On any given day, Placerville, Calif.–based Delta Drywall has 20 “patch men” field service workers on the road selling, delivering, installing, and maintaining drywall at production builder jobsites in and around Sacramento, Calif. Like most construction suppliers, Delta's ability to locate and deploy field employees efficiently is critical to maintaining productivity and providing superior customer service. But there's an added twist in this supplier's case: Delta's dispatch challenge is compounded by the fact that roughly one-third of the field workers' daily stops are unscheduled.
“No one likes to be pulled off a job to spend 45 minutes in traffic, only to find out he had a colleague who was closer to the customer's location,” explains Delta president Brian Tlustosch. After considering several options in March 2003,Tlustosch outfitted part of his field team with Nextel-enabled wireless phones with Direct Connect digital walkie-talkie service. A common productivity solution, sure, but the phones Delta's patch men picked up boasted advanced functionality: They were loaded with the GPS TimeTrack system from Xora, a global positioning system and mobile solutions firm in Mountain View, Calif.
“All of the phones that we sell today and moving forward will have GPS built into them,” says Daryl Newman, construction division president for Reston, Va.–based Nextel. “From a construction perspective, when you talk about productivity, we have applications from turn-by-turn driving directions to geo-coding tasks, hours [tracking], assets, employees, trucks, you name it.”
On the heels of taking its Direct Connect service nationwide last summer, Nextel is providing a host of new phone technologies tailored to the frenetic pace of dealer sales, delivery, and install efforts. In addition to GPS, Nextel also has launched a wireless POS system that allows field employees to swipe credit cards via a small peripheral attached to their phone. Creditel Powerswipe transmits encrypted POS information to a pre-existing merchant account, or it can be used to set up a new merchant account. Dealers also can outfit the system with a mobile printer to leave receipts.
“In the construction space, the benefit of both of the [GPS and POS] applications is that you get to the next job faster,” Newman says. “And the more jobs that truck delivers, the more money a dealer is making. That's part of the biggest return.”
Tlustosch couldn't agree more. He's currently using Nextel's Xora GPS system to access Internet-based maps to provide real-time reporting that includes tracking hours on the job, hours in transit, and average and current speed. “In the construction business, profit margins are very slim, so it is difficult for a company to reduce prices as a competitive differentiator,” he says. “Instead, it is customer service that stands out. If we can reduce response time by just 15 minutes, customers will recognize and appreciate the effort.”