Printing firm mobilizes Canadian workforce

Commercial security printer and papermaker De La Rue is using technology from Ottawa-based vendor TrueContext Corp. to cut down on manual processes and mobilize its Canadian field service workers, the companies announced Tuesday.

Based in Britain, De La Rue has Canadian offices in Calgary, Quebec City and Markham, Ont. The company prints more than 150 national currencies as well as travelers’ cheques, stamps, passports, and vouchers through its security paper and print division.

The De La Rue mobile field services software system is based on TrueContext’s mExperience technology. The new technology also enables De La Rue to increase productivity in the field and reduce repeat visits to complete service calls, the company said in a statement.

In addition, the company said, the system provides more accurate arrival times for customers, while reducing cellular phone costs and time wasted with voice and paper-based exchange of information between technicians and dispatchers.

“The technology allows companies to connect with their field workers in an easier way,” said TrueContext president and CEO Alvaro Pombo.

He said mExperience technology enables delivery of volume enterprise data services such as mobile forms, and content and device management. The offering allows mobile workers to use handheld devices such as HP’s iPaq Pocket PC devices, equipped with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system, running on Rogers Communications Inc.’s wireless network.

Overall benefits include less paperwork and increased productivity from its mobile workers, Pombo said.

Work order information is transmitted securely and electronically over-the-air, saving time and eliminating errors from handwritten paperwork and duplicate data entry, Pombo said, adding that De La Rue’s field technicians also now have access to customer history before arriving at a location, cutting down on the number of visits to complete each service call.

Industry observers note that that while the mobile workforce is growing, IT support for the technology is lagging.

The global mobile workforce is expected to grow by more than 20 per cent in the next four years, with 878 million mobile workers toiling away on laptops, handhelds and cell phones by 2009, according to a recent IDC report.

IDC analyst Kevin Burden, one of the study authors, said interest in mobile support has increased as IT shops try to figure out what they should be doing. “IT managers are starting to realize that mobile [technology] support is different from supporting a laptop in an office,” Burden said. “IT departments have traditionally just wanted it to be easy and have been building mobile solutions piecemeal.

“Cost is the biggest barrier to providing mobile IT resources, since IT managers have demands coming from all over,” he added. He argued that over-the-air support has to be given more consideration than it has received so far. Sometimes, for instance, IT shops find that offering wireless e-mail is easy, Burden said — but that doesn’t necessarily hold true for other functions mobile workers need.

“Staying connected on the road through e-mail and voice — now, that’s really easy. But if IT is talking about the process of taking data that runs inside the company, manipulating it and changing it from the road, that’s not easy,” he said.

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