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Issue of July 2006 
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Mobile Enterprise

Accessing applications on the move

Whether it is offering superior customer service or sales force automation, mobile devices have gained widespread acceptance. We present case studies of four organisations where mobile-enabled applications are taking centrestage

Cafe Coffee Day

Café Coffee Day serves its customers not only with a smile but also with handhelds.

Outlets of Café Coffee Day (CCD), a division of Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company, are well known for the coffee they serve. Waiters at many CCD outlets take orders using smart handheld devices (SHD) which let them find if a particular item is available, place the order and beam the same to the kitchen over a Wi-Fi network. This has reduced the order-taking time and incidents of mix-ups related to orders.

The pilot project started in January 2004, after the development and testing of the handhelds. Implementation started from February 2005 and has covered 170 of their 306 outlets.

SHD = Service


Siva Prasad N V

Siva Prasad N V, GM, MIS, the person behind the idea says, “I visualised the concept of using SHDs in 2002 to give better customer service as I found that sometimes there would be delays in taking order or giving bills to the customers. We wanted to bridge these lapses with technology.”

Earlier a waiter would move about eight to nine times from the table to the counter for taking the order, picking and delivering the order and providing the bill. “This also made the staff weary as they were moving frequently. Now with the help of handhelds the staff can offer better service,” says Prasad. On an average about 600 to 700 customers visit a CCD outlet daily.

SHDs have also enabled CCD manage staff efficiently by decreasing the number of waiters. Earlier at least four people were needed to serve for 20 tables but now a single waiter can attend to 20 tables simultaneously as he only has to punch the order and deliver it.

Prasad says, “This has also increased revenues and sales as now we can attend to more customers with fewer people.”

At present CCD uses 370 SHDs across India with plans to increase it to 900. There are plans to use handhelds in all outlets across India.

The SHD Menu
The main components of the retail automation system at the CCD outlet are as below:
  • Report Printer
  • Wi-Fi Access Point
  • Bar-code scanner
  • GPRS/CDMA Modem
  • KOT printer
  • KOT completion entry device
  • Reader/writer

Just punch it

Once a customer places the order, the waiter punches the order along with the table number on the PDA, at this time he also comes to know availability of that particular item. “Sometimes the customers want the food to be served first followed by coffee later. This priority can also be set up on the handheld,” he adds.

Once the waiter has punched the order, the kitchen order ticket (KOT) will receive it on the printer with a unique KOT number and then the preparation starts. When the order is ready, the kitchen will send a message to the waiter with the help of a KOT confirmation device. The waiter will receive the message on his handheld and he has to move just once to the counter to collect the order. For the customer’s convenience, the bill is given after every order which can be paid anytime. The handhelds can be used to accept credit cards on the table itself.

CCD wants to follow a service-driven model and not one of self-service. “A service like this can differentiate us from the competition,” he adds.

The backbone of the system

Located at the CCD outlet, the back-end system is the backbone for an outlet’s operations. On the one hand, the back-end system connects to the central processing host through GPRS/CDMA (General Packet Radio Service/Code Division Multiple Access) while on the other it controls and manages wireless handheld terminals on a wireless LAN. The back-end system runs on Linux. The handhelds run their own operating systems and come with a built-in printer and smart card reader.

The KOT confirmation device has been designed by the CCD IT team and developed by Pace Automation. The handhelds, Nurit 8010, are manufactured by Lipman, an Israeli company, and marketed by ICICI.

Pace automation, the service provider for the SHDs also maintains the data centre and develops applications for the SHDs. Application changes are done remotely by them and damaged handhelds are replaced by Cellsmart India.

Internally, the back-end system application software consists of modules that take care of KOT, Goods Receipt Note (GRN) updates, loyalty programme, configuration, database, local reports and staff management. The back-end system provides access to stored and processed data and helps view transaction details.

Unique initiative

Customers visiting CCD are appreciating the SHD concept as the service level has improved and they no longer have to wait to place an order or make a payment. The uniqueness of the system is generating curiosity among the customers. “Some of the customers are also planning to use similar products for their workplaces like restaurants,” says Prasad. He adds that over the next three years CCD would be spending Rs 3 crore on the SHDs.

