L&L Nursery Supply
is a manufacturer and distributor of lawn and garden products. In business more than 50 years, the company has more than 200 employees and annual sales of approximately $100 million. L&L has a combined warehouse capacity of more than 240,000 square feet, and maintains an inventory of more than 7,000 items.
L&L Nursery Supply has a long history of applying advanced technology to enhance internal operations and customer service. One strong example is the company's sales force automation software which was written in-house and used by L&L's 27 field sales reps.
L&L's sales force automation system was a desktop technology, and the reps transmitted orders overnight. With peak-season order volumes as high as 250 each day, the company wanted to streamline the process and expedite delivery with a mobile system.
"Our technology team is always looking for ways to support the reps and enable L&L to respond to changing business needs," said Bart Fornfeist, vice president of Sales and Marketing, L&L Nursery Supply. "It was just a natural evolution to make taking orders faster and easier with mobile computers," he added.
L&L adapted its desktop software for a mobile environment and planned a wireless sales force automation solution with the help of Motorola partner, MSA Systems
, based in Mountain Vie, Calif. L&L chose the rugged Motorola MC70
enterprise digital assistant for use by all of its field reps.
In selecting the MC70, Motorola's long-standing reputation and the rugged construction of the mobile computer were key factors according to Rick James, L&L's vice president of Technology. "The MC70s have been in use nearly a year, and we've had no issues with durability or reliability. The barcode scanner performs flawlessly," James says.
"The MC70's integrated barcode scanner made it an ideal fit for our needs," said Larry Tabert, System Administrator, L&L Nursery Supply. "The Motorola SDK helped us incorporate the scanner into our system, and we also took advantage of the MC70's additional memory capability. The MC70's processor speed is valuable because of the volumes of data it handles," Tabert added.
The reps like the light weight and compact size of the Motorola MC70, and it speeds order processing, according to Fornfeist. In the past, the reps had to input orders at the computer for several hours in the evening. Now they simply go to the customer site and scan the UPCs using the MC70.
"They can check inventory and see whether we carry an item," Fornfeist says. "They transmit the orders immediately to our facility and that definitely expedites shipping. When there are minor coverage issues in remote areas, the MC70 holds the order and the rep can transmit as soon as there is a signal," he explained.
In addition to scanning UPCs and sending orders, reps use the Motorola MC70 to access the L&L web site and locate product information. The L&L technology team also loaded the Google Maps application on the MC70 to help make reps' routes easier and more efficient.
L&L achieved ROI on its mobile system in approximately three months, according to James.
Using the Motorola MC70 increases order accuracy and can help increase sales. "By using the scanner, reps can be sure they aren't missing any items," Fornfeist said. "And if they see that an item the customer wants is not in inventory, they can look for an alternative and suggest a substitution while they are still at the customer site. In this way, our customer will not lose a sale and neither will L&L," he stated.
The new system has been well received by customers. It was introduced first at L&L's annual dealer show, the largest independent lawn and garden distributor trade show on the West Coast. "Our customers were very enthusiastic about it, and I know that seeing our reps using the MC70's is reinforcing the impression that they are dealing with a professional organization," Fornfeist said.
With immediate transmission of orders from the reps, L&L's turn-around and fill rates are better than ever, according to Fornfeist. A feature that the customers especially appreciate is rapid order confirmation. "The order comes in from the rep, it's processed, and an order confirmation goes out in about five minutes with all the pricing. It's sent byfax or email, based on the customer's preference," he explained.
"L&L's five-minute order confirmation is light years ahead of the competition," Fornfeist stated. The reps are set up to receive email on their MC70s, and they also get a copy of the order confirmation.
With the mobile system, the reps can work more quickly at the customer site, and each L&L rep is saving at least two hours a day previously spent inputting orders at the end of the day. "If you took away the MC70's now, for some reps it would be almost like taking away their arm. One rep said the system saved his marriage because he can spend time with his wife in the evenings," says Fornfeist.