Picking Up the Pace of Fleet Operations

Nov. 24, 2009
Testing lab BRLI improves fleet operations with mobile technology

For most logistics professionals, a missed pick up is just something you deal with—it doesn’t drive change. Not so for Ron Rayot, vice president and director of logistics for Bio-Reference Laboratories Inc. (BRLI).

In the highly specialized world of biological testing services, tolerances are measured on a very thin standard. The company, in business for over 20 years, handles esoteric testing, molecular diagnostic, anatomical pathology, women’s health care and correctional health care.

Rayot explains that a missed pickup and missing sample drove a technology change that improved visibility, responsiveness and workflow.

Patient care comes first, he says, and you’re only as good as your last pickup. You’re at fault until you can show you are not at fault. With 16,000 to 17,000 pick ups per day, BRLI has 236 drivers covering the tri-state area in a130-200 mile radius of its New Jersey headquarters. In addition, BRLI has pick ups throughout the 48 contiguous US states that are flown in on commercial airlines or FedEx, adds Rayot.

Drivers collect samples from labs and doctor’s offices and are at the mercy of when the samples are done. Rayot points out that 80% of pickups are scheduled and 20% are on call. Of the thousands of pick ups each day, about 50 will be “stat,” says Rayot. That means BRLI is dispatching a driver for a single pick up 50 times per day while it is trying to service scheduled pick ups and the 20% that were not previously scheduled.

In addition to the complexity of reaching each of the pick up points on time and transporting the samples to the BRLI lab within an acceptable window of time, some insurance companies want samples taken to other labs for processing. All in all, it’s a complex web of dispatching and routing, and even with an established database of sites and labs, Rayot says it could take 10 to 15 minutes to check information.

BRLI approached AirClic, a provider of mobile applications, and as Rayot describes it, “We challenged AirClic to help us improve workflow processes, gain greater visibility into our fleet and, most importantly, decrease the amount of missed specimen pickups.”

According to Rayot, BRLI recouped its $100,000 investment within seven months, and it achieved a very important goal of reducing missed specimen pick ups by 61%.

BRLI’s efforts to improve efficiency required the ability to track not only the samples but also people and workflow. They wanted to know how many samples were scheduled for pickup where they were and how many people would be required to manage the pickups. A bar code on each sample identifies the type of sample. The bar code is cross referenced to location using global positioning system (GPS) technology. Knowing real time where to shift resources is important. GPS with samples provides the data on real time status.

“Stat” pickups have a four-hour turnaround from pick up to result, says Rayot, so it’s a one-and-done approach. Drivers scan the building and the ID for the lab tech when picked up, so there's no need for the driver to call dispatch with the information. Every route shows the percentage of samples picked up, hours spent and route efficiency. BRLI can see the cost and efficiency of the routes.

Fleet exception reporting is part of the package. A pre- and post-inspection of vehicles eliminated nightly inspections and led to less vehicle down time.

BRLI provides supplies for its customers and another benefit is the opportunity to tie in next-day slide deliveries and supply inventory with the pick ups.

This article originally appeared in the Logistics Today digital magazine. To read other articles from that issue, click here: http://penton.ebookhost.net/lt/ebook/11/

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