Vinita Gupta


Sumul deploys wireless handhelds

A mobile Animal Information System is being deployed at Sumul. This unique system will help veterinary doctors on the move operate wireless handhelds to convey accurate animal data statistics. It will also support inventory and material management.


Satyen Naik

Satyen Naik, the Deputy Manager (ISD), Sumul (Surat District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union Limited) was facing the challenge of streamlining and improving Sumul’s business processes and decision-making performance. Sumul developed and installed an AIS (Animal Information System), which keeps track of transactions related to cattle and their well-being that may contribute to augmenting milk production and solving business problems. Veterinary doctors are often on the move. Using this system they can operate through their respective handhelds.

Sumul is one among the 12 unions of GCMMF (Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation or Amul).

Live for the livestock trade

Naik states, “The AIS is the first of its kind in India wherein, we tag a unique ID to each animal. We have about four lakh animals and so far we have tagged about half of them. Once the tagging is over we enter the information in our database.”

The data collected includes houseload information followed by the family history of the animal with milk procurement details, statistics, and health information. The collection of information is done by 44 veterinary doctors on 28 routes. The doctors serve 2,50,000 farmers approximately within an area of 7,745 square kilometres in Surat district. Over three lakh records are generated every year.

The objective

The primary objective of the project was to ensure that milk production forecasts could be made as well as procure maximum milk from each animal. The milk procurement process is directly related to the health and well-being of cattle

Sumul’s business is to procure milk. Hence the organisation wanted accurate information on animal health and milk produced by individual animals along with health records. Naik says, “The primary objective of the project was to ensure that milk production forecasts could be made as well as procure maximum milk from each animal. The milk procurement process is directly related to the health and well-being of cattle. To maintain consistent disease-free zones and milk production, we must have the correct historical data of the cattle.” The project is expected to be fully operational by December 2007.

Automating the information process

The project deployment and implementation was initialised about one year back and is still underway. The AIS process flows as follows:

The handheld is loaded with the Herdman software which is operated by veterinary doctors to maintain records. When a vet attends a sick animal, he refers to the history of that particular animal and accordingly prescribes suitable treatment. The doctor then enters his prescription and medical data in the palmtop.

Using General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), the handheld connects to the central database. The data is stored for the AIS. It also helps the organisation in maintaining an inventory of the medicine based on demand and need.

The AIS is also connected to the GIS (Geographical Information System) customised and modified specifically for Sumul. The GIS in turn is connected to Sumul’s central database that runs on Oracle. This contributes to faster query response over a large geographical output. With the deployment and implementation in place, Sumul can now predict any major disease and analyse milk procurement better and faster.

The handhelds chosen are from Toshiba (Intel PXA 261-300 MHz with 64 MB RAM). The database on the handheld is Microsoft Access with Oracle running at the back-end. Sumul decided to procure the Herdman software from vendors since it sufficed various cattle management criteria. Installation, deployment, implementation and training were done in-house by Sumul.

The deployment at Sumul is an ideal case of cross-functional and inter-departmental co-operation within a co-operative. The entire veterinary department right from Sumul’s AGM to the doctors and animal attendants were involved in the project implementation. Sumul’s Information System division was responsible for setup, installation and configuration of the various hardware and software involved.

Training

The handheld users were veterinary doctors who were unfamiliar with computer operations and applications. To tackle this problem, Sumul decided to slowly familiarise and train the doctors on using Windows operating system environments

The handheld users were veterinary doctors who were unfamiliar with computer operations and applications. To tackle this problem Sumul decided to slowly familiarise and train the doctors on using Windows operating system environments.

The objective was to gradually guide them to applied software data entry skills. The training would then shift to handheld navigation and operation.

Benefits and ROI

The immediate benefits observed by Sumul were medicine inventory management and control. The inventory and material management department could track accurate medicine consumption from the medical stores to the basic village level consumption.

Post-AIS implementation, Sumul will be able to generate many MIS reports precisely based on statistics and defined parameters. These include parameters such as travelling details, cost involved per case, cost per doctor, revenue income and expenditures, total number of cases handled periodically and frequency of critical cases.

