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Wincanton delivers innovative solution with Optrak
Wincanton is a European leader in the design and delivery of advanced supply chain solutions. Its 28,000 staff operate across Europe, producing an annual turnover of over £1.8bn. It is the UK market leader in grocery distribution, automated warehousing and petrochemical distribution. Wincanton operates a contract on behalf of a major petroleum company to deliver packed goods such as cans of oil to garage forecourts and petrol stations, and bulk lubricants to car workshops, dealerships and big manufacturing plants.
A core fleet based at Stanlow is supplemented by 6 regional outbases each with several vehicles. Centralised planning was originally done by two full time employees, with a reliance on local knowledge to build up routes and suitable loading schedules.
The unique business challenges facing Wincanton
Originally, the fleet comprised of tankers for the bulk liquid distribution and standard curtain sided vehicles for packed goods. If a customer ordered bulk and packed goods, it required deliveries by different vehicles to the same address.
Bulk and packed orders have different cyclical demand patterns, resulting in weekly and monthly peaks and troughs. When running a mixed fleet, Wincanton had to have sufficient capacity to meet the peaks for both types of product. However, during less busy periods, the bulk tankers could not be used for any other purpose.
When Wincanton won an extension to the contract, its bid was based on an innovative solution: vehicles that could carry both products. The bulk liquids are carried in Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) and these are loaded on the IBC carrying vehicle which also carries the packed goods.
Computerised vehicle routing system from Optrak a sound investment
There are twice the number of compartments on an IBC carrying vehicle compared to a tanker. This has increased the complexity of loading and scheduling. More planning staff would have been required to manually create efficient vehicle routes whilst observing mixing rules, load sequencing and meeting the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Instead, Wincanton decided to invest in a computerised vehicle routing system from Optrak Distribution Software to handle this additional complexity. This was critical if Wincanton was to maintain service levels whilst keeping costs down.
Initially we were not sure if any of the main routing packages would be suitable but we knew that Optrak had an impressive oil and petroleum client base. This was particularly important as we wanted to partner with a specialist supplier whose industry expertise means that they were experienced at overcoming the challenges that we face.”
Ben Young, General Manager
Daily planning with Optrak
When an order is placed, it gets processed through the Warehouse Management System (WMS), and on to Optrak. If an order is placed on Monday, the Wincanton planner sees it on Tuesday and according to the SLA it can be delivered anytime up until the following Monday. Wincanton plans 2 days ahead so on Tuesday, the planner is organising the orders to be delivered on Thursday. If an order can’t be sent out on Thursday, then it is left over for scheduling on the following day.
Using Optrak in a strategic study, Wincanton has determined that delivering small packed goods which are not part of a multiple delivery, via an external carrier is more economical than using its own fleet of special-purpose vehicles. Wincanton now delivers all bulk on its own fleet but has the option of using either own fleet, parcel or pallet carriers for packed goods.
The planning process starts in the morning with the pool of available orders, on average 100 bulk and 300 packed. The planner’s first step is to use Optrak to highlight small packed orders which are not part of a multiple delivery and to allocate them for delivery by a third party carrier. Larger packed orders are given a lower priority than bulk orders. Optrak uses each carrier’s delivery charges for the larger packed goods to determine which to deliver on the core fleet (typically those near bulk delivery customers) and which to allocate to the carrier (distant isolated orders). Optrak then produces an initial set of routes, with each order delivered from its nearest depot (outbase or Stanlow). However, volumes fluctuate on a daily basis and the planner may at this point reallocate orders to depots based on demand and resource availability.
Some customer sites require smaller, 2-axle vehicles due to access restrictions. However, not all outbases have these vehicles and so these orders are delivered from Stanlow. To make these extended Stanlow trips more efficient, the planner may choose to send the 2-axle vehicle into other outbase areas to carry out restricted access deliveries there.
We edit trips mapped against the road network. With a visual representation it is easy to see how to improve things by looking at the trip shapes. We simply ‘drag and drop’ orders onto trips, Optrak ensures that no constraints are broken.”
Dean Hardy, Senior Planner
Dealing with the added complexity of pump sequencing
One of the most critical constraints that Wincanton has to observe is related to sequencing orders so that pump mixing and contamination rules are always observed. The many lubricant oil products are grouped into “families” such as gear oil or hydraulic oil. The families must go through the pumps in a certain order to avoid contamination: for example hydraulic oil can be followed by gear oil, then by engine oil, then by red engine oil. The reverse is not possible, for example hydraulic oil cannot be preceded by anything other than hydraulic oil.
