A conglomeration of transportation-related companies offering truckload freight service, logistics and warehousing across the U.S.
Like many carriers, NFI Industries wanted to reduce some of the many costs associated with operating a traditional, irregular route for-hire business; improve fuel management and decrease deadhead miles while reducing dwell time at both shipper and receiver docks — not exactly an easy assignment when managing a fleet of 800 trucks.
“Our average haul is shorter than 500 mi., primarily covered with company-owned trucks,” says Mike Cleaver, vp-client services for NFI's information technology department. “Though we're over-the-road, full-truckload, we're conducting a lot of transactions per day mainly in the Northeast, which is a pretty congested area.”
NFI also wanted to convert to a more regional freight mix, leveraging the experience of its drivers, keeping specialized drivers in specific lanes for certain shippers, and keeping them closer to home.
Doing all of this with a single freight management software package looked daunting, but that's what the company needed in order to wring maximum value out of such a system.
“We wanted the system to be able to handle all these different factors, yet be easy enough to use so any one of our load planners could manage — not just the most experienced driver managers.”
NFI decided to use Atlanta, GA-based Manhattan Associates Inc.'s Driver & Load system to match drivers to the best possible load combinations across its transportation network while updating driver-to-load combinations in real-time. Cleaver says Driver & Load allows NFI to model virtually every load and driver factor within its operations, providing vertically integrated planning, multiple-dispatch and auto-dispatch capabilities. Trucks are then selected and dispatched based on preset load and driver factors — without human interaction.
“It enables us to increase equipment utilization, reduce empty miles, out-of-route miles, and more importantly, concentrate on a regional operation that is more driver-centric and profitable,” he explains. “Being a Northeast-based carrier with very short length of haul, this will be a critical tool for our regional fleets, supplying them with multiple pre-plans and improved densities in those markets.”
Cleaver says it took about six months to get Driver & Load up and running at NFI, with six weeks of that time spent tweaking the system to incorporate specific parameters. “Before, we'd need a skilled driver manager to make sure specific drivers requested by shippers got those loads, or that veteran drivers wouldn't lose their preferred routes,” he notes. “Now, all of that information is automatically plugged into the system.”
He also reports that NFI has seen a significant improvement in its revenue per truck per day and, more importantly, a reduction in empty and out-of-route miles. “That reduction is not quantifiable in dollars and cents savings per se, but it's having an impact,” Cleaver says. “The system allows us to ‘stack’ loads for drivers so our planning horizon can be much shorter, and we can handle a lot more variables and adjust to changes more effectively. The real value is that there is far less scrambling on the planning end and it gives us a single planning structure rather than having each driver-manager doing things their own way.”