solaglas2The best people to ask about the benefits of MapMechanics’ market-leading suite of Optimisation and Mapping solutions are the company’s clients.

The long list of prestigious names includes Wincanton Logistics, the dairy supply chain specialists; HippoWaste, the recycling service provider; UniChem, the pharmaceutical wholesaler, now part of Alliance Boots; Solaglas, the UK’s largest processor, distributor, installer and repairer of glass and glass systems; Spicers, Britain’s biggest office equipment wholesaler; BSI, the standards accreditation body; and Deya, the directory and catalogue distribution specialist whose customers include BT and Yellow Pages.

MapMechanics’ wide range of solutions offers a host of business benefits. Clients cite:

•Reducing transport costs

•Visualising ‘What if’ scenarios

•Achieving better Proof of Delivery

•Saving time in travel and planning

•Taking the emotion out of reorganisation

•Gaining capacity to take on extra shifts

•Reducing carbon emissions

•Improving efficiencies

•Optimising territories

•Communicating new delivery routes

TruckStops – the industry standard

wincaton-tankerMapMechanics’ long established client Wincanton Logistics considers MapMechanics’ TruckStops solution the industry standard in routing and scheduling system for milk collection and delivery. Since introducing TruckStops, Wincanton has achieved significant improvements in operational efficiency, as well as gaining invaluable insights for planning for new business.

MapMechanics’ expertise in optimisation is equally well demonstrated by its other Mapping and Optimisation products. Like TruckStops, these can be fine-tuned to any business scenario – whether for the wide variety of glass sizes, shapes and methods of packing and loading used by Solaglas or real-time appointment scheduling for BSI’s client managers, taking into account frequency, customer relationship and other factors. It’s all the more impressive that various clients mention several different benefits from the same MapMechanics solution.

MapMechanics’ impressive bank of client case studies highlights the wide range of benefits:

Reducing transport costs

Since Spicers introduced the TruckStops routing and scheduling system over 15 years ago, Britain’s biggest office equipment wholesaler has saved “in excess of one million pounds” in its transport and logistics activities, says Richard Slade, a logistics manager in the company’s logistics management team, who was involved in the purchase of the original TruckStops licence.

“Since then TruckStops has become an indispensable tool for us,” he says. “We’ve used it for everything from network planning to fleet rationalisation, and even to model travel to work by our own staff.” He pays tribute to MapMechanics’ support over the years: “We haven’t needed to call on their resources very often, but when we’ve done so, they’ve always given us outstanding service.”

Visualising ‘What if’ scenarios

MapMechanics’ Truckstops has also proved invaluable to Spicers in identifying the best locations for new depots and how many locations are needed, based on a use cost model taking into account, for example, the capacity of the proposed depot and the cost per mile. In a previous major network review, TruckStops helped reveal a possible opportunity to close one of Spicers’ regional distribution centres at Nottingham: “TruckStops showed we could cover the same work load from other bases, but at significantly lower cost.”

Better Proof of Delivery

Spicers is now reaping yet more benefits from its investment in TruckStops by harnessing the feedback from a new real-time Proof of Delivery system. Its delivery vehicles have been equipped with handheld terminals so drivers can transmit PoD details back to base in real time via GPRS wireless networks.

hippo_collection“This has given us an unprecedented amount of accurate delivery data,” Richard Slade explains, “which makes it much easier to check planned performance against actual.” Among the benefits, this means the company can verify TruckStops delivery schedules, ensuring they are achievable.

Saving time in travel and planning

Solaglas, one of Britain’s largest processors, distributors and installers of glass and glass systems, is on course to make significant savings through introducing an advanced vehicle loading, routing, scheduling and mobility management solution from MapMechanics.

The solution includes a new custom-built software application, Automated Loading System (ALS), specially written by MapMechanics.

In a trial in Dudley, West Midlands Solaglas found they could reduce the fleet size from 11 to seven, saving 1,000 km a week and 100 litres of fuel, says the company’s Derek Crowley. “We were also able to handle the vehicle planning task with one less operator.”

Planning time has also been reduced from several hours to about half an hour in total. At a saving of £60,000 per vehicle, the total savings are extremely promising.

The next step will be to use the solution throughout the business to optimise the way vehicle loading is planned for the wide variety of glass sizes, shapes and methods of packing and loading in use across Solaglas’s operations.

Taking the emotion out of reorganisation

Solaglas’s Derek Crowley adds: “One of the attractions of the TruckStops system is that there’s no emotion attached to it. It prevents people holding back delivery capacity in reserve, ‘just in case,’ and will only schedule deliveries of products that we have in stock.”

Gaining capacity to take on extra shifts

TruckStops is now used periodically to re-plan the routing and scheduling of vehicles at Wincanton’s 14 depots in southern England and Wales. “In some cases we’ve saved a couple of shifts, gaining more capacity to take on extra business,” Kevin Crockford says. “In others we’ve achieved striking reductions in the distances run by the vehicles.” Kevin usually visits depots in person to handle the route revision process. “Calculated routes work best if they reflect local information, and take account of factors you wouldn’t necessarily know if you were somewhere else.”

