California Overnight Upgrades Wireless Data System - InformationWeek

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California Overnight Upgrades Wireless Data System

Package-delivery company is retooling its wireless infrastructure to improve business processes and customer service.

Regional package-delivery company California Overnight is in the midst of retooling its entire wireless infrastructure to improve business processes and customer service.

The 14-year-old privately held company, which serves California, Arizona, and Nevada, is no newcomer to wireless. The company in 1999 deployed dozens of Dolphin 7200 portable data terminals from Hand Held Products Inc. Delivery information would be transmitted, via a wireless service provider, to California Overnight's back-office systems after drivers cradled the terminal when they returned to their truck.

The problem, says Tim Elder, director of IT for California Overnight, was that harried drivers would often forget to dock their device, or the device would be docked in areas where the wireless network couldn't be accessed, resulting in critical delivery information not being sent. "Delivery Information held within on our devices wouldn't get sent to us as quickly as we needed," Elder says. California Overnight delivers roughly 50,000 packages each night.

As a result, California Overnight is now deploying Symbol Technologies Inc.'s MC-9000 handheld units, running Windows Mobile 2003, to each of its 1,000 drivers. About 500 units already have reached the drivers, and another 500 are expected to be deployed within the next two months, Elder says. The Symbol device transmits data without needing to be placed in a cradle.

California Overnight is using Countermind LLC's Mobile Intelligence Platform to build a customized proof-of-delivery application integrated with the Symbol devices and California Overnight's back-end systems. "It now takes less than a minute from the time the delivery information is scanned, including signature, to being available on our Web site to our customers," says Elder.

The technology will reduce the number of customer-service calls California Overnight gets from customers checking delivery status. "Customers can now get the information they need about their deliveries as soon as possible, and our drivers will be able to focus on making deliveries rather than tracking down information about packages they've already delivered," says Elder.

California Overnight plans future enhancements to its wireless system, he says. With the population growth and new neighborhood development in the regions the company serves, it's common for drivers to call dispatchers for directions to their next delivery. So the company plans to make it possible for drivers to request directions to their next stop the very moment they scan the package they're delivering.

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