Truck Com: Fleets Online

Company: AMI Distribution Services, Worcester, Mass.Operation: Division of AMI Leasing, which offers vehicle leasing, dedicated contract carriage, and other outsourcing services through over 25 locations to companies in the Northeast, MidAtlantic states, and the Midwest.Rod Phillips, Director of distribution servicesProblem: How does one plan -- and optimize -- routes for a fleet whose vehicles head

Company: AMI Distribution Services, Worcester, Mass.

Operation: Division of AMI Leasing, which offers vehicle leasing, dedicated contract carriage, and other outsourcing services through over 25 locations to companies in the Northeast, MidAtlantic states, and the Midwest.

Rod Phillips, Director of distribution services

Problem: How does one plan -- and optimize -- routes for a fleet whose vehicles head out by the truckload but make multiple delivery stops?

To improve on-time delivery to retail outlets and reduce distribution costs for the Brooks drugstore chain, AMI Distribution Services determined back in 1995 that more efficient loading and routing was the way to go.

Before then, Brooks had used product case counts as the basis for its loading and store-delivery schedules. By the spring of '96, AMI and Brooks began instead to compile cube information on each store shipment.

It was decided that this data could be leveraged to take advantage of each tractor-trailer's available cube. Coupled with improved routing, AMI expected to significantly reduce Brooks' transportation costs.

Specific information was seen as the key. Instead of working from piece counts, all the items in the warehouse were "cubed" and the average size of each store order was determined so that more deliveries could be fitted on each truck.

It was hoped that coupling that information with better routing would save money by saving time, reducing scheduled delivery runs, and improving recordkeeping.

Solution: Rod Phillips says that AMI Distribution has turned to a sophisticated tool to make the most efficient use of the revised shipment information and to better plan delivery routes for Brooks.

The software program, Prophesy Transportation Software Inc.'s LoadExpress Plus, has proved out so well that AMI Distribution has become an official licensee of the product.

According to Phillips, the main benefit of the spreadsheet program is that it provides the ability to generate load and routing information for multiple customers -- or in Brooks' case, multiple stops -- simultaneously.

He says another advantage of the Windows-based software is that it can analyze transportation "choices using virtually any parameters a customer wants."

It also has the flexibility to accept data in Excel or ASCII formats or as "comma-delineated" files. "So, there's no need to build runs manually," Phillips says. "This not only provides a tremendous savings in labor costs, but also greatly reduces the potential for human error."

Load planners at AMI Distribution can now modify routes while such statistics as vehicle capacity, mileage, drive time, and work time are automatically updated.

"This new software capability provides a quick, simple, and flexible system for optimizing routes, scheduling deliveries, and analyzing distribution patterns," Phillips reports.

He says AMI Distribution's computer-aided expertise has helped over time to cut transportation costs for the Brooks chain by more than 15%. That savings has been realized by reducing weekly runs from 56 to 49 and cutting mileage about 16% (or nearly 2,000 miles a week) along the way.

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