PODS picks GPS for tracking workers, storage containers

Project cuts paperwork, streamlines delivery

Moving and storage company PODS Enterprises Inc. is working with Sprint Nextel Corp. to use wireless GPS tracking to locate portable storage containers and drivers in one of the latest examples of integrated wireless technology.

The program started more than a year ago but will be fully deployed in April, allowing the company to track 110,000 Portable On Demand Storage containers and 1,000 drivers, according to PODS officials and Sprint in recent interviews.

The system relies on the rugged Symbol MC9097 mobile computer from Motorola Inc., which includes GPS receivers as well as a truck cradle to hold the devices and PODS' own customer application. All the parts of the system have been bundled by Sprint's Advanced Wireless Solutions services arm. Data and voice are running over Sprint's wireless IDEN network, the company said.

"The main benefits are that we're eliminating paperwork and streamlining delivery," said Tammy Carr, vice president of corporate training at PODS and the project leader. In all, hardware has cost about $5 million, while full cost savings have not been tabulated.

The savings should be substantial for Clearwater, Fla.-based PODS, however, which previously relied on paper forms to fulfill orders, she said.

GPS can be used to track trucks in the fleet and to give directions to drivers making deliveries, she said. In addition, containers are tracked with bar-code readers on the computers, and customer signatures are captured on delivery, Carr said. In the future, PODS will use bar-code technology to assist with truck inspections. For example, a driver can check tire pressure and then scan a bar code on the rim of the tire to show it was done.

The computers will also be used to take photos at a customer location when a storage unit is dropped off, so that a driver picking it up can see if there are obstructions or other problems. PODS has found the devices valuable for helping reschedule jobs when they are added or deleted during the day, giving drivers wireless updates and eliminating the need for time-consuming phone calls and wasted trips, Carr added. Push-to-talk technology is another feature of the computers.

"We can say only positive things about how it has gone," she added.

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