D.H. Pace expects big ROI from wireless project

The door installer company anticipates cutting its order cycle from 13 days to one

A $3 million wireless field service and warehousing project begun recently at national door installer D.H. Pace Co. promises to bring a return on investment in two years because of efficiencies, including elimination of paper orders.

D.H. Pace in North Kansas City, Mo., has successfully completed the first of three phases of the project, valued at $650,000, to provide GPS capability to dispatchers for helping track trucks making installations, said Chris Mann, senior vice president of business systems at D.H. Pace last week.

The second phase, now being deployed, equips warehouse employees with Motorola MC9090-G ruggedized handhelds in 24 locations nationally, allowing them to scan bar codes and connect to inventory data over a wireless LAN, he said. Valued at $500,000, the warehouse deployment includes Motorola WS5100 wireless switches and Wireless Next-Generation software to centrally manage all of the wireless access points.

In the third phase, which is now being tested with 10 truck drivers, about 300 drivers will soon be equipped with Motorola MC70 ruggedized handhelds to access and update orders wirelessly, via cellular or Wi-Fi networks, Mann said. By eliminating paper now used in fulfilling orders, D.H. Pace hopes to reduce a 13-day order cycle down to a single day. In all, the field force MC70 deployment will cost about $1.9 million.

Mann said he has rolled out the project in "small incremental pieces, instead of a big bang, to take time to do it right," including allowing time for training on various technologies and procedures. "These projects can be big, and the scope can get out of control quickly, so you have to have the appropriate business people involved to make good decisions."

The GPS phase of the project was provided with software from CompassCom Software Corp. in Centennial, Colo., and in-truck modems from AirLink Communications Inc. in Hayward, Calif., but the remaining two phases rely primarily on Motorola products, Mann noted.

"We chose Motorola because we could buy almost everything from them, including Wi-Fi, remote management software and devices," Mann said. "They have good products, and they were cost competitive. Getting everything from one vendor has good benefits."

Last week, Motorola announced disappointing financial estimates that second quarter sales would be around $8.7 billion, down from an earlier estimate that sales would be about the same as the first quarter, at $9.4 billion. "Obviously, you wonder what the future holds, but Motorola seems basically good financially," Mann said last week before the new estimate.

Most of the wireless rollouts have gone well, but D.H. Pace is looking forward to a faster wireless data network over EV-DO Rev. A from Sprint Nextel Corp., which is supposed to be built out nationally by the end of the year. Some areas have had poor or slow coverage and could use improvement, Mann said.

Overall, the project has been exciting for the privately held company, which employs 850 workers and had $140 million in revenues last year. D.H. Pace installs residential and commercial doors and garage doors, and includes a variety of sizes and security systems, including retinal scanners, he said. "We're very diverse. We see ourselves as a service company, and this project will allow us to better service our customers," Mann said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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