What Relieves Both Dispatchers and Drivers
Since 2006 already, Gerdes + Landwehr Group has been using TomTom’s telematics solution WEBFLEET to manage their fleet. By combining it with Hamburg-based initions AG’s digital transport control center OPHEO, the company took its dispatching operations to a whole new level for the industry since February 2018: fully automatic tour planning, digital tachograph and a forecasting feature make it possible.
Gerdes + Landwehr clientele in the area of logistics and building materials typically includes manufacturers of building materials. “We specialize in dusty products, that is, everything used in construction, from cementitious and lime-bound products to tile adhesives“, John-Henrik Landwehr, company CEO summarizes his field of activity. We operate in Germany and the Benelux countries out of Sulingen and Beckum. In this business unit, we have approximately 200 employees.
Existing Programs Not Helpful to Dispatchers
By opting for WEBFLEET, Gerdes + Landwehr relied on the advantages of a telematics solution at an early stage. A total of one hundred vehicles—almost exclusively silo vehicles and a few tippers—are equipped with TomTom PRO terminals and LINK boxes. “In our business, apart from transport itself, information is always just as important. You want to know: where are my trucks right now? And where are they moving? It is extremely important to know this”, says CEO John-Henrik Landwehr. But the entrepreneur wanted more: already in 2008, Gerdes + Landwehr conducted its first internal studies on the subject of dispatching support. The programs available back then featured considerable computing power, but were not helpful to the dispatchers. The necessary information was simply missing. “What was really significant was that driving, rest and working times were only available in the analog tachograph. So, this data resided in the vehicle, but nowhere else. Telematics could not make use of it,” Landwehr recalls. Only when, with the ongoing digitization, driving, rest and working times could be retrieved from anywhere in real-time by using remote download tools was it worthwhile for Landwehr to undertake new research. Hence, the company started to explore the market again in 2017 to examine the various options available.
Silo Dispatching Almost Everywhere Still as It Had Been 30 Years Ago
The goal was to provide urgently needed support in the dispatching area. Landwehr estimates that, almost everywhere, dispatching in the silo area is still handled as it had been 30 years ago. As a result, the related dispatching operations are far behind today’s technical possibilities. “Algorithms which also process all legal driving and rest time issues for the future were not available for a long time. However, we wanted to relieve our dispatchers from having to do mental arithmetic and provide them with an auxiliary tool for this.“ With sixty vehicles a day, an employee simply cannot plan, calculate and check thousands of variants in his head, each one with exact kilometers, as well as driving and rest times. In addition, Gerdes + Landwehr aimed to discover and leverage dormant potentials in their dispatching operations. “When dispatchers have to figure out a very complex calculation in their head, they would always be slower. And the more complex the subject the lower their efficacy.“ That means that optimization potential would always be lost in the end or the dispatcher would take the wrong decision because of the high time pressure he or she is under. Using an auxiliary tool would help avoid short driving times.
Automating Dispatching Operations
In February 2017, we then contacted initions for the first time. After seeing the presentation of the digital transport control center OPHEO, Gerdes + Landwehr made its decision very quickly, so that in the fall of 2017, the implementation project could be started. The high competence in the area of fully automated dispatching support and the connection to WEBFLEET had spoken in favor of initions and OPHEO. Apart from the OPHEO Dispo Cockpit and OPHEO Mobile, the delivery app on the Driver Terminals installed by TomTom, Gerdes + Landwehr is using three OPHEO+ services today which are essential for the dispatching automation: “First of all, we use the ixOptimizer for automatic tour planning“, Board Member and founder of initions AG Dr. Stefan Anschütz explains. “Moreover, we use real-time tachograph data together with WEBFLEET in order to leverage the data from the digital tachographs for OPHEO, and therefore, for dispatching. And finally, there is the forecasting feature that allows Gerdes + Landwehr to make anticipatory plans, also based on the WEBFLEET data.” This way, OPHEO determines the status situation of the drivers for the next hours and can check, among other things, whether the driver’s driving time is still sufficient for the planned tour.
60,000 Tour Plans per Minute
For daily business, OPHEO can plan and calculate a complete dispatching within a minute. “That means by running this application for sixty seconds, the algorithms will calculate sixty thousand dispatching plans that approach an optimum.” Landwehr estimates. As a result, the utilization rate of all vehicles can be checked over the course of the entire day. This is particularly important because customers in the building materials sector place eighty percent of their orders only the day prior. Hence, Gerdes + Landwehr has to deal with a relatively volatile and thus unsteady order volume—on a daily basis.
Optimized Tour Planning At the Push of a Button
Transport orders placed to Gerdes + Landwehr are first processed in ERP system Navision by Microsoft (Microsoft Dynamics NAV). OPHEO then retrieves the orders via the open Navision interface and records all of them. Dispatchers then plan the individual tours by using the software. “That is when the ixOptimizer comes to play: at the push of a button, the ixOptimizer creates a tour suggestion, that is, which vehicle will be used for the transport, in which order, etc.“, Dr. Anschütz from initions AG explains the basic principles. Before introducing OPHEO, dispatchers had to go through all possible and impossible options in their heads which was a very time-consuming process. This can now be accomplished more quickly and brings productivity benefits.
Once tour planning is completed, the data will be digitally transmitted from OPHEO to the OPHEO MOBILE app on the vehicles’ TomTom Driver Terminals via the cellular network. When a driver starts his tour, he can use it to carry out the order and copy the address data for the next stop with a single tap from the OPHEO mobile app to the TomTom navigation. While the driver is doing this, WEBFLEET collects information in the background about the vehicle, its position, and the status of the digital tachograph in the silo vehicle. WEBFLEET then returns this accumulated knowledge to OPHEO.
Bottlenecks in The Next Hours’ Driving Times
In OPHEO, dispatchers cannot only see a driver’s currently remaining driving time. OPHEO also checks for them in parallel, if the planning is still accurate and actively notifies the dispatcher of any possible bottlenecks in the next hours’ driving times. Mental arithmetic is no longer necessary. Furthermore, OPHEO warns of and informs about looming delays and late deliveries. This ways, the dispatcher can inform the customer or, if that is not possible, reschedule and send another vehicle to the customer on time. “OPHEO permanently enriches the original planning with the actual data from WEBFLEET and thereby provides the dispatcher with important decision-making aids“, Dr. Anschütz summarizes.
Digital Delivery Notes and Shipping Documents Alleviate the Drivers’ Workload
Drivers are also considerably relieved in their daily work since the entire process runs digitally. They only have to confirm a few status notifications in the OPHEO MOBILE app. These primarily deal with whether, at the place of unloading, unloading can already start or still needs to wait. All other status changes are recognized automatically via so-called geo fencing. For a period of transition, Gerdes + Landwehr will still be keeping all shipping documents and delivery notes in parallel. “We will continue to do that for a while, as in Germany, shipping documents must be carried for a transport”, states Landwehr. Once transport documents are accepted in an entirely electronic format everywhere, the customer will sign on the TomTom PRO Driver Terminal, just the way you know it from the parcel courier. The signature is then digitally stored on the delivery note which can be sent or archived.
“Companies really should look into anything that reduces the strain on their employees and makes their jobs more interesting. Using WEBFLEET and OPHEO allows you to achieve both“ John-Henrik Landwehr summarizes happily.
To watch the video about the user report, click here.