Improved operational visibility, driver efficiency, less environmental impact and a better customer offering – who says you can’t have it all? Maria Highland explores the benefits of telematics and routing and scheduling systems.
Fleet operators are tasked with getting goods to consumers in good time, but they often encounter issues surrounding transporting goods due to external factors like consumer demands, traffic and environmental impact concerns. These can halt the overall supply chain or incur unnecessary excess costs. “The most common issues are the increase in vehicle running costs and the growing need to improve vehicle and driver efficiency and performance,” says Europa Worldwide Group IT director Richard Litchfield. He notes that additional issues faced by operators are “road network capacity and traffic delays; and a growing requirement for real time and granular information such as latest vehicle position, ETA and delivery confirmation both internally and to customers.” Likewise, Microlise product director Stephen Watson explains: “Operators face a daily battle with the combined pressures of costs, customer service and legislative requirement, while also having to address competitive threats, environmental concerns and the growing trend for online reviews.” Mandata sales and marketing manager Tracy Welford believes that often there is a lack of integration between tracking and planning systems. “Working with multiple, disjointed systems leads to poor visibility of work which in-turn leads to missed opportunities to maximise fleet efficiency eg, plan in extra work, minimise empty running.” Therefore, investing in transport systems and equipment can help streamline these processes as it is crucial to have the most efficient operation possible to ensure a smooth supply chain. This enables users to manage operations with one tightly integrated system, which is beneficial as real-time load progress is provided alongside vehicle tracking and driver performance. Recently, there has been an increased demand for telematics systems and routing and scheduling software due to changing consumer market needs. “Consumers have raised expectations and some retailers guarantee next day or even same day deliveries,” says Watson. “Deliveries are now expected much more quickly and this puts enormous pressure on those managing the logistics. It has meant a shift to dynamic operations. Introducing new technology is really the only way to keep up.” Linking telematics with a routing and scheduling system is a vital asset in a changing market. Paragon Software Systems support director Phil Ingham observes that “Logistics businesses are increasingly looking to integrated technology solutions to gain the added transparency and control of their transport operations. The results of Paragon’s customer survey suggested a clear shift in what people are looking for from logistics services, with a staggering 85.6 per cent saying that customer expectations had increased in the previous 12 months. The overriding reason behind this was the request for greater levels of visibility and accuracy, which included the provision of faster and more regular deliveries, as well as increased reporting and real-time communications.” However, businesses need to identify which technology is best for them and will benefit them most. For example, Welford points out that most of Mandata’s “customers do not have a need for route scheduling. R&S is good for radial distribution, where you’re concentrating locally or doing fixed routes or where are there are no anomalies. Our customers want the flexibility to plan work themselves and react to changing situations throughout the day.” “We integrate traffic planning with vehicle and trailer tracking,” she continues, “this tight integration gives traffic planners the information needed to make sensible decisions themselves and visibility of issues so they can plan in extra work safely and profitably and be more proactive in managing issues and keeping customers informed.” Having access to real time information is crucial for fleet operators, especially as “the vehicle is now seen as an extension of the office, able to provide and receive real time information,” says Litchfield. “Pre-planned routes are maximised for optimal efficiency and cost, but these are largely based on historic traffic information. On the day of execution, it is real time information that is necessary to determine progress of the vehicle throughout the day – both for the current job and those thereafter. Changes to delivery requirements need to be presented through to the driver instantly, a new job needs to update the vehicle plan with revised ETAs and a cancelled job needs to be aborted with minimal impact,” notes Litchfield. For example, “If there is a traffic situation developing and a delivery is going to be late there will be a knock-on effect so real time feedback from the cab is absolutely crucial to keep the customer informed,” says Litchfield. A telematics makes such things possible. Therefore, the best port of call is to invest in both telematics and routing and scheduling software. “Combining routing and scheduling software with a telematics system is the only way of offering customers convenient time windows; calculating accurate and achievable ETAs; and providing live updates regarding planned deliveries,” explains Paragon’s Phil Ingham. “This has become increasingly important irrespective of which industry you are operating in or who you are delivering to,” continues Ingham. “The ability to also manage your live operation in real-time and then feed actual data back in to your planning process allows transport operations to fine tune parameters and achieve continuous improvement.” With route a telematics system and routing and scheduling software users are able to make full use of the real time transport information provided and make intelligent choices based on that. The result is reduced “operating costs through optimisation and improved service by allowing accurate expected delivery times to be provided to customer by text or email, as well as providing evidence of service delivered,” says Microlise’s Watson. Entering into the realm of telematics, recent developments mean that drivers can get the most out of their software and that it is less bulky and easier to use. It’s clear that in recent times the technologies are coming together into one platform and incorporating all aspects of driver and vehicle monitoring,” says Litchfield. “Five years ago, there would have been an array of devices in one cab, disjointed and