Handholding pays off for corporate users

Streamlined operations and upgraded monitoring capabilities were key considerations for two companies that have recently deployed corporate handhelds.

AirRoad, a transport and logistics company, has recently started to roll out HP's iPAQ handheld technology to about 120 users nationally, after deciding it needed to eliminate the double handling of data and reduce the frequency of errors caused through the multiple re-entry of information.

AirRoad's national client manager, Phil Newman, said hundreds of thousands of dollars had been invested in the project, which is aimed at providing faster delivery services, increased efficiency, and improved real-time tracking of crucial cargo.

Newman said AirRoad's solution, which started in May with an initial trial of 20 users, connects its back-end operation through a GPRS mobile data network.

He said drivers use an iPAQ 3970 as the primary method of tracking their delivery route, and record details about deliveries with the iPAQ stylus on the unit's touchscreen.

He said a GPRS-capable sleeve, added onto the iPAQ 3970, maintains the currency of data by constantly transmitting updates back and forth to the AirRoad base via the SingTel Optus mobile network.

Newman said he's hoping to have the full rollout completed by the end of this year.

Guidant, which designs and develops cardiovascular equipment such as pacemakers, has 60 field staff in its Australian subsidiary who have been using iPAQs for more than a year.

Its high-value, highly priced stock, which is serially numbered and expiry dated, is held in about 80 public and private hospitals nationally. The company's mobile sales staff had previously checked the 20,000 separate stock items using faxed copies of the stock inventory, resulting in hours and difficulties in reconciling stock discrepancies.

Mobile applications project manager at Guidant Australia, Rob Agnew, said stock validation time has been reduced by 80 per cent, with the stock inventory process now taking about 30 minutes to complete.

Agnew said the company has already seen its return on its investment of about $300,000 in the handheld technology, software development and a dedicated server.

"We rolled out the iPAQ 3870 in May last year, [and] are still reaping the benefits. The project has been excellent and while we were expecting to save about $200,000 we've now exceeded that and paid off the equipment and software in the first six months of use," Agnew said.

Guidant implemented a solution called Guidant.Assist - developed by HP and Infotech Associates - based on HP's Bluetooth enabled iPAQ pocket PC.

A custom designed inventory management tool called i.Scan, developed by Wireless Workforce, was also implemented to allow users to seamlessly validate the company's stock in the hospitals. Data is transmitted via GPRS connectivity using a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone (Ericsson T68) linked to the iPAQ, which runs on the Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 operating system and with Microsoft SQL Server CE.

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