e-Tech Update

June 1, 2000
Finding Fleet Routing Solutions Computers revolutionized fleet routing. Long before every desk at a foodservice or dairy company became equipped with

Finding Fleet Routing Solutions Computers revolutionized fleet routing. Long before every desk at a foodservice or dairy company became equipped with personal computers, distribution departments were making use of corporate mainframes to coordinate and plan routes.

At a time when computers were used for almost nothing other than general accounting and payroll and when data was stored as decks of punched paper cards or, at best, on immense spools of magnetic tape, distribution managers began to use the speed of computers to automate the routing process. In general, this meant building a route of potential customers and programming the computer to select those that actually placed an order on a given day. These routes were nearly always run in the same sequence. The only difference from day to day was skipping those who did not order.

The alternative to this primitive, but productive, system was much worse. Without the aid of computers, routing was done by trial and error based on the experience of senior drivers who had usually been promoted to route supervisors or dispatchers. Orders would be selected and assembled into loads in a staging area. The process was time-consuming and inefficient. Once a truck was loaded, late orders could not be added without upsetting the load order.

With such a manual system, routes stayed the same for months or years. As a result, new customers were added with difficulty. These routes would become increasingly inefficient, crisscrossing one another as new customers were added.

Although the first computer programs could not prevent inefficiency from excess route mileage, it did not take long for distribution managers to find the benefits of routing by zip code or even by physical address. As computers got smaller and faster, it became possible to mix order volume into the routing equation to ensure that every truck left home as full as possible.

Today, computer routing takes two basic forms. Some managers prefer a system that sends trucks on the same basic routes every day, while others are willing to use full dynamic routing that can change the entire system daily based on order volume. In either case, the software seeks to fill vehicles as full as possible. Other system parameters can specify using the shortest possible route mileage, the lowest cost per route, or the shortest duration. Choosing one of these parameters over another may completely change routing for the entire fleet.

What follows is a look at the web sites for four routing software providers. In keeping with the expanded capability of computers, these companies provide much more than simple routing. They can provide onboard computing, vehicle tracking, route productivity reporting, and mobile communications.

www.caps.com CAPS Logistics Inc offers supply chain and logistics planning and scheduling. The company is A Baan Company that develops software and has clients in 31 countries.

Clicking on the About CAPS button on the toolbar across the top of the home page will lead to a general description of Baan, the parent company, which was formed in 1978. The company has dual headquarters in Barneveld, Netherlands, and Reston, Virginia. CAPS Logistics is Baan's software development firm. From 1989 until 1997, CAPS Logistics was a custom software shop. In 1997, it released three products for general use. One of these programs was RoutePro Dispatcher.

For a look at the full range of CAPS Logistics' products, click the Products button on the toolbar. This will lead to a page divided into products with strategic, tactical, and operational applications. RoutePro Dispatcher falls into a category that is both tactical and operational. Clicking on the RoutePro dispatcher button takes the visitor to a page that provides highlights of the system as well as an illustration of a screen display.

CAPS Logistics says that RoutePro Dispatcher can be used strategically for territory planning as well as service day analysis and delivery frequency analysis. As an operational tool, it can handle daily dispatching plus dynamic real-time dispatching. The page provides additional links to additional software information, product features, and routing case studies. It also links to other screen illustrations such as local area routing and longhaul routing.

One of the case studies details an application of RoutePro Dispatcher by Dean Foods, a large dairy and food manufacturer with 50 production plants in North America. This study pays particular attention to Mayfield Dairy Farms in Athens, Tennessee. Mayfield was acquired by Dean in 1990. It operates 500 delivery routes weekly from 19 distribution centers. Mayfield used RoutePro Dispatcher to reduce total fleet mileage while ensuring the highest volume per route. In some cases after restructuring the entire distribution system, a single vehicle is able to handle two routes, the case study says.

Following the link from the Partners & Clients button on the toolbar leads to a large list of clients. These are grouped into 10 categories. Some of the largest manufacturers and distributors of perishables are listed under the food & beverage category. The Support button leads to a description of CAPS Logistics' training programs that are conducted in Atlanta.

www.roadnet.com Roadnet Technologies Inc is a UPS Logistics Group Company. The opening page of the web site is rather austere with a large animation at the top. Two notes at the lower left corner state that the site requires use of Macromedia's Flash Player software and that visitors need to download the special software if the opening animation is not visible. Entering the main site is a little tricky, because the link is small. Click on Explore Roadnet, which is located immediately under the animation.

Follow the Explore Roadnet link to a page that offers a link to About Roadnet and a list of product links: Territory Planner, Roadnet 5000, Fleetloader, and Mobilecast. The corporate profile accessed by the About Roadnet link states that the company has been providing routing and scheduling solutions since 1983. Roadnet has more than 900 customers and more than 1,200 installations. Customers listed on the site include Alliant Foodservice, HomeGrocer.com, FreshPoint, Land O' Lakes, and US Foodservice.