Sumul decided that ROI be measured on parameters such as reduction in vehicle usage in kilometres, control on disease, precise forecast of milk procurement and accuracy of the doctor’s decision. The deployment and IT concerns are taken care of by the in-house team.

The Roadmap

Post-deployment, Sumul plans to bring every milking animal and producer under their recording and monitoring preview. The plans also include disease-free zones and health care prevention with customer service and grievances control through the deployed IT infrastructure.

Sumul’s vision stands to improve the overall income and development of Surat district. The AIS is an innovative example of cooperatives accepting technology and IT solutions to add value to their initiatives.

Dominic K


Field staff get a mobile advantage

By providing data through the ubiquitous cellphone, Sun Pharma has enabled its sales force to concentrate on selling.


Amit Sheth

Sun Pharma is implementing a project as part of which its sales staff is being provided with handhelds to enable them access data and run some ERP applications. Amit Sheth, Head, IT, Sun Pharma, explains that the need for handhelds was a technological and business necessity for his organisation. From a business perspective, the workforce had to be empowered with devices that would not be limited to or constrained by time or location. This called for the use of cellular phones as against PDAs. The company introduced these some months ago.

Says Sheth, “We had a lot of choices, but we finally settled for cellular phones”. He states that cell phones were eminently suitable for the kind of applications the company wanted to use. He adds, “Employees can also communicate easily with each other at the lowest possible costs”.

The marketing staff at Sun Pharmaceuticals, as in most pharma companies, is often out on the field and therefore they are the ones in the organisation to use mobile applications.

Vetting the options

Sun Pharma needed to make sure that the cellular phones they were going to use were good on both hardware and software fronts. They also had to make sure that the network provided was good. “This way we made sure that there was no need to negotiate with multiple service providers,” says Sheth.

Talking about the software part, he says that memory available on the devices was of great importance because of the data and various applications that were to run on them. The phones had to run Java and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS).

Sheth says, “You need a lot of testing to be done before deciding on an investment like this. Cell phones are capital-oriented and you cannot easily switch to a different device once you have settled for one model.” Application tuning and tweaking, data uploads and downloads were some of the tests that the organisation conducted before deciding that Nokia phones would be the best choice.

No race against time

“Once you set out on a project of this nature, you do have some sort of timeline in mind, but then it is no Holy Grail,” says Sheth as he talks about how the rollout of a good implementation is the primary consideration. According to him, the implementation is important because it will prevent human or technical errors in the long run.

It took roughly around a year and a quarter from the project’s start in December 2004/January 2005 to deploy the system. Due to the organisation’s pan-Indian coverage, they decided to go ahead with a phased timeline.

The implementation started with the local sales force being covered. After completing this phase, the implementation moved on to nearby locations. Currently the nation-wide implementation is in progress

For this, the implementation started with the local sales force being covered. After completing this phase, the implementation moved on to nearby locations. Currently the nation-wide implementation is in progress.

“Another reason for the phased implementation was the constantly increasing number of users,” Sheth adds. He says that there is no defined finish date to the project because of the continuous feedback and therefore the modifications that are being done. “We keep our projects quite open that way,” he adds.

Challenges galore

Sheth says that the organisation faced quite a few challenges as part of the ongoing implementation. He feels that the first foreseeable challenge is to keep up the momentum with the introduction of applications for the sales force.

Today the sales force finds more time to concentrate on core job functions such as meeting doctors, exchanging information with them and rolling out information from the corporate office to the head office instead of being dragged down by bureaucratic work

“You can’t expose a sales person to an overdose of applications on his cell phone. This takes their focus away from their core job,” says Sheth. This was due to the belief that the company needs to make life easier for its sales force rather than subject it to typical bureaucratic jobs like filing manual reports.

Security has been an equally big challenge. “There have been a lot of instances of mishandled phones. Sometimes cell phones have also been stolen.” He says that this is of great concern and called for changes in the security policy, which were duly made.

Lastly, he says that though the project timeline is flexible, there is the urge to cover the entire country in the shortest period possible.

