Ben E. Keith Beverage Distribution

The second largest Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in the U.S. sees immediate benefits of MobileDemand xTablets


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Efficiency, accuracy, real time wireless communication and a whole lot of barcode scanning.  That's what it takes to sell, deliver and inventory more than thirty eight million cases of beer in a single year.

For Texas based Ben E. Keith beverage distributors the second-largest Anheuser-Busch beer wholesalers in the U.S., its business as usual.  Years ago the company learned that automation was the key to efficiency and profits.  It's been a leader in deploying automation technologies ever since.  When the time came to update its distribution software and the technology for its field sales force the company took its time more than two hundred fifty reps had to easily manage more than twenty five hundred active SKU's they sell today.  In the end, Ben E. Keith implemented the Anheuser-Busch mobility software throughout its operations and it chose the rugged MobileDemand xTablet T7000.  The company looked at many competitive devices including those using the Android operating system, but only the Mobile Demand xTablets had just the right combination of form, fit and function to get the job done.

So along the path we tried several different pieces of hardware some were rugged, some were not.  We thought maybe to save a little bit of money with a less rugged device but in reality the beer business is kind of a rugged environment.  The unit does need to be able to take a bump and I highly recommend moving in to a more rugged device for a long term protection of your investment.

Ruggedness, portability, integrated barcode scanning and a handy numeric keypad all critical elements in Ben E. Keith choosing the xTablet T7000.  Coupled with the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system the xTablet T7000 put all the functionality, security features and power needed in the hands of its two hundred fifty field sales reps to save time at every stop, improve customer service and sell more beer.

Typical day for a pre-salesman at Ben E. Keith, he arrives at the warehouse picks up his xTablet T7000 goes through the beginning day process along with visiting with his sales supervisor then he hits the streets for about an average of about eleven or twelve stops per day.  Doing all the merchandising and all the items that he needs to do.  So a typical stop for a sales rep, he enters the account and he easily reads the xTablet T7000 screen to see if there's any tasks or messages.  Then he goes and goes in to the back room pulls up any back stock, takes the inventory and he fills the windows, checks for rotation, checks for any other items along with an easy application to be able to take messages for his records for his customer relations management  device and then he submits his orders to the warehouse.  So the functionality of the xTablet T7000 helps the sales rep out in several ways when he's taking his inventory.  Obviously he can use the integrated scanner when he comes across an item, scan it, takes the inventory.  The integrated keypad really helps the guys out by being able to enter the inventory nice and quick, item by item, right down the row.

The xTablet T7000 functionality along with the mobility software reduces the time it takes to complete inventory by fifteen to twenty minutes at each stop saving more than ninety minutes per day per sales rep.  That means more time with customers, not only is the new data collection system faster it's more customer and business friendly in the retail space.  Built-in calculators help the wholesaler show the retailer how much money it can make on each order delivered.  With a MobileDemand tablet the rep's can also access general business applications including internet and email, Excel files, even video and marketing presentations.  Plus, the xTablet T7000 is one of the most rugged and durable tablet PCs on the market today.

As you know, the uh... beer business is not a gentle business.  Our guys are in the coolers, out moving displays bumping around and the xTablet T7000 takes some pretty bumps.  They've fallen off a stack of beer, they put them on top of a cooler to rotate, it's been on top of a car and taken a bounce.

And it definitely has kept me organized to be able to make sure my brand is on that shelf that is the most important thing, we don't have it on the shelf, we can't sell it.  I sell beer and use this machine to do it.

The xTablet T7000 is helping Ben E. Keith distributing improve efficiency, save time and grow one case at a time.  What's the best way to sell more than thirty eight million cases of beer each year?  Start with a great reputation for service, sell the top brands and put a rugged powerhouse in the hands of your field sales force.  The MobileDemand xTablet T7000 follow MobileDemand the nation's number one provider of Rugged Tablet PCs in transportation as well as the beer industry with more than four thousand deployed in beer distribution alone.

Ben E. Keith is the second largest Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in the United States covering 61 counties in North Texas including Dallas and Fort Worth. It also carries an expanded portfolio of craft and import brands throughout the territory and has additional branch locations in Austin and Houston.  Over 250 pre-sale routes service customers throughout the state of Texas.

The company has always been a leader at implementing new technologies to equip its pre-sale reps with the tools they need to sell more beer. It moved away from using paper and pen to take inventory and create orders in the field years ago. So it is no surprise that when the new A-B Mobility route accounting software was implemented recently, Ben E. Keith took the opportunity to refresh its hardware with mobile computers that would give its reps more power and functionality than the handheld devices they were using.

“After we made the decision to move into the A-B Mobility software, we took a lot of time to find just the right piece of equipment for our pre-sales reps. It had to be the right form and offer the right functionality for our guys to hit the streets hard every day,” says Steve Fleming, Vice President of Administration and Information for Ben E. Keith.

