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Tech Talk: Mobile Platform Delivers for Furniture Co.
Posted By Elizabeth Wasserman On July 1, 2009 @ 12:00 am In Mobility Tips and Tricks | No Comments
Homeworks, the upscale furniture chain that does business as Arhaus, is based on the outskirts of Cleveland and has expanded into 12 states with 30 stores. During this period of growth, the dispatch staff shrunk from six to three full-time employees and the company was able to more accurately provide customers with delivery times due to the use of software to help manage delivery trucks and staff in the field, John Roddy, Arhaus’ vice president of logistics, tells IncTechnology.com.
Elizabeth Wasserman: What was the logistics operation like when you started at Arhaus?
John Roddy: I started as the chief logistics officer 10 years ago. We had about 12 stores in four states. We had six full-time employees in dispatch routing about 12 drivers to deliver our furniture.
Wasserman: How has technology helped you manage growth?
Roddy: We invested in TOA Technologies’ mobile workforce management software a few years ago, and that has done quite a few things for us. It’s helped us reduce staffing in the dispatch office — we currently have 2.5 full-time dispatchers and one router. And we’ve gotten better at providing service. We communicate with the customer quicker. We make about 4,000 deliveries per month. That’s a lot of phone calls we have to make to set up deliveries. On a nightly basis, our software makes an automated two-minute phone call per customer informing then of the expected delivery time. It also gives them the option to speak with a human if they would like to. Externally, on the road with our drivers, it lets us keep track of them without using a GPS solution. The drivers punch into a phone the start time with the customer and punch in the finish time. We started adding more delivery times to the drivers. We went from 10 to 12 stops per delivery truck up to 14 to 16 per day. This gives us a significant advantage in the industry. It’s helped us reduce costs. It can help us provide better information to our clients — for example: if a driver is running late we can let customers know. And we make sure our drivers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Wasserman: How does the software work?
Roddy: It’s primarily a Web-based system. My IT department’s involvement has been very minimal, from four to eight hours total and that involved building a communication bridge from out system to the TOA system. The software makes automated calls. It sounds like a real human being and they go over the exact address and exact product that is being delivered. For our drivers, they use a cell phone to enter their information about where they are and when they have finished with a customer.
Wasserman: What have the results been?
Roddy: We’ve had some significant savings and our customer service has been enhanced. In the furniture industry, on time is measured if you ordered from us and we said we would deliver sometime between 12 and 2 p.m. We were running in the low 80 percentage of on-time deliveries. We currently average 96-98 percent of actually delivering to the customer at the right time. We’ve actually been able to reduce the number of days we deliver each week from six down to four or five days per week. Even when sales go through the roof, we’re now typically on a four-day delivery schedule.
Wasserman: One of the most annoying things about ordering furniture is having to wait all day for a delivery. How has the software impacted your ability to give customers a window of time for delivery?
Roddy: Just before I started here, my wife had ordered some furniture and they ran about seven and a half hours late. She wound up spending the entire day at home. So I know how annoying that can be. At Arhaus, they had a four-hour window when I first stared. But in today’s environment, when both parents are often working, it was crazy to offer a four-hour delivery window. Our window is now two hours and I’m getting even more aggressive with it in certain markets, much to the chagrin of my fleet manager. We’ve been playing with a one-hour window in the Cleveland market. In Washington, D.C. we have two hours. In Chicago we have two hours. In Boston we have two hours. In the furniture industry, I don’t think anyone else is offering that in those markets.
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