Bagful of benefits

In spite of being up against numerous challenges, Sun Pharma seems to have garnered its share of benefits from the implementation. Says Sheth, “The investments made were only on mobile phones, the software and applications to be deployed. There was no extra spend on infrastructure.”

Today the sales force finds more time to concentrate on core job functions such as meeting doctors, exchanging information with them and rolling out information from the corporate office to the head office instead of being dragged down by bureaucratic work. Pointing out another benefit of the implementation, Sheth states that sales force automation and daily reporting happen through the use of cell phones. This has helped speed up work. All the backend server applications (which are based on the J2EE framework) are part of the in-house developed ERP system.

He takes the list of benefits further saying that the use of cell phones instead of eating into the laptop/notebook usage has complemented it. He also states that the phased timeline has been beneficial in its own way. “Because of the phases, the training time for users has gone down considerably and the implementation does not interfere in the core business process.”

What the future holds

Sheth feels that handhelds have been introduced in the market from time to time and till date there are newer makes and models of these devices being introduced. He thinks that the applications on these cell phones and other handhelds are important and make usability much higher than yesteryears.

To make a final comment on the future of handhelds in India, Sheth says, “The day is not far when these devices will surely cut down the usage of notebooks if not eliminate them completely.” This, he says, is because of the amount and kind of fast work they allow users to do.

– Rishiraj Verma


No more queues at Pantaloon

By implementing a mobile queue-busting system, Pantaloon Retail (India) has been able to streamline its store operations and improve customer satisfaction


Chinar Deshpande

Pantaloon’s management faced a unique problem—most of the time consumers’ complained of big queues which made them wait for long hours when ready to pay. It was hence essential to find out innovative and creative ways to make the shopping experience more convenient and delightful for customers. This resulted in the implementation of a full-transaction queue-busting solution with mobile checkouts.

With the deployment of the queue-busting system, Pantaloon expected the store’s customer satisfaction levels to go up since waiting time would decrease ensuring lesser shopping time. “This usually results in consumers buying more goods and increasing the store’s turnover. The other objective of the deployment was to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty by adding a touch of shopping delight,” says Chinar Deshpande, CIO, Pantaloon.

Started in April 2005, the project was completed within a month. Achieving these objectives naturally led to higher profits, improved inventory and reduced labour costs, besides providing a competitive edge.

Operational Process

Pantaloon proceeded with the transactions using handheld devices like PT 40 scanners and a handy terminal. PT 40 is compact—almost the size of a cell phone with an integrated bar code laser.

The device weighs approximately 119 grams and can store up to 2 MB of data memory. It can support task-switching of up to four applications (on an average). It also comes with a program generator to develop Windows-based applications. Servers running Windows were deployed at the backend.

The scanners would read the bar codes on consumer goods and convert the information to text files. This data gets stored in the handheld device. Later when the customer is finished with the shopping, the data stored in the handheld scanner will get transferred to the cash tills after it is docked to the POS.

This contributed in saving time and energy for the customers and the customer care executives at the billing desk. The customer only had to pay his bills and move on to the exit

This contributed in saving time and energy for the customers and the customer care executives at the billing desk. The customer only had to pay his bills and move on to the exit. “Investments that save time for customers are repaid many times over by generating repeat visits, increased sales and strengthened customer loyalty,” says Deshpande.

The deployment was initiated by distributing the responsibilities among various departments. “IT was involved with the overall implementation, installation and deployment followed by training of end users. Pantaloon’s operations team defined the various processes involved and documented the same. Finally cashiers were allotted the responsibility of using the handheld scanners,” says Deshpande.

Post-Implementation

By implementing mobile queue busting systems Pantaloon was able to streamline its store operations and improve customer satisfaction. It was also able to get the store floor workforce more productive and obtain rapid return on investment over a period of time.

Pantaloon could maximise its revenue opportunities in various ways. First and foremost, transaction, authorisation and processing times were drastically reduced. The final and most important objective for a retail outlet was to enhance the brand image, which was also achieved with this implementation.

“The management and consumers are happy and delighted by the overall image make-over and shopping experience post-implementation. The employees could also achieve more in less time,” says Deshpande.

— Dominic K

 
     
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