Handheld Technology ROI

Mark Canes

Book distributor Foundation Distributing Inc. recently implemented a pack verification system.  It makes use of handheld devices to scan items that have already been picked in a separate process, and verify them against the order being packed.

Foundation’s president, Pat Chown, shared some feedback from his customers with me. Firstly, 100% of customer feedback has been positive since the system was put in place. Packing errors, both actual and perceived, have virtually ceased altogether. The italicized words in the previous sentence provide food for thought, because the one benefit is obvious, but the other less so.

It’s a given that a properly implemented system, which scans items and compares them with the order, should virtually eliminate any errors in the packing process. Yet there’s a less obvious, but no less valuable, benefit. And that’s the elimination of costly extra shipments due to customer error on the receiving end.

Pat shared the story of a customer reporting a short shipment after pack verification had been implemented. The folks at Foundation reviewed the order and determined that they had, in fact, packed what was ordered, and could prove it via the system. The customer consequently determined that the items had been received after all, but had been mishandled at their end.

In the past, Foundation would have simply shipped the apparently short items at their own expense. It makes me wonder how many other distributors out there dispatch unnecessary “make-up” shipments under similar circumstances.

Foundation’s experienced a healthy ROI on this technology implementation. And that’s consistent with the company’s technology investment in the 11 years I’ve been dealing with them. That’s because Pat has a vision of how technology can be implemented as a strategic asset, and he’s always very clear about the objectives of any technology investment.  A small number of measurable objectives is preferable to a large laundry list of non-quantifiable “wishlist” items.