interpreting the situation differently, today they are becoming much more harmonised.” Ingham also agrees. “In previous years there has been a reliance on installed tracking units to capture the location data needed to monitor planned versus actual performance and live reporting of ETAs. However, “Smartphone technology means fleet operators can now unlock a significant proportion of this required functionality and the increased flexibility offered by smartphones, without the capital investment associated with installing devices in vehicles.” Telematics has not only changed on a physical level, but it has also seen improvements regarding connectivity. Watson notes that the biggest advancements in telematics “have been in integration, making it much easier to link routing and scheduling. It means telematics becomes a fully integrated component of the business providing useful live and historic data for improved planning and operations.” And this has widespread effects, which enables users to have “more information at their disposal to make better informed decisions. Information such as where there driver is, when he started, the last time he had a break etc., for clear visibility when planning in extra work and utilisation of the fleet,” says Welford. Welford also highlights one of Mandata’s most recent advances, which “is to bring drivers’ hours into the planning traffic pad to allow greater visibility when planning work. Data such as tacho status, shift details and their weekly drive time, availability and load revenue are all visible so planners can see at-a-glance whether any driving limits have been breached or if it’s safe to allocate work to drivers.” “Working as an extension of our existing Tracking and Telematics products, Drivers’ Hours is the culmination of work we carried out to make the data we receive from a vehicle’s Tachograph work smarter for our customers,” adds Welford. Likewise, route scheduling has seen some advancements. “The biggest advance in recent years has been made possible by advances in high speed broadband and cloud computing, with software provided as a service,” says Watson. “It means that the huge processing power of internet servers is now suitable for complex software like routing and scheduling.” The latest routing and scheduling software can solve increasingly complex transport problems,” says Ingham. “Having the ability to schedule at an individual driver level rather than generically, means you can now create much more accurate plans that remove slack from your transport plan. This resource level planning makes it possible to eliminate efficiencies and make the most of fleet assets by factoring in the capabilities and availability of all drivers and vehicles.” As previously mentioned, linking liking telematics systems and route scheduling enables real -time information to be used and provides a flexible solution to operators. Watson explains that “integration allows real time, dynamic working and that is the way the market is going. Routes and schedules can be adapted during the day. The other key benefits is in the comparison of actual journeys against planned journeys, so the routes can be fine-tuned and territories reassessed for operational optimisation.” Likewise, Ingham notes that “A great benefit of linking telematics systems with routing and scheduling software is the ability to dynamically reallocate resources as the day progresses. This agile approach is particularly relevant for a multi-trip environment that involves large numbers of trailers, tractor units and drivers, enabling planners to automatically re-assign loads in response to changing conditions to stay on schedule and enhance transport efficiency.” LeoCab from Europa
Logistics operator Europa Worldwide launched LeoCab in 2017 which includes the integration of its bespoke IT system, Leonardo, into the truck cab to improve truck efficiencies by providing granular information. Europa invested over £2 million in its Leonardo software and a further £100,000 in LeoCab to extend the software to its fleet drivers. LeoCab replaced the old standalone in-cab solution, instead providing enhanced collection and delivery information such as individual site operating procedures and navigation technology including real-time traffic monitoring. LeoCab also allows for real-time signature capture and immediate capture and management of discrepancies as well as a photo capability. “LeoCab offers enhanced visibility of shipments and tracking thereof for driver, branch and sales respectively. Previously we relied on the driver communicating information – especially delays – by phone, but now LeoCab takes on this role in real time,” said Europa Worldwide Group IT director Richard Litchfield. “The system incorporates vehicle satellite navigation which, combined with traffic monitoring and positional updates, means Leonardo is able to more accurately estimate the driver’s arrival time at collection and delivery points and feeds this information back in real-time to the transport office.”
Maxoptra for Dibs Distribution
Halal chicken supplier Dibs Distribution has implemented Maxoptra dynamic delivery management and route planning software. Dibs makes around 1,500 deliveries a week to fast food outlets across England, Scotland and Wales. It operates a fleet of specialist temperature controlled, dual bunk head trucks equipped with satellite vehicle tracking and sleeping facilities for drivers. Dibs aims to reduce its mobile operating costs by creating more efficient route planning and delivery scheduling and improve customer communications. Maxoptra replaced Dibs’ previous routing software solution enables the supplier manage its distribution and transport operation to maximum effect. “We had been operating the same fixed routes for a number of years simply tagging new customers, as they came on board, to the existing schedules produced by our previous solution,” said Dibs Distribution transport director Toby Payne. “While this worked to a degree, as our business has expanded, we realised that fixed routes may not be the most efficient and effective.” “Maxoptra allows us to be flexible and responsive to our customer’s needs,” he continued. “We can add and remove deliveries from a route depending on customer orders, tweak routes to take into account special requests and vehicle capacities and add new customers and routes all with just a few clicks. Maxoptra is also helping us improve customer service with automated messaging and continuously updated ETA notifications.”
This feature first appeared in the November issue of Logistics Manager.