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NOCO Energy Corp goes live on the Optrak vehicle routing software
NOCO Energy Corp goes live on the Optrak vehicle routing software
NOCO Energy Corp. the North American distributor of industrial and commercial lubricants and engine motor oils is now live on the Optrak vehicle routing software. Optrak’s superior optimisation capabilities for the lubricants industry has enabled NOCO to slash the time spent planning, increase vehicle and compartment utilisation while improving customer service.
NOCO went live with Optrak to plan vehicle movements from a single warehouse in December 2009 and within weeks it had been extended to cover four other warehouses. NOCO now uses Optrak to plan centrally for 26 vehicles with plans to add a further 26 vehicles across the USA and Canada. Since going live, Paul Melanson, Operations Manager, NOCO Lubricants has already seen major improvements. He says:
“We will reduce the number of vehicles and drivers that are needed to meet our delivery commitments by running more efficient routes and increasing vehicle and compartment utilisation. NOCO has slashed the total time spent planning by 7 hours per day. Substantial cost savings will also be made by cutting fleet mileage and reducing our fuel requirements which also minimises our carbon footprint. I anticipate achieving a rapid return on our investment in Optrak. The project will enable us to improve customer service andgenerate sustainable competitive advantage.”
NOCO markets lubricants in five states in the U.S. (New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and two provinces in Canada (Ontario and Quebec). It delivers packaged goods such as 55 gallon drums, 120lb kegs, ‘case’ goods, and bulk lubricants which are sent out on multi-compartmented vehicles daily.
NOCO has six families of lubricants but the compartmented vehicles can only carry two families at any one time due to compatibility, along with cleaning and flushing limitations. However, each family can have up to 50 different products which multiply the planning complexity. NOCO’s transport planning was highly challenging due to the sheer number of rules and variables involved as they need to:
Observe weight and volume limits on vehicles
- Ensure compartments are fully utilised
- Follow complex product and compartment rules
- Meet variable time windows
The industry has changed considerably since the milk rounds were first set up and NOCO wanted to find a better way of maximising resource utilisation. A presentation of the Optrak vehicle routing system was instrumental in persuading NOCO to take a more detailed look at how it managed routing and load planning. NOCO had previously trialled vehicle routing software in another business division without success.
Paul Melanson admits NOCO took the most challenging period it could find, adding, “The lubricants division has very complex requirements. However, I could immediately see from the financial savings analysis presented, that Optrak had the potential to enable us to make some quite significant improvements. The specialised functionality offered by Optrak such as managing compartments, the loading charts and customised trip reports is incredibly advanced. Following a detailed demo of Optrak using our own operational data we could see the business case to proceed with Optrak was clear. Over the course of the implementation, Optrak met and exceeded our expectations throughout.”
All orders are downloaded from the Navision back office system into Optrak. The planner uses Optrak to create a set of optimised trips and the results are uploaded back into Navision which generates pick lists for the warehouse. Optrak also produces a customised loading chart which shows which products are required for each compartment and includes washing and flushing instructions. Trip reports tailored to NOCO’s requirements are also generated for both bulk and packed vehicles and have been proved to be highly accurate.
Paul Melanson reserves the highest level of praise for the team behind the project, “The service that we have received has been truly exceptional. Their expertise in this industry is unmatched and right from the start the team made time to understand exactly what we wanted to achieve. They know how to deploy Optrak in a complex lubricants environment to enable us to drive our business forward. In many ways they understand our business better than we do! Additionally, the team are honest and transparent and I would have no hesitation in recommending Optrak to any company looking for routing software, particularly those with compartmented vehicles.”
There are a number of areas where Optrak’s unique functionality for the lubricants industry has proven useful:
Included in Optrak’s specialised loading features is a loading chart for each vehicle. Optrak automatically manages all product compatibility constraints and selects the optimum compartment for each product which reduces the potential risk of contamination and cleaning costs. The cleaning requirements for each compartment are also shown on the chart. Optrak also takes into account variable unloading times for each bulk lubricant.
NOCO use the Optrak software to carry out simulations to review how various elements of its distribution operation could be improved. Paul Melanson comments, “We now have the tools to review and optimise our fleet based on accurate and precise data. This gives us confidence that any changes are operationally sound and achievable.”
For example, by colour coding which warehouse services each customer and displaying this on the digital roadmap, a clear visual picture of NOCO’s deliveries is immediately apparent. This ability has proved invaluable as it allows NOCO to optimise which warehouse services each customer thus cutting unnecessary mileage, driving time and transport costs.
Cutting costs with external carriers
Optrak has a time saving UPS carrier feature that automatically analyses all orders that meet NOCO’s predefined criteria such as weight, volume and size. Optrak then displays all orders that could potentially be delivered more cost effectively by a carrier. If these orders are not close to other larger orders, they can be assigned to a carrier by the scheduler with a couple of mouse clicks. This helps to minimise costs for what might otherwise be uneconomic deliveries.
Optrak has a number of other features which are useful for NOCO:
Specific loaders for bulk solvents and packaged goods
- Managing deliveries, and collections of used products on the same vehicles
- Swapping out full and empty drums at customer sites
- Pumping lubricants from on-board containers