The days of delivery drivers fumbling for a clipboard, paperwork and a pen are becoming a thing of the past as the jan/san supply industry is embracing electronic signature capture.

Instead of an invoice and ordering system that hinges on hard copies, an electronic signature capture allows sanitary supply distributor personnel to obtain a signature from a customer, by signing the screen on driver’s smartphone or mobile device with a finger or a stylus pen.

“It makes things go quicker and smoother,” says Matthew Fowler, who handles information technology upgrades at House Sanitary Supply in Ventura, Calif., which began using signature capture in the field in 2009.

“Customer service just loves it because there is a lot less work involved on their end and a lot less things you have to file,” Fowler adds.  

After the screen is signed, the electronic signature is sent to the company’s servers where it is automatically applied to the invoice and the customer records. This occurs without any personnel having to file signed delivery forms or invoices, alleviating a timely and costly process, and freeing up a lot of office space.    

The Ohio & Michigan Paper Co., in Toledo, Ohio, implemented signature capture in 2011. According to Steve Fronk, the vice president of operations, the company has reduced its delivery paperwork by more than half since the switch.

“It does minimize the paperwork,” Fronk says. “We were printing orders out on a four-part form. We have eliminated that. We are taking one piece of paper out to the customer and then you print two or three pages of a manifest for the driver.”

Although the company has not entirely eliminated paper from the delivery process, it no longer needs expensive carbonless paper and ribbon printers.

One of the primary benefits of electronic signature capture is the digital archiving of signatures. Before signature capture, distributors were putting signed forms in files and storing files in cabinets and boxes. Storage of these cabinets and boxes is expensive and retrieval of a signature can be a time-consuming process.

“This is a system that allows the company to preserve these signatures and keep them in our database, which makes for very easy retrieval,” says Richard Ribakove, president of Mooney-General Paper Company in Hillside, N.J. “We don’t have to dig through archives … we can simply push a button and, right through the computer, send a copy [of the signature] by e-mail or by fax.”  

Another advantage to signature capture software is that it allows the delivery drivers to be more self-reliant. Instead of heading into the office each morning before beginning their routes, delivery orders are automatically loaded into the system and onto their device.

“So if we have a driver that is going to show up at 5:30 in the morning he can sync up all of the orders onto his phone and he can see how many stops he has before he even gets to the truck,” Fowler says. “Now that driver does not have to have somebody else show up here and get into the office.”

It also saves delivery drivers costly trips back to the office to pick up forgotten delivery slips.

“In the off chance that they go out the door without an order on their device they can just put the order number in the device and when it comes back, the computer system will find the order and stick the signature on it,” Fronk says.

Electronic signature capture can also beneficially impact the culture of the distributor’s enterprise. Being a delivery driver is grueling work. Anytime the job is made more efficient, it shows that management values the task of delivering the distributor’s products and services.  

“It makes it look a lot more professional with the drivers out there,” Fowler says. “There is a ‘coolness’ factor in it. The drivers are not having to carry a big clipboard.”

Sales reps at House Sanitary Supply are also using signature capture software. At times they make deliveries when there are emergencies or mistakes. Like with regular deliveries, the clients were once signing a two-sheet delivery receipt, with one sheet going to the client and one going back to the home office. Signature capture has greatly reduced the amount of missing paperwork.

“Myself, I was always one of the main culprits. I wouldn’t turn in the paperwork right away, or I left it at home,” says Fowler.
The software that House Sanitary Supply uses also finalizes orders from customers in the field, allowing invoices to be generated in the office automatically after a signature is captured.

“Once the invoice is signed, we can now have it on the servers within seconds and it can be invoiced,” Fowler says.

This gives the distributor up-to-the-minute information regarding product that has been sold, which allows management to make accurate decisions regarding inventory.

Brendan O’Brien is a freelancer based in Greenfield, Wis. He is a frequent contributor to
Sanitary Maintenance.