Territory Planning Solution with Ease of Operation
Relyon Limited is the UK’s largest bed manufacturer, whose brand name has become synonymous with the very highest standards of product design and manufacturing quality. Today, Relyon employs 500 people and has two manufacturing facilities in Somerset and Devon counties. In addition to its own products, Relyon has expanded its product line in recent years to include bedroom furniture designed in the UK but imported from the Asia Pacific region.
All distribution is managed through a main operating center/storage facility in Somerset. Deliveries are made to more than 500 bedding companies and retail store customers throughout the UK and Ireland, including Bensons for Beds, Mothercare, House of Fraser, SleepMasters, Cargo, and Marks & Spencers. Relyon’s fleet of 23 vehicles is managed through a third-party supplier.
After a period of rapid growth, Relyon set out to overhaul its delivery fleet to bring it in line with the company’s multi-purpose needs. Shortly thereafter, the decision was made to find software to automate its manual routing and planning processes, and reduce overall costs and complexity in its delivery operations.
According to Chris Vaughan, Logistics Manager at Relyon, “Although we were using spreadsheets and filters to arrive at the base information, we needed to map our routes, which still left a huge amount of manual planning that had to be done to manage our logistics processes.” An added challenge was the fact that fleet management requirements were variable. Relyon’s business was split between major and independent retailers, each of which had their own delivery demands. “Deliveries to distribution centers is generally a one-stop exercise, but could require single or multiple truck loads per day,” says Vaughan. “Since independent retailers buy smaller quantities that could entail several special trips a day. Depending on the schedule, a driver could do anywhere from 5 to 18 stops in a day.”
The biggest challenge was keeping pace with integrated production and delivery schedules. “Beds are ordered individually, so to schedule production you have to schedule delivery. As a result, planning is a constant process.” One Relyon dispatcher would spend a majority of their work week just planning vehicle routes for the following week. This was especially challenging during peak delivery seasons when weekly truckloads almost doubled.
Relyon established several criteria when seeking out a supplier. “One priority was ease of operation and ease of understanding,” says Vaughan. “There are all sorts of systems out there, but some of those require tremendous IT expertise and endless training to use them.” Another critical requirement was the ability to create ‘what if’ scenarios. Since Relyon also wanted a tracking system for its vehicles, the decision was made to look for a single-source supplier for all its needs. “We quickly decided that we would like to go to a one-stop-shop.
After a comprehensive search, Descartes was selected as Relyon’s single-source supplier for its routing, planning and tracking needs. “Descartes not only met our criteria – they were also able to show us how their solution would help us improve our business and save costs.” The Descartes supply chain solution implementation was rolled out in stages, beginning with sales and territory planning, followed by route planning, and finally tracking using mobile phones.
Planning and routing functions are already much easier and quicker, says Vaughan. Rather than spending an entire week on route planning for the following week, Relyon can build each day’s route in less than five minutes. Last minute modifications – such as added routes or a single client request for a specific delivery time window – can also be made easily. “This cuts out a huge amount of time so our team can be proactive rather than reactive to situations,” says Vaughan. He estimates that the company has already realized a 10% reduction in mileage.
Once the final phase of the initial implementation plan is completed (i.e. integrating the tracking system), Relyon dispatchers and customer service agents will have real-time visibility into vehicle and driver activities on the road.
“Now that the system is in place and addressing our immediate priorities, we can start looking into the additional features we can add to make our business run even more efficiently,” says Vaughan. Future plans include advanced reporting features. “There are many more ways we can streamline our delivery operations, and we know the system can do it. With Descartes, we’re on the right track to major savings.”