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Planning optimal routes

Consumers favor fresh, high-quality products of local origin. The Esser company, producer of meat and sausage specialties located in Erkelenz, is very successful in making use of this trend and its resulting sales opportunities. The CSB-System contributes to this success: Esser uses it to optimize deliveries to their customers and subsidiaries.

Since its foundation in 1979, the meat and sausage production company Esser has been continuously expanding. Today, the company employs 370 people, among them many apprentices. During the 3-shift operation, Esser produces more than 100 different types of sausages, meat specialties as well as convenience food and freshly prepared meals.

One of the key success factors, apart from the excellent product quality, is the industry-specific IT turnkey solution by CSB-System. Esser and the ERP specialist have been partners for more than 30 years. Already back in 1982, the first IT solution was used to ensure optimal production. The subsidiary information system was implemented in 1995. Since then, a powerful mainframe computer at the headquarters communicates directly with the computers in the individual subsidiaries. “Today we are using nearly the full package. Product management is one of the great strengths of this software”, says IT manager Regina Kloss.

Ensuring freshness, saving costs

“Freshly produced every day – and on the quickest route to our subsidiaries every morning” – this is the mission of the meat and sausages specialist. For this reason, Esser has recently started using CSB-System’s route planning software. It allows the company to deliver even more economically to their 38 subsidiaries, to wholesalers as well as to 19 schools and 24 kindergartens. “The many routes we have amount to quite a few kilometers. So bad planning quickly becomes obvious in terms of costs. Moreover, the little detours of the drivers that this may result in easily translate to several hours of time and many liters of gas which are incurred as unnecessary additional costs every day. We want to eliminate such costs and at the same time increase personnel flexibility”, says factory manager Werner Tholen

Esser has a delivery output of 80 t per week. Every day, deliveries are effected to some 120 customers in a range of approx. 80 km around the head office in Erkelenz-Lövenich. Parts of the routes go on motor-ways, but also on country and municipal roads. On average, every driver goes to up to 15 destinations in a defined period of time, driving a distance of 250 km. Therefore, it is vital to plan the routes in advance in a detailed and optimal way. Major deviations among the orders with regard to delivery quantity, weight, and seasonal demand as well as the different vehicle specifications need to be taken into consideration.

Additionally, reusables, collection orders and procurement orders must be incorporated in the optimization of the routes. “We are heavily committed to service: the customers and their wishes always have priority. Therefore, the resulting limitations can be challenging. For example, the freshly produced goods must be available in our subsidiaries every morning before the shops open. The kindergartens and schools even want to have their deliveries all at the same time at noon”, adds Tholen to the many software requirements.

Quick amortization

For the development and implementation of the solution, CSB-System closely cooperated with their partner company, GTS Systems. GTS is a specialist for route optimization. In this project, they are responsible for calculating the shortest routes.

The optimization calculation is based on the address master data, the order data and the vehicle master data stored in the ERP system. This information is transferred from the CSB-System to GTS Systems’ route optimization system which applies complex algorithms to calculate the optimal routes, taking into account all conditions. Aspects such as delivery time frames of the respective customers, utilized capacity of the vehicles, vehicle types, vehicle and driver as well as statutory limitations of driving times are considered. Possible motorway tolls can also be included in the optimization; however, Esser does not use this feature.

The optimized routes and route sequences are then returned to the CSB-System, including the geo coordinates for the addresses. This interaction allows for direct processing in CSB Product Management, ensuring better planning and implementation of the preceding production and picking processes. Also, the loading of the trucks can be optimized this way.

The driver information system on board of the trucks automatically receives the optimized route data. A “Car PC”, shows the route and the driver is navigated to the destination using the quickest route. En route, all relevant data are recorded, such as:

-Stops including the reason (break, refueling, traffic jam),

-Date, time, and geo coordinates,

-Opening and closing of the loading compartment,

-Temperature of the loading compartment,

-Speed and

-Recording the reusables returns.

At the end of each route upon returning to the head office, the captured data of the driver information system are again transferred to the CSB-System.

Werner Tholen says: “With the new system, we can minimize the number of kilometers driven and therefore considerably reduce the costs for fuel and expenses for wear and tear. Furthermore, we have reduced the number of vehicle deployments, the driving times and thus the personnel costs. Also, the costs and expenses for coverage planning have decreased. Overall, we save some 87,000 euros per year, so we see a fast return on our investment.”

Good controlling capabilities

The route optimization software is also very useful for controlling: it provides Werner Tholen with a tool to reconstruct, and control, the routes of his drivers. The integrated route controlling ensures maximum transparency, enabling him to detect deviations immediately. “With the clearly arranged target-actual comparison of the route data, I can systematically take corrective action”, says Tholen. Not only can Tholen evaluate the driving and standing times, but also the times a driver needs for his vehicle (refueling, oil checks, tire checks, etc.). If requested, at the end of each route a comprehensive software-supported analysis provides information on the deviations from the target specifications and the underlying reasons. These data are used to determine the efficiency of the route. “Anyway, the drivers fully accept the system, simply because it makes their work a lot easier. We are quite pleased that ‘normal’ navigation devices are being used so that the new technology is easily adopted and well received”, says the factory manager.

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