As an industry, we’ve always been focused on removing cost from the transport operation. We do this by reducing mileage, maximizing vehicle and driver utilization and generally being as efficient with our resources as possible.
Whatever happens to the price of fuel, the need to cut costs never goes away. But there’s another challenge that is shared by most transportation operations I talk to and that’s the growing expectations of the customer. Put simply, our customers’ customers are a lot more demanding these days.
When we first started developing software for the transportation industry, requirements were far simpler. A delivery window of Tuesday afternoon was perfectly acceptable, but that’s no longer the case. Today all of our customers are under pressure to meet tighter delivery windows, and this is further complicated by growing traffic congestion that all transport operations are faced with.
In addition to the demand for narrower time windows, customers expect to be kept up to date with exactly what is happening. As Jim Norton, Distribution Planning Manager at the UK’s biggest bakery brand Warburtons explained to Adrian Gonzalez in a recent video interview customers want to know:
- What time is it going to come?
- What time did you actually get there?
- How much were you planning to deliver?
- Did you deliver it when you arrived?
Building an accurate transport plan is just the start of the process for Warburtons’ operation. Adherence to that delivery plan is absolutely critical for Jim and his colleagues, and if there is any variance from it, they need to have immediate visibility.
They have achieved this by integrating their routing and scheduling software with their vehicle tracking software. This enables the transportation planners to track performance against the plan minute by minute, immediately identifying if there is a variance from the plan so that they can either get the delivery back on track, or alert the customer to a potential delay.
This level of monitoring obviously reflects the time-sensitive nature of deliveries for Warburtons’ customers but there are multiple benefits. Aside from the obvious one of knowing what’s happening out on the road at all times, the amount of data and the accuracy of the data lends credibility to the operation. “We get real buy-in from across the business. The planners can be confident that they can execute and sell it to the drivers,” explains Jim.
Warburtons is the largest branded bakery supplier in the UK. They bake 2 million bakery items every day and deliver them to a large number of stores ranging from large supermarkets like Asda-Walmart to neighbourhood convenience stores. That’s 16,000 deliveries every day.
For Warburtons customers, it’s absolutely critical that the bakery goods are on the shelves when the shop opens. The family-owned business prides itself on quality and service, and a well-run transport operation is an integral part of being able to reach the customer service objectives.
Jim has a number of measures that are tracked every day to ensure that they do just this:
- Planned effectiveness – Is the plan the best it can be?
- Adherence to the plan – Are we sticking to the plan during the day?
- Fulfilling customer service objectives – Did we deliver on all of our commitments?
The data that is collected isn’t just about keeping on track of the live operation day to day. As Jim explains, it makes their strategic planning a lot more accurate as well: “We can monitor the activity of our drivers and vehicles in real-time. We are able to take this information away and use actual data to remodel our distribution operation based on what has previously happened and trends that are occurring throughout the network.”
With a fleet of around 800 vehicles and 24 distribution centres, the Warburtons distribution operation is complex. Details like dwell time are vitally important and can have a big impact on the delivery schedule. Warburtons is able to capture and analyse all of this data using their routing and scheduling software and route execution tool, which integrates with Warburtons’ vehicle tracking system. We asked Jim what advice he would have for transportation planners that want to achieve this level of efficiency. He gave us three pieces of advice to share:
- Choose a technology partner that you can work in partnership with for the long term.
- Before you embark upon your journey, know exactly what you want to get out of it.
- Engage all of the people that you want to be involved in the process from the CEO to the drivers that will be out delivering. Bring people along with you and give them confidence in the system that it will deliver what it needs to deliver.
Watch the full video to find out more about Warburtons’ transportation operation and how they are using technology to meet those vitally important customer service objectives but also take people with them in a heavily unionised environment.
It just goes to show what a good transportation plan can achieve!
William Salter is CEO and President of Paragon Software Systems Inc., a leader in vehicle routing and scheduling optimization solutions. He has held a number of senior management roles since joining Paragon and is now responsible for directing company strategy, exploring new business opportunities and leading the company’s successful expansion into North America and China.
Watch Talking Logistics interview with Jim Norton, Distribution Planning Manager at Warburtons