The previous fleet of tankers had 3 pumps on each vehicle, so that it was very unusual for sequencing to cause a problem. However, the IBC fleet has only 2 pumps which make management of this issue much harder – certain sequences of orders cannot be delivered without breaking the pump contamination rules.
To solve this, Optrak was enhanced to model sequencing of products through the pump directly. All the trips produced by Optrak will always obey the rules and any trips produced or edited manually are checked to give a clear warning of the problem.
Providing visibility and flexibility throughout the planning process
Wincanton aims for the highest possible standards, with ‘on time, in full’ its motto. Key to this is spotting potential delivery problems before they occur. Because demand fluctuates, Wincanton needs to manage resourcing as far ahead as possible. In addition to planning for today, the planner keeps an eye on how the orders and resources are building up for tomorrow.
For example, driver holidays can impact the volumes that can be delivered. Wincanton has early notice of whether this will have an adverse impact and appropriate action can be taken – such as bringing delivery of bulk orders forward or shifting more packed orders to the carriers. This was simply not possible under the manual planning system: with Optrak, Wincanton has clear visibility of current and known future orders – their type, size and geographical location.
Optrak’s customer focussed solutions
One of the key features of the relationship with Optrak has been the level of support received by
The quality of support that we have received is head and shoulders
above anything I have experienced from other IT suppliers. The Optrak team is friendly,
responsive and advice is always readily available.”
Dean Hardy, Senior Planner
Working together, Wincanton and Optrak have gone through a learning curve. The solution and the user interface have been enhanced with a number of improvements. The planning process now has a high degree of automation. Optrak features a unique ‘Process’ menu which automates a number of pre-defined tasks and procedures for carrying out the planning.
For example a trip may be leaving quite late because the first drop is at 9am. Reversing the trip may enable the whole trip to start earlier which fits better with the driver’s preferred hours and leaves more time in hand for unforeseen eventualities. With one click on the Process menu the planner can reverse the order of a trip.
Optrak is relatively easy to use. Incremental improvements have been made but the impact has been substantial. By following the steps in the automated Process menu, Optrak allows the planner to spend more time productively rather than manipulating data. The actual planning time has been reduced to less than three hours by a single person per day.”
Dean Hardy, Senior Planner
Keeping on top of reporting requirements
Wincanton uses a range of Optrak’s standard reports and queries, alongside Optrak’s purpose built data warehouse.
This allows Wincanton to report on any aspect of the planning process, such as km per drop, utilisation, carrier tonnages and cost. There is also the facility to drill down to individual driver analysis if required.
Wincanton reports on three KPIs. The first priority is service - any bulk orders that can’t be planned by the due date are immediately reported back to the client. Second is vehicle utilisation and the third is managing the drivers hours. These KPIs are readily available from Optrak.
A lot of work was done in the background to manage and minimise the impact of the WTD. Optrak allows you to quickly assess driver working hours and to assign the driver to a shorter driving day if necessary. It doesn’t take much time, we still hit our delivery targets but we are able to manage the hours better.”
Dean Hardy, Senior Planner
A three way success story
The use of Optrak has certainly been a success story. Young states, “Wincanton continually strive to provide value to our customers. Optrak was the only routing solution that could assist Wincanton with planning simultaneously for packed and bulk products, whilst managing the complexity of mixing and sequencing rules. The software gives us high visibility and control throughout the planning process and this is essential in meeting our service commitments. We are confident that through their investment in an advanced routing solution such as Optrak, Wincanton will continue to offer an innovative cost effective solution.”
Tim Pigden, Managing Director of Optrak comments, “Our experience in working with global petroleum clients over the last 13 years means that we have an in-depth understanding of the issues in this market. I am delighted that we have played a key role in helping Wincanton meet their demanding service targets on a high profile contract. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Wincanton in the future.”age forecourts and petrol stations, and bulk lubricants to car workshops, dealerships and big manufacturing plants.
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"Optrak was the only routing solution that could assist Wincanton with planning simultaneously for packed and bulk products, whilst managing the complexity of mixing and sequencing rules"