Everything in hand
A new handheld device featuring an app developed in-house by DACHSER provides the company’s drivers with a comprehensive assistance system that guides them intuitively and reliably through all the logistics processes for short-distance transports.
It looks a little like a normal mobile phone—albeit one of the sturdier ones you might use for outdoor activities—but as far as short-distance transport logistics are concerned, the device is nothing less than a technological revolution. Introducing the Short-distance Assistance Mobile, or SAM for short. In keeping with the age of digitalization and app technologies, DACHSER has developed a new assistance system to support local transport drivers. Set to be rolled out across Europe in less than two years, it will replace Nahverkehr-Online (NVO), the mobile communication tool used for short-distance transport to date.
The termination of support and updates to the Windows CE operating system that NVO runs on was just one of the reasons behind the decision to redesign the handheld device’s software and hardware. “It was the right time to switch to a new system. We had just analyzed and redefined the entire short-distance transport system and its processes as part of the Idea2net project Short Distance 2.0. The introduction of a new generation of devices marks a further milestone in our digitalization journey,” explains Thomas Schmalz, Head of Production Management at DACHSER. He and Eva-Maria Marcour, Head of Systems Management TMS & Operations, set the wheels in motion for the Europe-wide switch to the new devices and system. A total of 8,823 devices in use at 144 facilities across Europe are due to be replaced by September 2021.
Maximum flexibility in short-distance transport
“Switching to a new generation of devices and to the Android mobile operating system paves the way for future developments in mobile computing,” says Thomas Herkommer, Department Head TMS Road at DACHSER. This provides the long-term security of being able to update software and apps. “It gives us maximum flexibility planning certainty regarding future requirements for mobile digital solutions,” he adds.
Compared to the current devices, SAM offers a whole host of new features to make life easier for drivers, branches, and also customers. Topping the list is the device’s intuitive operation. “You don’t need a manual to understand and use SAM. All the functions are self-explanatory and available in the languages spoken at DACHSER,” explains Dominik Schnatterer, Department Head Production Processes & Development.
SAM offers an impressive list of advantages: the new handhelds are at the cutting edge of mobile technology, the scanning function has been significantly improved, and there is an integrated telephone function. The system also provides for optimized, digital handling of packing aids. “Drivers can now record packing aid discrepancies digitally for the first time. This means that discrepancies in the packing-aid exchange can be processed paperlessly, which makes life much, much easier for everyone involved,” Schnatterer explains.
“The introduction of a new generation of devices marks a further milestone in our digitalization journey.” Thomas Schmalz, Head of Production Management at DACHSER
More and more hands-on benefits for drivers DACHSER will continue to refine the system and add new functions. Release 2 will roll out even more hands-on benefits for drivers, including a photo function for documenting any damage to shipments or the accompanying documents, integrated navigation, and a translation function. And a chat feature will let drivers communicate with their branch office.
To develop SAM at DACHSER, IT and short-distance transport experts worked in close collaboration with the branches and drivers. “We were all as open and honest as possible with each other in our communication and worked together on the closely intertwined steps—or in many cases leaps—toward the innovative product, and that’s what enabled us to develop and roll out SAM in such a short time. It’s not often you get such a powerful driving force behind an innovation as complex as this,” Schnatterer says, pleased.
“We designed SAM with the drivers in mind at all times, so we rode with them and shadowed them on their routes to gain an understanding of their perspective,” Schnatterer continues. Learning from everyday practice to benefit everyday practice was the name of the game. “It was important for us to really get to know the users and incorporate their experiences with the latest communication technology,” he explains. “What you learn from using apps on a smartphone every day helps make it easy to operate the devices at work.”
Step-by-step rollout across the European network
For technical and organizational reasons, rolling out the devices and system across Europe involves more than the tap of a button—it calls for a step-by-step approach. DACHSER tested the first application on the new handheld device at its Öhringen and Bad Salzuflen facilities in Germany in May 2019. The findings were incorporated into the first SAM version, which went into pilot operation at the German branches of Langenau and Hof and the French branch of Niort in October 2019. Rollout and replacement of the devices have been in full swing since May this year.
“Until SAM has arrived at every last branch, we’re having to operate the SAM and NVO systems in parallel without compromising quality,” Schmalz says. The consistently positive feedback from drivers and the branches proves that this approach was the right one, he explains. “And that’s reason enough to be proud of what we’ve achieved.”