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"Because we wirelessly enabled our MOBILEi application, we are moving the freight a lot quicker and are handling the freight a lot less. We were handling 15,000 pieces of freight a day last year. Now we're moving 20,000 pieces of freight a day."
Steve Naghshineh, Vice President of Information Technology, R&L Carriers
R&L Carriers wanted to receive and process its shipping sooner in order to increase productivity. Sprint met this challenge by wirelessly enabling an in-vehicle data scanning and transmission device.
After exploring a number of options, Naghshineh collaborated with Sprint and GOSOF.com to create a wireless informa-tion scanning and transfer solution. GOSOF (Go Save On Freight) located in Dayton, Ohio, introduced MOBILEi - a patented in-cab scanning solution. It has no keyboard and requires no user interaction other than to place the form in the scanner.
"We use the GOSOF MOBILEi - a document capture device that's mounted on the passenger seat of a vehicle. It scans bills of lading and sends the information wirelessly via a PCS Wireless Web Modem TM to our head office in Wilmington," explains Naghshineh. "The solution lets drivers transmit documents in real time, so information is processed immediately." According to Naghshineh, the solution is easy to use. A driver simply feeds a form into the device and it automatically scans and sends the data. "If you can put a dollar in a vending machine, you can operate this device," he says.
The solution worked out well for R&L. "When we first tried it, we were interfacing the MOBILEi devices to analog modems and dealing with a number of wireless vendors," recalls Naghshineh."There were a lot of challenges, especially with dropouts." When he found out about the PCS Wireless Web Modem, R&L started working with Sprint and GOSOF.com to make it work. Because the company wanted to roll out the solution to all its service centers across 33 states, it needed a wireless carrier with the largest coverage available. R&L found the extensive coverage it needed with the Sprint Nation-wide PCS Network - the largest all-digital, all-PCS nationwide network built from the ground up, providing service in 99 percent of the nation's largest cities and all major airports. "Out of all the vendors we looked at, Sprint had the best coverage," notes Naghshineh.
Since R&L adopted the new solution, it has led to increased productivity at the service centers. "Under the old system, the bill of lading information was manually inputted as freight came in," recalls Naghshineh. "Meanwhile, we had dock people waiting for the information to be entered so an unloading manifest could be created." Because a manifest includes the number of pieces in a shipment, the destination of each shipment, and the identity of the payer, dock personnel couldn't unload a trailer without it. As a result, R&L lost productivity with inactive dock workers. Using the real-time infor-mation enabled by the new wireless data solution, R&L could create manifests before the trucks even arrived at the service center - enabling dock workers to expedite orders immediately. "Now we can move more freight faster," says Naghshineh.
While idle dock workers used to drive R&L's revenue down, idle drivers also shrunk R&L's margins. Typically, second shift drivers - drivers who take the re-packed freight from the service center to its next destination - used to wait three or four hours for their trucks to get loaded and ready for shipping. Since drivers are paid by the hour and work a regulated eight-hour day, regardless of whether they are driving or waiting, R&L had to pay additional drivers to complete the delivery run once the second shift drivers' shifts had ended. That third shift driver added extra costs - and took extra time. With the wirelessly enabled in-cab scanner, that trend has decreased. "You don't see second shift drivers sitting around anymore," says Naghshineh.
The real-time data capture and information streaming has enabled R&L to do things with the information that it couldn't do before. Because the information feeds multiple systems, such as freight handling, distribution, human resources, and payroll systems, the company's overall operating efficiency has improved. For example, because freight information is known in advance of a truck's arrival, the dispatcher at a distribution center can direct that vehicle to the door closest to the unload-ing dock of the next truck on that route. Since a large distribution center can have up to 500 loading/unloading docks - and equal a half-mile forklift ride end to end - the closer the freight gets to its transfer bay, the less time it takes to move it. Once again, R&L widened the reaction window by moving freight faster.
Among other things, the wireless data capture and information streaming made possible by the Sprint and GOSOF solu-tion has speeded up billing and customer care. Under the old system, invoices were created based on the manually entered bill of lading information. It was a cumbersome task requiring a dedicated team of data input personnel and several hours. "We used to finish billing by about 3 o'clock the next morning," recalls Naghshineh. "Now we finish billing by 9 p.m. that evening. Invoices are in the mail by 11 a.m. the next day."
R&L's new system also offers its end customers tangible benefits. The company can now post shipping information on the R&L Carrier Web site minutes from scan time - allowing customers to track their shipments from pickup to delivery. R&L's new solution has also enabled up-to- the-minute order tracking. After drivers deliver a customer's freight and scans the proof of delivery, it is available for viewing on a secure section of the R&L Web site within five minutes of delivery.
Currently 750 R&L drivers are using the PCS Wireless Web Modem-enabled MOBILEi solution. Naghshineh plans to equip another 1,250 vehicles by the end of the year. The solution has been so effective they have increased the total volume of freight R&L has moved on behalf of its customers. "Because we wire-lessly enabled our MOBILEi application, we are moving the freight a lot less. We were handling 15,000 pieces of freight a day last year," says Naghshineh. "Now we're moving 20,000 pieces of freight a day."
Perhaps more importantly, the new wirelessly enabled solution has given R&L more control over its operation. "This solution has given us more time to plan," says Naghshineh. "Now we're more planners than reactors."
PCS Wireless Web Modem
R&L Carriers was founded in 1965. Since then, it has grown from one truck to a fleet of over 9,400 tractors and trailers. Headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio, R&L Carriers now serves 33 states in the US, with operations in Canada and Puerto Rico as well. The company delivers approxi-mately 20,000 pieces of freight per day. As a leading less-than-truckload (LTL) freight carrier, R&L's service promise is based on next day delivery to its customers. Meeting this promise depends on how quickly vehicle drivers can deliver bills of lading to service centers for processing. Before any freight can be transferred from its pickup vehicle to its delivery vehicle, these documents must be inputted at the service center to create unloading manifests. Once the manifests are created, freight can be removed from the trucks, grouped for delivery, and reloaded on delivery trucks for shipping to their final destinations.
Steve Naghshineh, vice president of information technology at R&L Carriers, is responsible for ensuring that the information flows quickly. "We have to know the shipping information before the trucks arrive at the service center gates," says Naghshineh. "If we know throughout the day what freight is coming in, we can expand the time period we have to react so we can plan better." The logical solution would be to send bill of lading information to the service center before a driver arrived.
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