Portable Printer A Sweet Solution For Route Deliveries
LuLu's Dessert Factory eliminates handwritten orders and speeds order processing with wireless, handheld devices and specialized order software.
What could sweeten an already successful business recipe for packaged dessert deliveries? For LuLu's Dessert Factory (Huntington Beach, CA), the answer was a streamlined route accounting process featuring a handheld, wireless thermal printer.
LuLu's Dessert Factory opened in 1982 in a 700-square-foot retail store. Using her mother's recipe, store owner Marie de Lourdes Sobrino (known as LuLu), made 300 cups of gelatin dessert every day. Gelatin desserts are popular in LuLu's native Mexico, and she hoped to develop a market for the product in the United States. LuLu's initial customers were mom-and-pop grocery stores in the Los Angeles area. Since its inception, the company has outgrown three locations. LuLu's will soon relocate to a 67,000-square-foot plant in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. The customer base has grown to include several national grocery chains, including Ralphs and Albertson's.
Paperwork No Treat For Delivery Drivers
The drivers who deliver LuLu's products are also responsible for stocking store shelves with the gelatin desserts. As a result, the drivers have little time to complete required paperwork. After the drivers returned to LuLu's headquarters, all handwritten orders had to be deciphered and manually entered into a computer. Hard-to-read handwriting and incomplete order information resulted in slow data entry and errors. Data entry clerks spent time collecting information, such as missing addresses and account numbers. Each clerk spent approximately three to four hours daily entering order data into the company's computerized accounting system.
"We wanted a computerized scanning system for our route truck deliveries," said Kathleen Yoshida, marketing administrative assistant for LuLu's Dessert Factory. "The system needed to eliminate handwritten orders and generate and track movement of product at customer sites." Yoshida spent six months researching various solutions. Systems integrator Data Recognition, Inc. (Irvine, CA) met Yoshida's requirements with a bundled solution featuring portable printers and handheld terminals. The system featured Symbol Technologies SPT 1500 handheld computer, which is compatible with the Palm Computing® platform from Data Recognition. The system runs on Take An Order! software from Stevens Creek Software (Cupertino, CA). Yoshida tested various mobile printers, choosing the Seiko Instruments DPU-3445 thermal printer to complete the system.
"We didn't want a large printer because it would be more difficult for the drivers to carry around," explained Yoshida. "The DPU-3445 receipt paper is small (just over four inches wide), and the printing is clear and easy to read, compared to other printers I tested."
LuLu's purchased six printers and six handheld devices - enough for the company's five drivers, plus a spare. The system, including printers, scanners, and software, cost just under $15,000. The company plans to add more printers and handheld devices to keep pace with its growth.
Handheld Computers Streamline Order Process
Using the Take An Order! software, everything the drivers need to complete orders is programmed into the Symbol SPT 1500 handheld computers, including details of individual accounts and all product and pricing information. A scan engine has a laser bar code unit embedded on top of the handheld devices. It enables drivers to scan quantities from individual pieces or cartons. Drivers can also select information from the built-in product list, price list, or address book. The Seiko Instruments DPU-3445 printer has cut the amount of time drivers spend dealing with paperwork to 10 hours a week.
Drivers use the portable thermal printer to generate hard copy invoices and receipts at customer sites. Copies are provided for both the driver and the customers. The system also prints reports and interfaces with popular accounting software. The new system also met Yoshida's goal of tracking drivers en route. With the system's ability to track product movement by account, LuLu's drivers can now recommend purchase quantities to their customers. Many customers do not determine order quantities until the delivery truck pulls up to their docks. Thirty new accounts have been added, without the need to hire additional drivers.
LuLu's is currently working on the final phase of implementation to automatically download invoices and receipt data into the company's central accounting system. Overall, the new solution has been termed a sweet success!
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