Blue Bell Ice Cream is the third best selling ice cream in America. With its sales region stretching from Arizona up to Kansas City, across to Charlotte, North Carolina, and extending to everything south of that boundary, the 101 year-old company has a lot of ground to cover. In order to do so efficiently, Blue Bell Creameries is committed to evaluating its day-to-day operations.
Specifically, Blue Bell management acknowledged that its route accounting and inventory control systems were significantly out of date. "The route accounting system was DOS-based. You can't buy hardware that runs DOS, so we had to buy new handhelds and have software rewritten. In addition, the printers we were using in our trucks were 10 to 15 years old," says Charles Gaskamp, information technologies manager at Blue Bell Creameries. Indeed, the company's printers alone were problematic—they were bulky and heavy, and took up a great deal of space in the trucks.
Blue Bell's inventory control processes also required an overhaul because the legacy system was outmoded and too costly in terms of time and errors. According to Gaskamp, "Our inventory control was primarily still manual. We wanted to implement an automated barcode system that would allow us to track raw goods from the time they were received at the plant, through the production process."
The ice cream company realized that the key to a successful operation was simplicity; if devices were overly complicated and drivers and operations managers could not understand them, any steps to update the company's system would be useless. Finding a solutions provider with excellent customer service was also essential. Blue Bell wanted a partner that would guide the company through the transition of updating its systems, assist with any technical problems, and continue to be a partner for all of its printing and inventory needs.
These major criteria, plus the knowledge that Zebra Technologies could provide a superior and customizable handheld wireless printing device and a barcode system for inventory control, led Blue Bell Creameries to choose Zebra Technologies as its business partner and solution provider. Together, Zebra Technologies and Blue Bell applied these technologies to improve the ice cream company's route accounting and inventory control systems.