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Industrial Products Distributor’s Paperless Advantage

Xora helps Graybar maintain a laser focus on customer service and driver productivity through electronic mobile data collection.

As warehouse supervisor at industrial products distributor Graybar, Willie Thornton’s main job is to ensure that customers receive everything they ordered on time. To do this, he relies on a team of 13 truck drivers, who deliver electrical and communications gear to contractors, service providers and companies around the country. He also uses frequent communication to keep up with the steady flow of transactions and deliveries; at least 20 times a day, a customer calls him to inquire about the status of their orders.

“Things are looking pretty good for this year but we’re just trying to grow sales right now,” says Thornton, expressing familiar sentiments are these days, as many companies are having to work harder than ever to build their businesses back to pre-2008 revenue streams.

Graybar, a Fortune 500 company based in St. Louis that provides supply chain logistics and sells hundreds of thousands of products, finished 2010 at $4.6 billion in revenues, a 5.4% increase over 2009, but still well short of 2008 revenues of $5.4 billion. Growing sales requires a laser focus on customer service and productivity.

Faster answers for customers
The Xora mobile enterprise software application has helped Graybar transition from paper timesheets and activity reports to the electronic capture of data on field workers’ mobile phones. This gives Thornton and other managers real-time capabilities for customer and delivery updates, since the cell phones automatically collect time and location data for each stop a driver makes, which is then streamed wirelessly to the Xora web management application. When customers call for delivery status, Thornton can look in Xora, which integrates with Google Maps, to view near real-time locations of drivers and provide customers with an accurate estimated time of arrival. Previously, service reps only knew when shipments left their warehouses. “I had to call the driver, which might make him lose focus on the road,” Thornton says. “This is safer and faster.”

Graybar has also integrated Xora with its SAP system to capture delivery data. Customer service reps can look up an account and see who signed for the materials and the time and date of the delivery, improving customer confidence.

Photo proof of delivery
An often-used Xora feature at Graybar is JobPix, which provides photo proof-of-delivery by attaching an image to the job record. Once a customer accepts a shipment, the driver uses the cell phone’s camera to capture a photo of the signed packing slip and the delivered goods. “Before, customers would only have a signature as proof of delivery,” Thornton explains. “Xora gives them a visual to see the actual product that was delivered.”

Managers can view the same images in Xora later to double check that the customer received the correct shipment. “Our customers really appreciate this as they can see what actually arrived,” Thornton says. “It eliminates the ‘he said, she said,’ conversations.

“Having comprehensive electronic delivery records also helps Graybar negotiate customer contracts based on performance and gives accounting staff more information, in the case of invoice discrepancies,” adds Thornton.

Electronic time tracking
All of Graybar’s delivery drivers now use Xora to record the start and end of their shifts and deliveries on their cell phones. These times are all location-stamped, which offers
a high level of accountability across the fleet and has reduced overtime. If accounting personnel need to verify a driver’s hours, they no longer need to search through file drawers for the paper time sheets, but can simply check Xora from any PC or from their mobile phone. This saves time and reduces invoicing errors for Graybar customers, according to Thornton.

Driving competitive advantage
Graybar’s innovative use of Xora and its JobPix feature was recognized as one of the 20 Great Ideas of 2007 by InformationWeek. Graybar also believes that the Xora system provides a unique competitive advantage. In fact, the company markets the system’s benefits directly to its customers under the name “Graybar Delivery Advantage”.

“The Xora deployment has been an absolute success story for Graybar,” says Dennis Grousosky, the company’s VP of Service & Administration. “We’ve significantly cut overtime, saved on administrative costs and reduced data errors. More importantly, customers are clearly more satisfied with the service they are receiving from us. The value Xora provides far outweighs its cost.”

“Before, customers would only have a signature as proof of delivery. Xora gives them a visual to see the actual product that was delivered.”

Willie Thornton, Warehouse Supervisor, Graybar