Nabisco Inc. Delivery Driver Handheld
Nabisco Turns to SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition For New Handheld Application
Case StudyNabisco delivers cookies and crackers directly to local supermarkets with a company-owned truck delivery fleet. Handheld computers are used in the delivery process to tabulate delivery quantities and are a key component of the supply chain process. Nabisco has undertaken a project to take advantage of the Microsoft Windows®–powered Pocket PC platform and use the many features inherent in the Microsoft SQL Server™ 2000 Windows CE Edition product.
Nabisco is a leading producer of consumer snacking products such as Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies, Planters peanuts, Lifesavers candy, and Ritz and Triscuit crackers. Nabisco distributes cookie and cracker products directly to local supermarkets with a company-owned truck delivery fleet. Handheld computers are used in the delivery process to tabulate delivery quantities, and are a key component of Nabisco's supply chain process.
Nabisco's existing handheld system is based on handheld computer with six line screens, a built-in vertical keyboard, and runs the DOS operating system. When delivering an order of cookies and crackers to the back door receiving area of a local supermarket a Nabisco delivery truck driver unloads and then records any changes to the order in their handheld computer. In the case where the supermarket chain supports EDI back-door receiving, the delivery truck driver will direct connect the handheld computer to the supermarket's computer systems and transfer delivery data via DEX interface. At the distribution branch, on a daily basis, the existing truck driver handhelds perform a communications session to back-end systems, sending completed work, and receiving new updates.
Nabisco's handheld system is ready for an upgrade. The back-end communication architecture sends updates to multiple transfer points, which inherently creates points of failure. The level of daily problems on the handheld computers and the transmission system is higher than should be for such a world-class organization. "Nabisco needs a driver handheld solution that can be built with development tools consistent with what we use on our other corporate systems, and we need a communication technology for our handhelds that is up-to-date with Internet protocols and has a minimum of hand-off connections," said Raymond Paul, Director of Sales Systems at Nabisco.
The technical solution needed for Nabisco's delivery drivers is complicated by its need to be disconnected during the day and to only communicate to back-end systems when docked back at the warehouse location. Mobile device technology is necessary with local data structures and programs on the handheld.
Nabisco has undertaken a project to take advantage of the Microsoft Windows-powered Pocket PC platform, eMbedded Microsoft Visual Basic®, and use the many features inherent in the SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition product. The benefits to Nabisco from SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition are substantial: 1) there are minimal update transfer points, 2) program coding is kept to a minimum resulting in rapid development turnaround, and 3) SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition is designed to integrate with the already in-place toolset (e.g. Internet Information Services (IIS), Pocket PC, SQL Server 2000). "We researched alternatives and selected Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition because of the integration of mobile database technology with existing enterprise database investments," says Herb Brian Smith, Lead Technology Advisor at Nabisco.
The new handheld software has been written in eMbedded Visual Basic for Pocket PC, which allowed the established corporate development team to begin coding immediately. The development process for SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition is extremely efficient. "The entire system development cycle 'from whiteboard to working prototype' took only four months," says Smith.
SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition allowed the delivery driver application team to use merge replication and it included referential integrity. They were able to bring down the entire SQL Server subscription from SQL Server 2000 to the Pocket PC device by using the SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition tools. With only three steps, the schema, data, referential integrity, and constraints were replicated to the Pocket PC, eliminating the need to create the database through code.
SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition provided inherent connectivity to already established standard back-end systems such as IIS Server and SQL Server 2000 thereby reducing development time and integration complications. By using IIS, options were gained for authorization, authentication, and encryption. It is also facilitated by the use of ADOCE for data access, something that the development team was familiar with on the desktop.
One of the error-prone steps in the older Nabisco system was the multiple transfer points that existed between the handheld computer and back-end systems for updates. With SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition and its replication capabilities, a direct connection between the SQL Server CE on the Pocket PC and the SQL Server 2000 is established, significantly reducing failure points and providing a more trouble-free system.
Nabisco's new handheld software using Pocket PC, eMbedded Visual Basic, and SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition was developed to a working prototype in four months.
In addition to the reduction in failure points, Nabisco expects to realize other benefits from its new software. In the transition from a DOS handheld with six line display to the Pocket PC graphical screen the application will be faster, easier to use, and more accurate. Nabisco expects that the combination of Pocket PC and SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition will make the delivery driver's work day more productive and reduce time during the distribution branch transmission process.
Inherent in the technology platforms selected by Nabisco is increased technical flexibility. The ability to use eMbedded Visual Basic for software development increases the flexibility in making changes over time and broadens the skill set of developers that can contribute to the system's maintenance. Using SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition on Windows CE-based devices broadens the hardware technology choices for Nabisco. Since there is an increasing variety, and progressive capability of Windows CE hardware, Nabisco will be able to move from one platform to another over time with minimal changes to the software application.
The .NET Enterprise Servers are Microsoft's comprehensive family of server applications for building, deploying and managing next generation integrated Web experiences that move beyond today's world of standalone Web sites. Designed with mission-critical performance in mind, .NET Enterprise Servers provide fast time to market as well as scalability, reliability and manageability for the global, Web-enabled enterprise. They have been built from the ground up for interoperability using open Web standards such as XML. The .NET Enterprise Servers are a key part of Microsoft's broader .NET strategy, which will enable a distributed computing model for the Internet based on Internet protocols and standards in order to revolutionize the way computers talk to one another on our behalf.
Solution Nabisco has undertaken a project to take advantage of the Microsoft Windows–powered Pocket PC platform and use the many features inherent in the SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition product. The benefits to Nabisco are substantial: 1) there are minimal update transfer points, 2) program coding is kept to a minimum resulting in rapid development turnaround, and 3) SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition is designed to integrate with the in-place toolset (e.g. IIS, Pocket PC, SQL Server 2000).
Software and Services
“Nabisco needs a handheld solution that can be built with development tools consistent with what we use on our other corporate systems, and we need a communication technology for our handhelds that is up-to-date with Internet protocols and has a minimum of hand-off connections.”
Director of Sales,