By Jay McCall, Business Solutions magazine
A mobility integrator’s perseverance leads to a $100k+, 40-handheld and mobile printer install with recurring revenue.
bMobile Route Software is a 15-employee systems integrator that has been experiencing double-digit growth for the past four years, ending last year with 30% revenue growth over the previous year. The secret to this integrator’s success, however, isn’t as simple as riding the coattails of the growing demand for mobile computing solutions — it’s much more involved than that. A case in point that illustrates what separates bMobile from other resellers is a recent project it won with Fresh & Ready Foods (F&R), a “grab and go” food manufacturer that sells box lunches, salads, and baked goods to hospitals, convenience stores, universities, and retailers in southern California. What makes this story especially compelling is the fact that the project has been three years in the works, plus the complexity of F&R’s business needs.
Business Consultation Unveils Complex Customer Pain Point
F&R sells its food products through two primary distribution models: independent operators and a food vending machine company. The first distribution channel, independent operators, includes 15 individual contractors and a few small businesses, totaling 40 trucks. Each truck visits 30 to 40 customers during its weekly route. Like the vending machine company, the independent operators have their own customers and are responsible for ordering the appropriate number of food items and for managing food expiration dates. Where independent operators are different from the vending machine company is that a portion of their deliveries are to F&R’s customers. “F&R pays independent operators in food credits to deliver food products to its clients, who are typically large companies and institutions like Wal-Mart and the University of Southern California,” says Jeremy Russell, director of sales at bMobile. This dual role of the independent operators is where the complexity of F&R’s business comes in. “Drivers submitted handwritten invoices to F&R, and it had to issue a food credit to the driver and issue an invoice to its customer,” explains Russell. Because its QuickBooks accounting system wasn’t designed for this level of complexity, the food vendor created manual workarounds, which sometimes entailed entering one invoice three different times into two systems.
Solve Your Customer’s Customers’ IT Challenges
After consulting with F&R, bMobile proposed a customized mobile solution that would change the way invoices were generated in the field and the way invoices were entered into F&R’s accounting system. “Because F&R’s business has several very busy seasons, it was a challenge for them to communicate their plan to the independent operators,” says Russell.
Eventually, F&R worked out agreements with each of its independent operators, and gave bMobile the go-ahead for the implementation. “The solution included Psion EP10 rugged handhelds loaded with bMobile’s routing software, plus Printek RT43 thermal printers,” says Russell. bMobile chose the Psion handhelds because they’re rugged and use the Windows Mobile operating system, which the integrator prefers for its software. “We selected Printek over other rugged mobile computer options because we’ve found their printers to be lighter than their competitors’, equally reliable, and their customer support is superior to their competitors,” says Russell. The solution cost F&R approximately $2,500 for the hardware and accessories, such as SD cards and holsters, plus $100 per month for the software licenses for the 40 users.
The mobile solution eliminates the time it takes drivers to handwrite invoices, by using the handheld’s built-in bar code scanner to scan food item labels and print invoices via the mobile printers. At the end of each shift, drivers upload their daily invoices from F&R’s accounts to a secure portal, which bMobile’s software automatically processes — generating food credits for the independent operators and invoicing its customers. “Through our customized software, we’ve eliminated their previous practice of exporting statements to Access and entering invoices into multiple systems,” says Russell. “Not only does this significantly reduce the time it takes to perform routine accounting tasks, but it also eliminates the human error associated with hand-written invoices.” Additionally, F&R now serves as a testimonial for other food distribution prospects bMobile has in its sales funnel.