When used for remote sales force order processing, handhelds offer an attractive ROI.
Biscuits Leclerc Ltd., a Quebec-based cookie and other snack foods manufacturer, is a case in point. The four-generation, family-owned company that began baking and selling cookies in the family kitchen in Quebec City in 1905 today operates five production facilities in Quebec, Ontario and the U.S. It employs more than 450 people and sells worldwide through stores some 30 to 50 different Biscuits Leclerc products ranging from granola bars and cookies to cereals and crackers.
Initially, sales representatives were assigned to a number of stores to check on inventory and process orders when product was running low, ensuring that grocery store shelves were always stocked with Biscuits Leclerc products. As the company grew, it became more difficult to keep track of orders and deliver product in a timely manner. Until recently, sales reps used an outdated method for order processing that entailed hours writing orders on paper with the grocery manager, keying in data, and then relaying the information by phone to the warehouse.
Francois Levac, vice-president of information technology, recalls that data had to be manually entered twice, which was very time consuming and frequently inaccurate. Biscuits Leclerc searched for an affordable solution that would allow orders to be transmitted reliably, quickly and accurately. After testing different mobile devices, they chose to work with CyberCat, an application developer in Quebec City, to develop a wireless solution.
CyberCat developed an application on the Palm Tungsten W, a wireless device with GPRS connectivity, supported by Rogers AT&T Wireless networks. Cybercat's GizmoLink provides a synchronization engine for data sharing between a Web server and a multitude of Palm PDAs. After a one-month trial, Biscuits Leclerc ordered a unit each for its 30 sales representatives servicing hundreds of stores across Quebec and eastern Ontario. These reps now remotely access the company's data and place orders instantly to Biscuits Leclerc's systems for quick and accurate order processing.
According to Levac, on any given week, more than 25,000 cases of products need to be delivered across Quebec and eastern Ontario. The wireless device enables them to keep track of store inventory for each individual product. Via their wireless device, sales reps key in critical data and monitor items such as the quantity of product available in each store.
The CyberCat application also provides a three-month history of product inventory on the Palm Tungsten W screen so sales reps can see the history of the product flow charts from any store location to check, for example, inventory status and which product sells the fastest. Users can track where an order was sent and when its receipt was acknowledged. Items such as store manager birthdays, delivery times for individual stores, to-do lists that used to be written on Post-It notes are now stored on the wireless device.