Italian Coop Chain Sees ROI on Container-Tracking System

MONZA and TREZZANO SUL NAVIGLIO, Italy -- Italian cooperative supermarket chain Conad del Tirreno said it is seeing returns on its investment in a mobile computing solution for more efficiently managing delivery containers from its warehouses to its stores.

The solution, developed by Italian retail technology provider DSM using the Symbol MC9060 mobile computer, enables Conad del Tirreno to record the movements of all its containers in a central database in real time, which can be reconciled with each sales outlet.

Conad del Tirreno's fleet of 300 trucks transports thousands of containers on a daily basis between central warehouses and sales stores. In the past, the company did not have a specific tool for managing the delivery and collection of the containers, leaving it unable to properly account for them. This led to disputes with store owners over the high number of missing containers, which translated to losses on Conad del Tirreno's financial statements.

With the new system, the database of containers interfaces with the terminals used by the truck drivers through a thin Web client with the functionality of a browser. At the moment of delivering the containers, both the driver and the sales outlet manager input the number of containers and validate the transaction with their unique PINs. This activates the synchronization with the centralized database through a GPRS or GSM connection (depending on availability). If the network is not available, the data is memorized by the terminal, which then automatically performs the synchronization as soon as a signal is available in the area. The amount of data transmitted is so small that the transaction takes place in a few seconds, even when only the GSM network is available.

The entire investment paid for itself within 18 months of implementation, and also provides incidental advantages created by the potential of using the Symbol mobile computer for other applications, the company said.

"After an initial period of fine-tuning its functions and ironing out the inevitable problems associated with any newborn system, the application developed by DSM has responded perfectly to our needs and has shown itself -- along with the Symbol mobile computer -- to be able to withstand intensive use, with several hundred transactions a day, seven days a week," said Riccardo Ciuti, head of IT infrastructure at Conad del Tirreno.
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