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20 Great Ideas From InformationWeek 500 Companies

They're an innovative bunch. There's probably a notion or two worth borrowing for your business.


Access Made Easy
Construction company Emcor Group put voice, e-mail, and specialized applications on a handheld device that fits in a shirt pocket. That's providing a practical way to keep the people closest to the customer up to date.

Field technicians are now more productive, using a wireless dispatching system tied to Emcor's customer support center. The result: Customers are served better and faster and with consistently higher quality. Technicians arrive promptly and are better prepared to address customer concerns.

The same device used by the technicians for this service application also is their cell phone. Emcor recently added e-mail delivery to the device, further integrating the tools and resources needed every day. The approach has improved time to invoice, invoice accuracy, and overall customer satisfaction by more closely integrating the field to the office.

On The 3G Speedway
Over the past year, Ohio Casualty Group has streamlined its insurance claims process with an enhanced wireless network that provides higher-speed connections over a third-generation cellular network.

Prior to going wireless, Ohio Casualty's claim adjusters would either receive a phone call or a fax notifying them of an assignment. With 3G, the claim call center sends claim assignments via a Web application to the adjuster's laptop; at the same time, the adjuster's cell phone receives an SMS message notifying him or her of the new assignment. The adjuster can look at the claim while traveling to the body shop or claim site, take a digital picture of the damage, and upload the digital picture to an electronic claim folder without ever having to be "connected."

Free Wi-Fi
As Staples made a significant push into the Chicago market last year, the office products retailer was entering its competition's stronghold, so it needed to focus on differentiation. One way: free Wi-Fi in its Chicago stores.

Providing Wi-Fi at no cost lets customers drop off copy and print jobs by bringing their own laptops or other wireless devices to the store. The service also makes it easier for staff to sell wireless devices, letting them demonstrate the technologies to customers in a working environment.

Supply Chain

Inventory Master
Wine production and distribution today is anything but a quaint, tradition-bound business. E.&J. Gallo Winery has developed a warehouse management and logistics system that gives managers improved inventory and supply chain visibility throughout its distribution centers worldwide.

The system uses Gallo's prototype radio frequency identification system and automated guided vehicles inside Gallo warehouses. A key element is data integration among planning, sales, and product delivery systems using a set of interfaces that rely on an asynchronous, complex events-based model. The result is a 35% improvement in demand forecast accuracy, and inventory record accuracy now exceeds 98.5%. Warehouse productivity is up 24%, the order-to-ship cycle is half what it was prior to the new system, and product days-in-inventory is reduced by more than 10%--all while the winery's brand portfolio doubled.

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