Customers often begin discussions with us on mobile solutions by stating that they want to track resources and measure the productivity of mobile field and distribution workers.  The first thing we have to address with the customer when discussing Descartes’ mobile resource management solutions is whether they want a driver- interactive or a driver-passive solution.  Often this results in a pause in the conversation.  It is not a trivial decision. 

Driver-passive solutions, which are typically wired to a truck, are not dependent on the driver participation or cooperation (so long as they don’t tamper with the box) to work.  This is a very attractive option to many organizations because it simplifies deployment considerations and avoids the hassles involved with coaching drivers.   The downside, however, is that passive systems are not quite as accurate for areas such as stop statuses because they have to use machine interpretation of the GPS position relative to the expected stop to know when a driver has actually arrived at a stop. In dense delivery areas or in new construction areas where address quality is not as accurate, the accuracy issue is most pronounced.  This complicates real-time status tracking, planned versus actual and key performance indicator (KPI) reporting.  If a driver performs a gesture on a device indicating they have arrived at a particular location, the interpretation is eliminated; and the accuracy of planned versus actual analysis goes up.

In contrast, the driver-active or driver interactive solutions open up the possibility of: signature capture for proof of delivery or service, barcode scanning of items picked up or delivered, imaging, and systematic data capture of useful information the driver encounters.  Examples of such systematic data capture might include vehicle inspection data, good damage descriptions, cases delivered, and on-site customer satisfaction survey to name a few.  The possibilities, for the type of data that can be collected on a mobile device to support sales, service, and distribution business processes, are practically endless. The driver-active or driver interactive approach to mobile resource management is also an opportunity to define and implement work standards and procedures that can improve overall efficiency.

Ultimately the decision of what the right solution is for one’s mobile resource management depends on the business objectives for the mobile project.  Sometimes, it may just be that a hybrid solution, one which combines elements of both the driver-passive and driver-active approach.

Written by Ken Wood

Executive Vice President, Product Strategy at Descartes