DPS (Distribution Planning Software) International Ltd is one of the world’s leading suppliers of logistics software solutions, led by its award-winning LogiX suite, a comprehensive range of products for vehicle routing and scheduling at both a strategic and tactical level.
Supported by its consultancy services, its links to in-cab control and monitoring systems and over three decades of logistics industry experience, DPS is strongly placed to help warehouse and logistics businesses to achieve greater operational efficiencies in this crucial area of their operations, and has an infrastructure of offices spread out over the globe plus a network of Business Partners. Paul Palmer, Managing Director of DPS, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – Paul, when was DPS International founded, and who by?
I started the company in 1982, originally as a logistics consulting business, based on my previous experience of working at an operational and functional level within the FMCG transport sector.
WLN – What led you from there to become a technology company?
The growth of our consulting business in the UK, particularly at the contract logistics level, highlighted the need in the industry for technology tools for optimisation of transport at both a strategic and tactical level. Having researched the market and not found the tools the market needed, we invested in the development of both vehicle route scheduling and planning software, initially to meet our consulting customers’ needs but eventually to offer to the wider logistics market. In 1991 we began an expansion plan outside the UK with our first sales in the Benelux countries and Scandinavia. By 1993 we had achieved further growth into France and Australia, and we now have additional offices in South Africa, Germany and South Asia, plus a growing market in the United States.
WLN – As MD, what’s your day-to-day role in DPS these days? Do you get personally involved in developing new software and working with individual customers to develop solutions for their needs?
My day-to-day role is now two-fold: keeping a close eye on product development to ensure we are keeping pace with technology and our customers’ needs, and playing an active role in developing new markets for our products. For example, we are currently actively developing in the USA in the home medical equipment sector. I keep a keen eye on working with individual customers, as the specific needs of one customer today could become tomorrow’s new product in a different market sector.
WLN – Who else is in the senior management team besides you?
We have a strong team, and in particular we have many key people who have been with us for over 10 years, some over 20 years, with some of them joining DPS from our customers, where they were impressed with the product.
WLN – Where is DPS based? Where do you develop your solutions?
Our UK offices are in Halesowen in the West Midlands, and all of our solutions are developed in the UK. We have experimented with ”remote” product development outside the UK but we found it didn’t work for us, as we could not fine-tune the solutions in the level of detail we wanted.
WLN – Do you sell your solutions direct or through distributors?
Traditionally we sold our solutions direct to end-users. However, with the development in 2002 of our LogiX integration engine, which is designed to be built in to other TMS and WMS applications, many of our products are now sold through distributors. Further, with the release of our Logixcentral (Software as a Service) in early 2007, our product is used by many small and medium enterprises, often through companies who have developed niche packages for specific market sectors such as waste management, healthcare, hygiene and water distribution.
WLN – How are you structured to sell your products to the warehouse and logistics audience?
We have a direct sales force in the UK, who respond to leads generated either from the conventional channels of trade journals, exhibitions and so on or, increasingly, from our websites. We also consider the needs of potential customers, and where appropriate may pass the lead to a partner who has specific skills in that market sector.
WLN – How big is DPS now in turnover and staff?
We currently have over 35 staff directly employed by us, plus an additional 10-20 people indirectly employed by our partners, both in the UK and overseas.
WLN – Who are these partners? What kinds of businesses are they? Do you have any links with any other technology companies?
Our partners are in a variety of complimentary sectors, such as ERP, WMS, TMS and mobile tracking businesses. We have linked our products with all the major ERP systems such as SAP, Sage and Microsoft Dynamics, and WMS systems such as Red Prairie and ATMS.
WLN – How would you sum up what DPS does?
In summary, we optimise mobile resources, whether they are big trucks carrying physical products or small vans delivering service. Our activities cover professional vehicle route scheduling and optimisation software, route planning and time and distance technology software, systems integration and bespoke solutions, together with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, in-cab monitoring and warehouse management, and logistics consulting.
WLN – Can you talk us through your different scheduling and optimisation products?
Our flagship product is our Logixcentral (SaaS), which offers vehicle optimisation in a simple pay as you go solution. We believe we are the first company to simplify this functionality into an easy to use system, which takes out the ‘black art’ often associated with these high technology solutions. We provide this system in various forms – as a system for larger fleets either in SaaS or Intranet format, plus a “lightweight” version of Logixcentral, called Tour Optimiser, offering the same core functionality but without some advanced features which some users may not need at the present time.
We also have our classic well established LogiX PC Suite, which provides routing and logistics planning in a powerful, fully customisable PC-based desktop application.
WLN – What size of operations are your different products aimed at? Which industry sectors are they in?
We do not have a target fleet size. We have clients with over a thousand vehicles, but we also have clients with just two vehicles: in fact, we even have some clients with NO vehicles! They use our system to work out how many sub-contract vehicles they need on a daily basis.
