Route optimisation for delivering ice-cream
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 1600 customers ranging from petrol and convenience 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 its routes in order to improve efficiency and increase customer–driver face time.
Acknowledging that much of the business had previously been run with human behaviour and knowledge rather than system-driven processes, Don Mackaness, Distributor, SEQ Ice Cream, said: “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.
“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 develop 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 Smartour.
Mackaness said this would have been a major job without PTV’s software: “Historically, we would have done this manually by looking at maps etc; with PTV we managed to analyse all of the data in just two days.”
For SEQ, a major priority in this exercise was to ensure that a majority of the drivers were able to keep the same customers they had before the reroute, while also making the routes more efficient.
“In our brief with PTV we wanted to keep good relationships with our customers. We were thrilled when we were able to ensure that 80% of our trips kept the same driver even after the reroute, this was a big win for us,” Mackaness said.
“Using smart tools created a system that is 90–95% correct. Now we are looking at the bigger picture and the seasonal data for stage two. We have the smart tools, but also we want the knowledge and information from our drivers, which is what we are continuing to collect.”
For an ice-cream distributor, seasonality also needs to come into planning and this aspect can be complicated. Having more time instore with customers allows SEQ to retain this kind of information. So for SEQ, this exercise was not just about efficiency.
“Efficiency is one thing, but the drivers have a relationship with their customers. This is extremely important in the growth of the business,” Mackaness said. “Relationship and visibility instore is everything — if we can’t see the freezer then we need more accurate information from the customer.
“For many of our customers we don’t get an order every week, so it’s important that our drivers know the customers and the capacity they have instore.”
For SEQ, route optimisation is about giving their drivers as much time with the customer as possible.
For SEQ, this is the first step in the right direction. “By finishing this initial exercise with PTV, we’re 30–40% there already,” Mackaness said. “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, which is the core aspect of our business.”
Mackaness is thrilled with how the optimisation is going so far. The fact that PTV was 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 reroute has had great results already, and now we’re fine-tuning and working closely with PTV to optimise our service offerings even further.”
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