Cashing In On Package Tracking

SC Logic developed its own VAR channel from this pen-based computing installation at an Internet service provider.

How frustrated are you when your overnight delivery service loses one of your packages? Imagine how frustrating it would be to have that package lost within your own business – especially an expensive package.

UUNET (Fairfax, VA), an Internet service provider (ISP) division of MCI WorldCom, ran into this problem. The company was growing at such an alarming rate, it needed an automated system for tracking internal package delivery. "We went from a few hundred employees to more than 2,000 employees today, and that number continues to grow," said Frank Quinlin, UUNET's inventory manager.

UUNET receives anywhere from 200 to 300 packages on a given day. Since the company is an ISP, it receives huge packages containing 30 or 40 servers from companies like Dell or Compaq. These servers can cost up to $50,000 each. The end user also wanted to integrate signature capture to verify when employees received packages. According to Quinlin, requiring four employees to keep track of these packages with a pen and clipboard wasn't an efficient solution. Supply Chain Logic (Beltsville, MD) solved UUNET's in-house shipping problem by using products from Symbol Technologies, incorporating bar coding and a pen-based computing system.

Starting From Square One
Our relationship with Symbol got us in the door for this installation," explained Mike Saldi, SC Logic president. "Symbol sends prequalified leads each day to our SCL Direct division, which distributes Symbol products. Through one of these leads, UUNET purchased scanners from us, including Symbol's pen-based system, the SPT 1500. One of our company representatives had the foresight to ask why UUNET needed an SPT 1500. UUNET said it was going to develop a mail tracking system, to which our representative responded we could do that for UUNET as well."

UUNET acted as a beta site, so the end user worked closely with SC Logic to develop exactly what the solution needed to do. The end result was SCL Intra, a solution combining bar coding, handheld computers, and SC Logic's Intra software for package tracking. UUNET purchased the hardware, and SC Logic gave the company the software. The installation cost UUNET $7,000 and was finished in three months. "We actually began using the system within a week of setup and installation," Quinlin explained. "This system is simple to use."

What The System Does
With the SCL Intra solution, mail and packages are assigned an internal number and tracking label when they arrive. Each piece of mail and every package is affixed with a label printed on an Eltron Orion printer from Zebra Technologies (Vernon Hills, IL). Employees automatically receive e-mails telling them their packages have arrived. The numbers are assigned to the packages as they are taken to the recipients' desks. Recipients must sign for the packages, using the Symbol SPT 1500 pen-based computer. This computer captures the recipient's signature, as well as a date and time stamp of when the package was received. When the delivery is complete, the tracking system automatically updates the master computer and generates an accurate, up-to-the-minute report.

"This technology went over extremely well, since we were dealing with an Internet-savvy company," Saldi explained. "Employees appreciate getting e-mails alerting them that important packages arrived. E-mail notification and a browser network lookup are standard features of SCL Intra."

A Quick Return On Investment
Today, two employees handle internal package tracking, instead of the four employees needed with the manual system. "The system paid for itself in two months, simply based on the man hours we saved by eliminating the manual system," said Quinlin. "Package inquiries dropped from hundreds a week to only a few each week. We are now able to track package processing performance and delivery metrics that would have been unattainable without the Intra system."

VARs Welcome
The pilot installation at UUNET went so well that SC Logic was able to recruit its own VARs to sell the SCL Intra solution, starting last June. "Actually," said Saldi, "integrating the solution is easy. VARs give the value-add by customizing the systems they install. Networking and adding multiple stations is more complicated. We also don't directly lease our products, but our VARs can offer this payment solution if they choose. It's everything we can do right now to keep up with the inquiries."

Nancy Senger