Snack Food Manufacturer Enhances Customer Service and Sales Team Productivity With Microsoft Windows Mobile
Lance implements new mobile solution, increasing application capabilities for 1,400 salespeople.
REDMOND, Wash. — June 2008 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Lance Inc., a producer and distributor of snack foods in the United States, has implemented a new mobile solution powered by Windows Mobile and Apacheta Corp.’s RouteACE software. The solution is helping the company’s 1,400 direct-to-store delivery salespeople improve customer service, run their routes more efficiently, track and manage inventory, and access reports on demand.
Lance, based in Charlotte, N.C., needed a mobile application that it could deploy, change and support more efficiently. Its legacy mobile application was becoming more difficult to maintain, and the mobile handheld computers were failing more frequently. In particular, the process of synchronizing the devices to the company’s servers was too slow and was hurting sales team productivity.
“Device failure rates had been increasing for several years,” said Shawn Cherry, director of applications at Lance. “The business couldn’t tolerate it anymore. Our immediate objective was to eliminate the downtime due to failed devices — and fast.”
Lance selected Apacheta Corp.’s RouteACE direct store delivery software for its mobile application because of the integration it provided with Microsoft’s .NET Compact Framework.
“We already had experience using Microsoft .NET technology to develop desktop and server applications, and knew that Windows Mobile would enable us to take advantage of that same skill set,” Cherry said. “We also knew that Windows Mobile would enable us to choose from a broad range of applications.”
Throughout the southeast United States, Lance relies on its direct-to-store delivery model for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales. Its sales team members serve approximately 65,000 stores across 25 states. Sales members manage their own inventory and handle all tasks, from taking customer orders to making deliveries.
“With a direct-to-store delivery model, it’s important our sales team has the tools for complete visibility over their value chain to make on-the-spot sales promotion decisions,” said Mark Carter, vice president of Strategic Initiatives at Lance. “By increasing our investment in technology, we are able to meet customer needs more quickly and improve the level of service we provide our retail partners.”
The RouteACE mobile application and new handheld computers powered by Windows Mobile provide the sales team with the tools to accurately manage inventory, streamline delivery logistics, develop pricing models, place orders and run reports. The new solution also allows Lance to respond more quickly to changes in its business environment. By using Apacheta’s VisualACE Business Process Designer — an add-in tool for Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 — Lance is able to rapidly customize the RouteACE application, shrinking the time required to modify and deploy application changes across the work force from months to weeks or even days.
In addition, synchronization of the mobile devices is conducted wirelessly using Apacheta communications middleware. The data is stored in the Microsoft SQL Server CE 2.0 relational database running on the handheld computer, and is uploaded to the Web servers running Windows Server 2003 and Apacheta ServerACE software. The data is then kept in a database running Microsoft SQL Server 2005, which is connected to Lance’s enterprise resource planning solution.
“Device startup times are down to less than a minute, and synchronization times are at least 50 percent faster,” Cherry said. “Even over dial-up lines, the process takes only a few minutes. With the increased application responsiveness and new capabilities that our salespeople now enjoy, they can complete more stops per day.”
Lance has also received additional benefits from the new technology, including bar code scanning to track more than 300 stock-keeping units (SKUs) and certify the electronic interchange of data with 12 retailers — up from only two with the old mobile devices. Exchanging data electronically with retailers decreases the time salespeople need to spend at each store.
“In an industry where decisions are often made on the road to meet real-time customer demand, it’s important for employees to have access to accurate business data,” said George Taylor, director of U.S. consumer goods industry solutions at Microsoft. “By getting information streams into employees’ hands through mobile devices, companies like Lance are empowering their people to work together and make informed business decisions.”
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