Change is never easy. But what happens when a 40-year-old successful operations process faces modernization? Since they are already thriving, is the potentially difficult change worth it? And would there be sufficient ROI for investing in a significant overhaul?
This is the story of Mission Linen Supply, an 80-year-old linen rental and uniform business based in Santa Barbara, California. The company is considered one of the leaders in its industry and has grown over the years. It now provides services for apparel, mats, and janitorial products.
That growth has led it to set up routes in more than 43 locations across the United States. Once a one-man operation, Mission now has a fleet of 800 vehicles serving customers on 450 routes daily.
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The company has done well because of smart business decisions from its family ownership, including the creation of operational processes that have withstood the test of time. For 40 years, it managed the routes in the same manner, for example.
As time passed, technological innovations continued to increase in complexity. Users sought customized interfaces, data analytics, and the ability to connect multiple device types and networks. The existing route accounting system had worked for the past 40 years, but Mission Linen Supply’s leadership knew they needed to implement changes to ensure their process would work for the next 40.
Here’s how Mission Linen Supply took the brave step of future-proofing its operations the right way and helped generate significant cost savings in the process.
A 40-Year Operational Process Needed Change
Mission Linen Supply created its route accounting system, InfoPack, about 40 years ago. The then-revolutionary system gained popularity outside of its internal business, so they started selling it to other companies.
As the years passed, Mission Linen Supply was able to grow even though it did not make wholesale upgrades to its technology. As users’ needs changed, they needed to add mobile solutions and other technology integrations to their existing technology. In 2008, Mission Linen Supply completed an upgrade, and with it came opportunities to improve on its system, including mobile innovations.
In 2012, the company began thinking modernization. A new CEO pushed for a mobile initiative. Mission Linen Supply stopped thinking it should modernize someday, and started researching the best ways to optimize and modernize now.
However, that change process isn’t as easy as it sounds, even for a successful company like Mission Linen Supply. While young start-ups and aggressive leaders tend to shout about change from the rooftops, Mission had a solid foundation in place already. It had a company culture that had bred success. Its employees were used to operating their routes in a certain way. And since everything was working, the change wasn’t necessarily going to be easy—especially since Mission’s employees were comfortable using pens and paper.
How an Old Way of Doing Business Was Hurting the Company
Mission Linen Supply’s route accounting process included using endless pages of forms for its drivers to fill out. This process was costly ($300,000 per year in hard costs alone) and labor intensive. Any time a human is using pen and paper to record important transaction details, you have the possibility for human error.
Mission Linen Supply wanted to improve accuracy throughout the company as it looked for ways to standardize operations across their plants. It also wanted to improve reporting capabilities and ensure employees comply with industry regulations and corporate policies on routes. Further, the old pen-and-paper process was inefficient and no longer reflected well on the company overall as competitors had moved to mobile solutions.
Mission Linen Supply wanted to take this opportunity to integrate mobile technologies and workflows into its customer interactions. In the process, the company wanted to convey a more positive brand image with its customers.
From an operations standpoint, moving beyond the paper-based process also opened up room to make its process more efficient. It came time for Mission Linen Supply to find an expert, and they contacted DecisionPoint Systems.
A Mobile App Changes Everything
After spending years researching and performing an in-depth ROI analysis, Mission Linen Supply selected DecisionPoint Systems. DecisionPoint had the experience in building, deploying, and supporting custom mobile solutions that Mission Linen Supply knew it needed.
The DecisionPoint team knew how to go about implementing a solution with minimum downtime so that the productivity levels of Mission Linen Supply’s teams were not hurt and services to customers were not interrupted.
DecisionPoint was able to create Mission’s mobile app so that it integrated seamlessly with their existing homegrown accounting system and virtually eliminated all downtime. The software was designed to handle billing, customer maintenance, and other services—all through Mission Linen Supply’s backend system.
All account data is now updated and saved in real time via cellular connectivity. If a device becomes lost, stolen, or damaged, all information can be recovered easily and quickly. Mission Linen Supply was able to expand its services and solutions because of this real-time visibility while also improving efficiency, accuracy, and profitability.
Next came the hardware. Mission Linen Supply selected Zebra Technologies’ Android touch screen tablets for its hardware. Zebra is a DecisionPoint Systems’ partner, and maker of devices, software, and other technology that give enterprise businesses true operational visibility.
Zebra offered a modern tablet with an easy-to-use touch screen interface, plus the ruggedness to handle the tough environments where Mission Linen Supply’s drivers operate.
From there, DecisionPoint had the expertise to deliver an Android solution, which was one of the key requirements based on the mobile hardware Mission Linen Supply selected.
DecisionPoint worked with Mission Linen Supply’s team and received employee feedback on the custom solutions. With projects like this, extensive testing is needed, and the new solution is best deployed in phases.
The solution was rolled out one location at a time, with drivers first participating in training. Then drivers worked with their Zebra device and the new Mission mobile app in testing mode.
Drivers adapted quickly from traditional paper-based processes to Zebra’s Android tablets and Mission Linen Supply’s new mobile processes. Drivers who had used the paper-and-pen system for 25 years were ready to fully convert to the new mobile process within a week.
Achieving Significant Results—$300,000 per Year Saved
So, was this extensive overhaul of a long-standing company process worth it?
In working with DecisionPoint Systems, Mission Linen Supply was able to eliminate the use of paper forms, thereby reducing direct costs by more than $300,000 annually. This move also allowed the company to eliminate 30,000 hours of data entry each year.
Mission Linen Supply was also able to accomplish its goal of improving accuracy reporting. There was a reduction of human errors in data entry and an improvement in the ability to gather driver metrics.
Mission Linen Supply can analyze precisely how long each driver spends at each stop and ensure they are taking required breaks and complying with other legislation and policies.
DecisionPoint Systems’ mobile solution also allowed Mission Linen Supply to standardize key processes at its 43 plants spread out across the nation.
And how did employees react to change? Mission rolled out an agile-style plan to work with employees and get feedback on all the changes, which minimized the pushback. This thoughtful deployment and feedback process was key because each plant had operated as its own business for a long time, and systematizing operations could be seen as taking away management authority.
Overall, change management issues were minimal, and change wasn’t so hard after all.
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