REVIEWER: Erwin Kayton, vice president and transportation services manager for BB&T Corporation.

BACKGROUND: BB&T Corporation, headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a fast growing, highly profitable financial holding company with $79.6 billion in assets. Its bank subsidiaries operate more than 1,100 branch offices in the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, Florida and Washington, D.C.

PLATFORMS: The product runs on PCs using Windows NT as the operating system. There are five standalone PCs (desktops and laptops), all running on Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The problem was primarily route or delivery improvement. BB&T was looking for a way to bring in house the design and optimization of our courier routes that get checks into our check processing centers. We believed that we could find efficiencies that our courier service vendors were not finding and thereby lower our expenses, improve workflow or achieve both.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The ARROW system is designed specifically to optimize the courier routes taken by BB&T's couriers and bring about route and delivery improvement. BB&T uses the entire functionality of the system ­ particularly the system's routing intelligence and the capability that the system provides in considering the bank's check volume in the route design. In terms of benefits that the system has provided, BB&T has been able to use the solutions generated by ARROW to find routes that improve the bank's workflow.

STRENGTHS: ARROW's ability to handle the complexities of BB&T's routing needs and the product's ability to take into consideration our unique volumes of checks in designing the routes is a key strength. The primary reason that our bank has an extensive courier network is to move checks in the process of collection from branches to check processing centers. The product's strength lies in its ability to enable our bank to design "just in time deliveries" to meet processing deadlines each evening. The actual routing runs very fast.

WEAKNESSES: To facilitate the quick routing, the product creates a cache of travel times and distances between every pairing of locations. The initial calculation of these times and distances is extremely time consuming, but it does not have to be repeated until new locations are added. For frequent users of Microsoft Office applications, basic editing seems to be less convenient than we are accustomed to. Online help is not yet functional. Coding of criteria for routing is quite tedious and time-consuming.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We had been looking for a product that would do route optimization and design for us, and we never came across anything that struck me as a viable alternative for BB&T. For us, the ability to handle the complexity of the problem and the ability for the solution to take our custom workflow needs into account was the main driver for the selection of NuTech Solutions' ARROW system.

DELIVERABLES: Because we are the purchasers and managers of transportation services, the primary deliverable is the actual route output, and we do get that from ARROW. For whatever project we are running within the system, we get specific routes with times as they are routed ­ Stop 1, Stop 2, Stop 3 ­ as well as the corresponding addresses. This enables us to see the routes. We then take them to the transportation vendor and say, "This is what I want you to do ­ let's negotiate on price."

VENDOR SUPPORT: We were working with NuTech Solutions through a large part of the development stage of the software (as opposed to just being a buyer of a preexisting product), and I do not know how I could rate a software vendor any higher. NuTech Solutions spent an appropriate amount of time in our shop, trying to understand our specific needs so that they could improve the design of ARROW. As it was being developed and after installation, NuTech Solutions has been extremely responsive to our questions and our needs. We still consider Arrow to be a work in progress.

DOCUMENTATION:The documentation is generally good, though geared to advanced users. Having gone through the product design process and hands-on training with NuTech Solutions, I am not sure if we could operate the system with only the documentation. It is a fairly complex system with lots of bells and whistles. Therefore, knowing what features you would need to use in any situation drives how heavily you would need to rely on the documentation.

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