(June 2) WATSONVILLE, Calif. — When a company distributes plants and packaging materials to more than 200 growers, keeping track of that inventory — in addition to production numbers from those growers — can be an overwhelming task.

That was the problem facing Driscoll Strawberry Associates when it asked Redline Solutions, San Jose, to deliver a wireless data collection system that would enable real-time receiving, as well as inventory management.

Gary Burkhart, business system analyst for Driscoll, said in a news release that the large amount of paperwork generated by Driscoll’s existing inventory tracking process often created delays in entering information into the system and errors when it came to interpreting someone’s handwriting.

TWO TYPES OF CUSTOMER

“We essentially have two customers — our berry customers and our growers,” he said. “We identified a need for a solution that would prevent our growers from being inconvenienced during count times.”

Burkhart said growers often make up to 10 trips to the loading docks each day during peak harvest times. He said Driscoll needed to find a way to make those transactions more seamless.

Redline recommended a mobile data collection system that could be integrated into Driscoll’s existing infrastructure.

“Driscoll wanted to capture real-time data in order to gain deeper visibility into its operations, specifically available berry inventory,” Todd Baggett, president of Redline, said in a news release.

What Redline came up with consisted of two components. First, the Zebra QL 230 mobile printing station was selected to allow a wireless information link between the loading dock and the front office. The printer was then paired with a handheld scanner.

SCANNER CARD

The system has been installed in all five of Driscoll’s distribution centers and uses a scanner card for each grower that bears a bar code identifying its user.

The card is presented to a Driscoll’s loader, who scans it, then counts the number of packaging cartons issued or the number of cartons of berries received, depending on the transaction. The data is then entered into the handheld scanner and sent over the wireless network, and the corporate system will be automatically updated.

Growers then receive a printed receipt of the transaction. Burkhart said the new system allows Driscoll to reconcile its accounting system the same day instead of within days.

What’s more, he said, Driscoll plans to add to the system.

“Future phases will include the ability to have shipping loaders scan in the produce so we will immediately know what we have on hand so we can ship out needed quantities as fast as possible,” he said.

Burkhart declined to comment further on the case study.