Prior to implementing ASteve Fleming-B Mobility, Ben E. Keith had a proven system in the pre-sales reps’ hands. But as the business grew and changed, it became necessary to also change the mobile computing system in order to meet the new objectives of the company and demands of its customers, and to create a competitive advantage.

The Customer Challenge

“The units our reps had been using were pocket-type devices that worked well for taking orders and sending them into the warehouse. But we needed more screen real estate for the Mobility application to render well on the display. In addition to a larger screen the computer had to be rugged and it had to have an integrated scanner and numeric keypad,” maintains Fleming.

The other units that Ben E. Keith tried did not have an integrated scanner or a built-in numeric keypad. The MobileDemand tablets did. During testing they found that the reps liked having both. If they knew the item code they could quickly enter it. Otherwise they could easily scan the bar code and move on. It was no longer necessary to scroll through dozens of screens to find a SKU.  User feedback and improved efficiency led to a decision.

describe the image“We tried several different devices from several different manufacturers, including a ruggedized laptop. It wasn’t until we found the MobileDemand xTablet T7000 that we knew we’d found the ideal tablet PC for our pre-sales reps. It had a full 7” high resolution screen, an integrated scanner and numeric keypad which really drove improvements in efficiency. And the xTablet was rugged, really rugged. It was just the right fit at the right time,” says Fleming.

“As you know selling beer is not a gentle business. Our guys put these tablets through the ringer. They have taken some bumps and bruises in the cooler as the reps move beer around. They’ve fallen off stacks of beer. They’ve tumbled off the hoods of cars. It’s a hard environment. A non-rugged device just wouldn’t hold up. I know there are all kinds of non-rugged and Android devices out there. They look good and are light weight. But they just wouldn’t survive in our environment. You have to protect your investment. We’ve had very good luck with the xTablets. They keep on working which keeps our reps working,” Fleming asserts.

The MobileDemand Solution

A typical day for a Ben E. Keith pre-sales rep begins when he arrives at the warehouse to pick up his xTablet. He completes the beginning day tasks and meets with his sales supervisor to review goals. Then he hits the road making an average of 10-13 stops a day.

“The xTablet T7000 is verydescribe the image beneficial in the field. It keeps me organized by telling me what I need to get accomplished at each account. It also saves a tremendous amount of time when doing inventory,” says Pre-Sales Rep Aaron Nelson. “We have over 2,500 active items right now. With the xTablet I don’t have to jump around from brand to brand. I can start scanning bar codes at one end of the cooler and just keep moving down to the other side. I just scan, inventory and order.  It’s that simple, and that fast. What used to take 20-25 minutes to complete, I can now get done in less than ten,” Nelson affirms.

Tablet PC showing demonstrationAfter the Ben E. Keith pre-sales rep completes inventory, rotation, and creates the order, he meets with the store manager to review the order and pricing. He also uses this face time to talk over new promotions or show the latest TV commercial. The all-light readable display provides an excellent viewing experience whether they are standing in a low light environment like a cooler or outdoors in the bright sun. With the xTablet the rep can even show the customer an on-screen calculator that takes the data from the order created and tells the store manager the exact profit it will generate.

“With the old units we really couldn’t get the information in front of the customer that we can now. The wireless radio lets me sync and get updated information from the office instantly to share with the customer. Everything is in real-time,” says Nelson. 

“I’m one of the old dogs here. I started with Ben E. Keith 13 years ago when we took inventory and wrote up orders with pen and paper. With the number of SKUs we’re managing now, the old method just wouldn’t work. The xTablets keep us much more focused and efficient.  And the built-in numeric keypad and bar code scanner mean fewer punches and a lot fewer mistakes,” Nelson continues.

The Results

ScanningThe MobileDemand xTablets not only give Ben E. Keith pre-sales reps the ability to reduce errors, increase productivity and improve customer service, these rugged tablets also provide more uptime and lower the total cost of ownership. The full Microsoft® Windows 7 operating system helped accelerate deployment and training. “Having Windows 7 made it easy to image the tablets and make updates. And our reps were already familiar with the operating system which made implementation and training seamless,” Fleming says.  “It’s all in the bottom line results. The MobileDemand tablets simply have the right combination of features and functionality to help our pre-sales reps make better decisions at the point of customer interaction. Plus, the ruggedability of the xTablets has virtually eliminated business interruptions caused by device downtime, allowing our reps to do what they do best,” he proclaims.

 “I sell beer. That’s what I do,” Nelson says. “The xTablets provide real-time data that helps me do it better. They keep our brands on the shelf. And that’s the key to selling more beer,” Nelson explains.

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