Geographers A-Z Maps publishes more than 350 titles covering street maps and atlases in printed and electronic media format. A range of Pocket A-Z maps covering many towns and cities throughout Great Britain and designed to run on Pocket PC's, PDAs, Windows PCs, GIS applications, Smartphones and mobile phones. Its comprehensive range is distributed throughout the UK via its field sales operation to over 15,000 customers and directly from its warehouse to online customers and retailers.
During 2004, Sandpiper helped A-Z implement a mobile solution which computerised the order processing system, resulting in orders being processed within an hour rather than up to 5 days. The successful implementation of this project resulted in Sandpiper being selected to provide a complete mobile solution for the warehouse and stock control processes.
Due to the introduction of consolidated computerised orders by one of its large high street retailers, A-Z was keen to automate its warehouse processes to reflect these changes and to reduce the inherent delays and picking errors associated with paper based processes.
All of the retailers regional orders are now consolidated and sent direct to A-Z head office for single dispatch back to the head office for onward distribution. The immediate benefit of this process has resulted in A-Zs direct sales force being freed up from their branch visits, allowing them to concentrate on new business opportunities.
In the past, processed orders were printed off and sent down to the warehouse for picking and dispatch. Each order was handled manually and ticked off once boxed. This resulted in the picker having to work his way round the warehouse in no particular order wasting valuable time.
Due to specific customer needs, A-Z required a software solution that was bespoke to them. User consideration was also paramount. Working closely with the IT, operations and warehouse staff, Sandpiper designed the solutions functionality to mirror the manual processes. Sandpipers chosen application development suite facilitates support for complex batch, wireless, scanning imaging, RFID, voice recognition and more. The suite supports cross manufacturers mobile computing devices, backwards and forwards migration as new technologies emerge onto the market that significantly reduces the IT administration sometimes encountered with raw code development of applications.
During the development phase, the development suite catered for several changes with ease to accommodate new requirements that came to light during the project. Remote access allowed Sandpipers technical team to make these changes and download directly to the application server ensuring the project kept on schedule and within budget.
We required a solution which would allow us to modify on an on going basis to reflect new procedures and processes stated Tim Heathfield, A-Zs Production Manager. Since going live, the system has highlighted many benefits and will allow us to roll out with other large customers in the future. Order processing time has also further reduced from the initial project; down from 1 hour to 10 minutes, which has resulted in freeing up office staff to deal with customer queries quicker, resulting in better customer service, continued Tim.
Upon receipt of each order, the new mobile solution allows it to be quickly electronically cross checked against current stock levels, providing an immediate list for the customer of which items are out of stock or no longer in print allowing them to amend their daily order. The order is then organised into a sequence which matches the layout of the warehouse and downloaded to the portable computer via a real-time wireless LAN connection.
Using the Motorola MC9090G hand held terminal, equipped with advanced data capture options and integrated wireless LAN/PAN plus a comfortable ergonomic pistol grip to enable real-time data collection in scan-intensive environments, the picker signs on each morning to a list of jobs that need completing that day. If the order is substantial, the system will break it down and divide it up between a number of pickers. This allows the order to be picked and shipped quicker as each picker is only responsible for picking their individual order and packaging it for dispatch. The mobile solution has reduced customer discrepancy claims by 83% resulting in a substantial reduction in operating costs.
Since the successful implementation of the project, improved management information, as a by-product of the mobile solution, has provided A-Z with verifiable statistics enabling it to analysis the warehouse layout and reorganise their stock which has resulted in a reduction in external warehousing, resulting in further cost reductions. The system is also being used for stock control which has significantly reduced paperwork, man hours and improved stock accuracy.
A-Z is looking to expand the current solution across its customer base over the next year and is confident that the current tailored mobile solution will be an excellent platform for meeting future demands and changes.
We are extremely happy with the new bespoke solution, it was delivered within our original budget and with a professional level of service that Sandpiper delivered stated Tim.
Steve Kemball, Business Development Manager from Sandpiper believes that the implementation of mobile computing solutions, tailored for the exact needs of the customer and developed within a scaleable development suite environment, provides extremely cost-effective automation of warehouse and distribution operations. The business benefits cover direct and indirect cost reductions by eliminating duplication of effort, manual data entry tasks, real-time information transfer and resultant management information that can be analysed to assess against bench-marking criteria.