Traditionally our clients were either manufacturers who distributed their own products or people in the classic Third Party Logistics sector, working either for retailers or manufacturers. However, our products are now used in many new business services sectors such as pest control, home care, NHS patient services, washrooms, vending machines and horticulture. If it moves, we can plan and optimise it!
WLN – How many users are you allowed per licence?
Users per licence is not a term you can use for our SaaS system: you get a Login to the system, which is effectively one simultaneous use, but if you organise yourself internally then you might have five depots but only have one Login to the system, as it can plan for different depots at the same time.
WLN – How do people know which of your solutions is the right one for them? Can companies upgrade from Tour Optimiser to one of the other Logix family members?
We publish a comparative list of features of the various products on our website for guidance, and our sales staff are trained to help potential clients choose the right products, but sometimes even if a client chooses the right product now, it may be the wrong product in 12 months, hopefully because they have grown their business.
We are very flexible in upgrading between the various solutions, the customer only paying for the price difference.
WLN – Do you offer anything for companies who already have existing routing and scheduling systems, to help them upgrade their systems?
Yes, we find some customers just want a blind web-based engine, rather than an interactive “all-singing, all-dancing” map-based offering. For this we offer Logixcentral DIRECT, enabling external applications to send and receive data via a direct XML interface.
WLN – How does Logixcentral DIRECT work?
The system is built on our award winning Logix and Logixcentral services, but allows users direct control without passing via the Login and Password screens. Essentially the user puts an XML file in a selected URL, either on their own server or on the FTP server on Logixcentral, and the service activates from the data contained within the XML file, processes the required data, and copies the output data to a selected URL, again either on the user’s server or on an FTP site on Logixcentral.
WLN – What do you offer in terms of in-cab control and monitoring systems?
We do not offer in-cab systems or monitoring systems ourselves, but work with a variety of partners to provide the planning data. Our view is that knowing ‘where a vehicle is’ is of little use if you do not know ‘where it should be.’ So we provide the plan, our partners provide the actual, and then we provide reports on compliance to the schedule.
WLN – What kind of operational improvements can people expect using your solutions?
They can expect to see significant savings for their business, particularly in the following areas – cost savings, fuel consumption and improved customer service. Cost savings of at least 10% are typical, but people often see in excess of 25%: on fuel consumption, more efficient routing results in smaller fleets using less fuel. You see improved customer service because your customer gets the deliveries when they want them, and with the right vehicle. And it’s greener for the environment.
WLN – Can you tell us about the different customers you work for, and what you’ve done for them? Do you produce customer case studies?
We have a large number of case studies including Bathstore, ICA (Sweden), Vogue Beds, Mattressman, Hydro (Sweden) and Savona. You can see a selection of case studies on the opposite page.
WLN – What do your consultancy services cover?
Our two main specialist consultancy fields are in operational reviews and business development studies. This ensures we maintain our ‘hands-on’ experience while continually enhancing our strategic planning and analytical skills. We can realistically become your team for securing new logistics contracts, and then carry out all your annual reviews.
WLN – What functional areas can your consultants help with?
WLN – Do other logistics consultants also use your software?
Yes, several companies such as Price Waterhouse Coopers, Bisham Consulting and Total Logistics use our software.
WLN – What different awards have you won?
The LogiX suite has won various honours in the ICT Excellence Awards sponsored by the University of Warwick. In 2007 it was Regional Champion and winning product for Excellence, and in 2010 was commended in the Excellence Award for Strategic Business Improvement and winner in the Software for a Service (SaaS) category. In the ITM Awards, DPS International was voted Best Vehicle Routing System 2007 and best Logistics Solutions Provider 2011.
WLN – Any plans to launch any more solutions in 2012?
Yes, we have some significant new developments in production – better ‘drag and drop’ on our interactive products, and an iPad version, offering ‘virtual’ solutions to corporate clients via the Cloud.
WLN – How are you promoting your solutions to the Warehouse & Logistics audience? Can people try your solutions for free, before committing themselves?
They can download a free trial for 30 days. Just go to www.logixcentral.com, click on the FREE TRIAL logo, give us a few details about what you do, and away you go.
WLN – If someone wants to find out more about your products, who should they call?
Call our UK office on 0121 585 6633, and ask for Sales.
WLN – What do you see as the biggest external factors affecting demand for your products?
The 2009 financial recession was good for us, because companies found it difficult to get the finance for new IT systems, but being SaaS based meant that the “up-front” costs were much lower, so it became more financially viable.
The other key external factor would be the availability of high-speed Internet connection, and the perception of its reliability. Fortunately for us, the UK Internet infrastructure is improving, and this is not seen as a major problem by our customers.
WLN – Finally, where do you see DPS International going from here?
We pride ourselves on our technology and innovation, and I believe we will remain in the forefront in this sector by investing in skilled people who understand both IT and logistics. To keep ahead commercially, we will continue to adapt and use modern commercial practices of web-seminars, increasing our search engine rankings, improving our websites and so on.
Distribution Planning Software Ltd
Tel: 0121 585 6633