Under Products, click on Roadnet 5000 for a description of software capability. The page says that the software will reduce transportation costs while improving customer service and saving routing time. It will provide driver manifests, maps, directions, and route schedules. It can be used to compile route summary statistics and delivery cost reports. Route performance can be tracked with a delivery time window exception report or an actual arrival versus projected stop arrival report.

Implementation of a Roadnet 5000 system takes 90 days with 10 days of Roadnet consultant time onsite under a standard plan. For accelerated implementation, users need to plan for 60 days with four days of work at Roadnet's home or regional offices plus six days of consultant time onsite.

www.xata.com The web site for Xata Corporation opens on a plain white page with a green highway sign in the middle. The sign says Xata. Click on the sign to enter the site. The next page says that Xata is a provider of onboard computing, real-time communication, global positioning, and advanced fleet management software for routing. Buttons on another highway sign along the left edge link to Products, Customers, News, Investors, and Services.

Use the Products button to link to a page that offers access to Xata's RouteView automated routing software and its onboard computer systems. Follow the link to Stand Alone Software for a description of RouteView, a Windows-based routing system for automating repetitive dispatching tasks. Xata says that the system can plan an entire route in minutes. RouteView has a mapping system based on postal code standards. The system can correct misspelled addresses, the site says.

RouteView can predict estimated arrival time for better customer service. With dynamic routing, customers can place orders much closer to route departures, Xata says. The system displays a detailed street location for each delivery stop. The key to successful use of RouteView is linking it to Xata's onboard computers.

Follow the link to Onboard Computer Systems for a description of the hardware and its capabilities. The hardware consists of an onboard computer, a microchip key for each driver, a data station, a mobile application server, and operations center software. Route Dispatcher is a tool that allows routes to be transmitted directly from the dispatch office to vehicle onboard computers for paperless electronic trip planning. For more information, follow the links to System Applications, System Benefits, System Advantages, or Results.

Click the Case Studies button for links to articles about Ameriserve, Smart & Final Foodservice, and Thoms Proestler Company, all users of the Xata system.

Following the link to Customers from the main page leads to a customer-specific page for tech support, software downloads, technical updates, and a suggestion box. Visitors need a user name and password to view this page.

www.geocomtms.com The web site for GeoCom TMS opens with a page of graphics highlighting the company's offering to the transportation industry. Access to other site pages is through a series of buttons along the top of the primary page. Clicking the About button links to a page with additional links to a Company Overview, Partners, Resellers, Career, and 2000.

Click on Company Overview to reach a page that describes GeoCom TMS software products, which include fleet management, tracking, messaging, routing, and scheduling. This is a software intensive page. Visitors can view a PowerPoint presentation or download the presentation about the company. They also can view or download a brochure in PDF format. Viewing or downloading the presentation requires the visitor to have either PowerPoint Viewer or PowerPoint. The page offers an opportunity to download the viewing software. The brochures require Acrobat Reader, which also can be downloaded from this page.

Clicking Products on the main toolbar leads to a page that links to the main products, including TMS LTL Router and TMS TL Router. Follow the link to TMS LTL Router for a description of software that can sequence delivery stops for an entire fleet of trucks. It can pick optimum routes based on cubic capacity, weight, distance, cost, overtime, or customer priority. The system projects arrival time for each delivery stop. Brochures and technical sheets about the software are available. Acrobat Reader is necessary to view these brochures. Comparable information is available for truckload operations by following the link for TMS TL Router.

On the Products page, follow the link to Digital Maps for a description of mapping available from GeoCom TMS. Mapping products are available on request and may be ordered by e-mail.

W&B Service Company Inc officially opened its newest Carrier Transicold sales facility in Houston, Texas. This is the third W&B distributor location in Houston since the company entered the market in 1991.

"This property allows us to provide greater level of customer service because of the efficiencies we gain through the increased area for service, installation, and parts warehousing," said Russ Mullennix, regional sales manager for W&B.

The facility is the largest in the 16-location W&B distributor and service center network that serves the south central US. Forty-eight employees work at the Houston location.

The official opening was celebrated by an inaugural ceremony and customer appreciation luncheon. The new sales and service facility is located on a 10-acre tract and contains 25,000 sq ft of climate-controlled building space - compared to 8,000 sq ft under two roofs in the old facility.

The new property has four buildings - a trailer repair shop, a parts warehouse and sales area, a clean room for refrigeration unit repair with attached offices, and a dedicated body and refrigeration unit installation building.

The new facility provides W&B with greater ability to stock refrigeration, body, and trailer parts.

"We have increased our Carrier Transicold parts inventory by more than 100 percent," Mullennix said. "Plus, we have the ability to double our capacity of available refrigeration unit inventory."

Space for repair and installation also has grown substantially. The new dealership has more space than the previous shop by 250 percent, Mullennix says.

"This has made it possible for us to add five new technicians. We plan to hire five more by the end of this calendar year," he said.

The facility was originally a holding of Waste Management Inc. W&B completed acquisition of the property at the end of 1999 and immediately began a program of extensive renovation and building additions.

W&B is a regional distributor for Carrier Transicold, Kidron bodies, and Wabash National Trailers, as well as other major products for the truck and trailer industry.

About the Author

Gary Macklin

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