Reducing carbon emissions

The HIPPOBAG™ national domestic and commercial waste collection and recycling service has become even “greener” and more cost-effective following the introduction of the TruckStops routing and scheduling system to plan vehicle movements from day to day. When using the HIPPOBAG product and attached collection service, domestic or commercial users place waste in special, heavy-duty purpose-built recyclable polypropylene bags, left outside their premises for collection by the company. A nationwide fleet of vehicles collects the bags and transports them to the most convenient waste transfer station, where typically over 80% of the contents enter a recycling stream, and the bag itself is also passed on for recycling.

spicers_warehouse“We had heard TruckStops was widely used in bulk milk collection operations, which can involve picking up from multiple location points and delivering on the same journey,” James Bennett says. “It sounded like exactly the kind of problem we deal with every day.” The HIPPOBAG requirement is if anything even more complicated, since it can involve multiple pickup points and several delivery points on each journey, he adds, “but we soon realised TruckStops could take this in its stride. Scheduling day-to-day transport operations is the most intensive task a routing and scheduling system can undertake, especially when call points change from one day to the next.”

Improving Efficiencies

Routing and scheduling with TruckStops has played “a fundamental role” in a major expansion programme undertaken by UniChem, the pharmaceuticals and healthcare distributor and wholesaler. In its biggest-ever third-party distribution contract, UniChem has become Pfizer’s sole UK distribution agent, resulting in an increase of nearly two thirds in its delivery van fleet, and a near trebling in its customer base. “It has also meant a change in our operational approach,” says Head of Distribution Chris Brown. “In the past we worked with a traditional model, distributing to all locations from 10 large medical warehouses. To take on the Pfizer work, we have set up a new system using 60 additional local hubs.”

UniChem had already used TruckStops to very good effect in a number of exercises to streamline its existing distribution network. Generally the company had always operated on the basis of fixed delivery routes, and by methodically re-planning all these routes it achieved efficiencies worth over £1 million – a saving of over 6 per cent. The last exercise enabled the company to reduce the fleet by 17 vehicles, and to cut travel by around 1.8 million miles a year. Armed with this experience, UniChem has been able to apply TruckStops to the task of modeling a new network to take on the Pfizer work. TruckStops is often used in this way – to plan distribution networks and set up and revise fixed routes – although many users also take advantage of its ability to do dynamic day-to-day routing and scheduling of vehicles.

Optimising territories

Because their new assignment for Pfizer involved so many more delivery outlets than UniChem’s existing work, as well as different delivery frequencies and requirements, it was decided early on that rather than attempt full integration of the new operation with existing activities, it would be essential to create a dedicated process for it, at least initially.

unichem1“TruckStops was very helpful in this process,” Chris Brown says. “We looked at our existing routes to see which were viable, and used TruckStops to model where to locate our new hubs, and how many vehicles to allocate to each. ”He adds: “It was quite a task. Rather than rely on information provided to us, we mostly went back to first principles to find out what would work best.” The MapMechanics team helped throughout with support and advice about how to get the best from TruckStops. “In aggregate, our operations now enable us to offer a better service to external clients,” Chris says. He explains that the company had already started taking on work for clients such as National Health Trusts, “and we see opportunities with our extended network to take on much more of this type of work.”

Communicating new delivery routes

By introducing the GeoConcept mapping system from MapMechanics, the directory and catalogue distribution specialist Deya has been able to reduce the time spent on planning house-to-house delivery routes significantly, and at the same time provide staff with consistent, easily-understood maps of each delivery area. Around 40,000 custom maps are now being generated annually.

Deya distributes millions of directories to businesses and consumers for major clients such as Yellow Pages and BT, as well as other catalogues and samples. The company covers the entire country every year, using a network of around 1,500 temporary field stations based on schools, sports facilities and similar public locations. Giving clear instructions to delivery staff, who may vary from year to year, is vital to the efficiency of the operation.

“We’d been looking for something like this for years,” says Deya’s Chief Information Officer, Andy Fisher. “Our existing database system could already generate lists of delivery addresses, but the missing part was the map. The GeoConcept system from MapMechanics has supplied it.” In the past, local Deya organisers would sometimes produce maps for deliverers themselves, “but this was time-consuming, with no standardisation. Also sometimes they would say they could not find maps.”

deyaFor creating the new maps, MapMechanics supplied Deya with GeoConcept Enterprise, the powerful digital mapping and geographic information system. Deya’s database system outputs delivery routes based on historic coverage patterns, and this information is imported to MapMechanics’ Territories Module within GeoConcept, which uses its redistricting function to create maps encompassing all the postcodes on each route. GeoConcept’s batch print facility is then used to output the maps to PDF document format, and these are printed out and despatched to the local organisers.

“GeoConcept neatly scales the map automatically to fit on an A4 or A3 page,” Andy Fisher says, “and also orientates the map to either portrait or landscape format.” A further advantage of GeoConcept over other mapping systems, he adds, is its SmartLabel function.  This ensures that street names and other detail are printed clearly on the maps, avoiding overlap with other annotation.

“The GeoConcept system has brought us a clear business gain,” Andy concludes, “because local organisers no longer have to worry about finding or creating maps, and can concentrate instead on their primary task of recruiting and managing the deliverers.”

MapMechanics   Tel: 020 8568 7000

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