Delivering ice cream in tropical Queensland is not without its challenges. In a climate with an average year-round temperature of 29˚C, ice cream is an in-demand commodity. An efficient and reliable distribution network is key in the delivery of this product.
With more than 1,600 customers – ranging from petrol and convenient stores to supermarkets and leisure centres, covering over 150 postcodes and a fleet of 13 vehicles – SEQ Ice Cream was searching for a new way to map their routes in order to improve efficiency and increase customer-driver face time.
Don Mackaness, Distributor, SEQ Ice Cream, said that much of the business had previously been run manually and was using knowledge rather than system-driven processes.
“We had some staff turnover, and we quickly realised that we lost the ability to retain the knowledge they had about the business, because we were more human process driven than system driven,” he said. “We needed to look at the bigger picture – to look at the whole system and work out how we could become more efficient.”
With this in mind, SEQ Ice Cream approached route optimisation software provider, PTV, to implement a new solution for planning and scheduling.
With PTV on board, the first step was to take 10 months of sales data and model it in RouteOptimiser. “Historically, we would have done this manually by looking at maps. With PTV we managed to analyse all of the data in two days,” said Mackaness.
For SEQ, a priority was to ensure that a majority of the drivers were able to keep the same customers they had before the re-route, while also making the routes more efficient.
“In our brief to PTV, we wanted to keep good relationships with our customers. We were thrilled when we were able to ensure that 80 per cent of our trips kept the same driver even after the re-route – this was a big win for us,” said Mackaness. “One of the major gains in this exercise was for our drivers to stick to their original customers as much as possible.”
Once SEQ got to know the system and its benefits, Mackaness started to recognise the gains in efficiency that could be had.
“Due to the growth of our business, we had some imbalance in our routes. By looking at this data we could start the whole route from scratch.”
This is backed up by SEQ’s logistics manager, Shaun Chandler, who was pleased at how the system allowed him to figure out new routes.
“We have done some re-routing using it,” said Chandler. “This system allows me to see our entire customer base on a map of Brisbane. In doing that, I can easily plot new boundaries and create new territories and new runs because I can see where the customers are.”
“The initial re-route had great results, it worked straight away. Our re-routing exercise kicked off in May last year and we have been fine-tuning it since then,” said Mackaness. “Using smart tools, we created a system that is 90-95 per cent correct. Now we’re looking at the bigger picture and the seasonal data for stage two.”
The first 10-month data analysis is really the first step for SEQ. “We are now at stage two, where we have asked our drivers to report back every day with their knowledge about traffic flow, route efficiency etc. – this will enable us to know exactly what is going on every day,” said Mackaness.
For Mackaness, the solution is two-fold. “We have the smart tools, but also we want the knowledge and information from our drivers, which is what we are continuing to collect.”
Mackaness said that route optimisation is about giving his drivers as much time with the customer as possible. For SEQ, this is the first step in the right direction. “I always knew this isn’t an overnight success, this is only as good as the information you put in,” said Mackaness. “By finishing this initial exercise with PTV, we’re 30-40 per cent there already. The next level of detail is how long we spend with customers and making sure that all our customer data is correct.
“Our drivers have confidence in the system and its abilities and we are looking forward to planning more efficient trips and spending more time with our customers.”
Mackaness is happy with how the optimisation is going so far. The fact that PTV were able to do a full strategic review of SEQ’s operation in a matter of days was invaluable to SEQ and its ability to improve the efficiency and time spent with customers.
“The initial re-route has had great results already, and now we’re fine-tuning and working closely with PTV to optimise our service offerings even further.”
Chandler said that some of that fine-tuning is saving time and money in other ways.
“With all that data, it gives me the kilometres travelled on that route,” said Chandler. “It also gives me a total of the value of their delivery day. It pulls that data in from across our sales program. Not only can I try and even up kilometres that have been travelled and the number of drops, I can also look at the dollar value in the day. It allows me to even that up as well.
“For example, if I compare two runs and they both have 10 deliveries to do that day, that looks even without knowing the dollar value. If you look at the dollar value, one of those routes may equate to $5,000 while the other is $10,000. Obviously, they are doing the same number of drops, but one might be twice as big and they have a lot more to unload per drop. It allows me to see immediately three or four different criteria to even the efficiencies up. Before, we had to do that type of procedure manually.”