long the drives took. By analyzing this information, managers can discover ways to further increase productivity.
Rockstar Energy, a Las Vegas-based distributor of 20 energy drink flavors, implemented a mobile workforce management tool that allows managers to see how many miles the company's sales representatives are covering, how many stops they make and how much time they spend at each stop. Managers needed better insight into whether every store on every sales route was visited regularly, and that customers were getting the attention they needed.
With the data collected using an app on sales reps' GPS-enabled iPhones, Rockstar Energy managers were able to better control day-to-day operations. If managers noticed that a sales rep is spending too much time, or not enough, at any given stop, they can help them make adjustments and be more efficient.
With its mobile workforce management solution, Rockstar Energy has been able to increase the number of customer visit by 33%, from about 15 stops per day to 20 for each sales rep. By enabling more stops, the company benefits from greater frequency at each customer site, which in turn results in better brand presence and more sales.
4. Provide Proof-of-Service
Mobile devices have made it possible for companies to have several types of proof that deliveries have been made or services provided. Field employees use their smartphone or tablet to take pictures, confirm delivery with a customer signature or by scanning product barcodes. GPS technology can record the date and location of each visit or delivery, as well as the arrival and departure time to show how long workers were at each job.
Graybar, a wholesale distribution company based in St. Louis, implemented mobile workforce management to improve customer service and productivity. Once a customer accepts its shipment, Graybar's drivers use their mobile phone and app to take a photo of the signed packing slip and the delivered goods. This photo proof-of-delivery is attached to the job record, in case questions arise from customers.
The photos enable managers to view the images and ensure that the customers received the correct shipment. Graybar also has integrated its mobile workforce management solution with its SAP system to capture delivery data. This combination enables customer service reps to review an account, see who signed for the materials and the time and date of the delivery, improving customer confidence.
5. Ensure Driver Safety
By providing field employees with GPS-enabled mobile phones, managers can use mobile workforce management to make sure employees are where they're supposed to be and all work is progressing as planned. GPS also enables managers to quickly check on the location of an employee if he or she hasn't checked in recently and they need to ensure all is well. Messaging features incorporated into most mobile workforce management solutions enable managers to send alerts to drivers, in the event of changing weather and road conditions, or emergency situations.
Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, a non-profit organization, relies on GPS and a mobile workforce management solution to find drivers who are picking up donations from homes and transferring merchandise from their donation centers to retails stores. If a driver does not arrive as planned, Goodwill managers can leverage GPS capabilities in the driver's phone to see if he or she is en route or at a planned destination.
By implementing mobile workforce management solutions, companies around the country are driving down their costs, making their field employees more productive and increasing sales that make an impact in strengthening their company's bottom line.
Mike Karlskind is vice president, product marketing at ClickSoftware (www.clicksoftware.com), a provider of automated mobile workforce management and optimization solutions. He has more than 15 years of experience streamlining processes and optimizing decisions for service organizations in a variety of industries, including computer services, utilities, telecommunications, capital equipment, home services, retail services, insurance, and medical equipment.