Smart Moves

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Smart Moves

Retailers are boosting the speed at which their fleets move in and out of the yards and off to the stores, but don’t be alarmed -- the trucks aren’t moving faster to accomplish this.

They’re moving smarter.

Indeed, retailers worldwide have been taking advantage of the recent spate of transportation management and related supply chain innovations to move their goods with military precision, gaining efficiencies, raising service levels and even helping the planet in doing so. And, speaking of military precision, perhaps it helps having former soldiers behind the creation of such technology, as does Dallas-based Retalix, whose executive team includes several former members of the Israeli Defense Force.

The retail technology vendor just last month landed Price Chopper, a grocery subsidiary of the Golub Corp., as a customer of its Retalix Yard Management (RYM) system, which the grocer will use to synchronize yard and dock activities at its distribution centers. Golub owns and operates 119 Price Chopper grocery stores in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and serves them from several distribution centers.

RYM is designed to automate the yard and dock management process through advanced predictive logic and optimization algorithms, while simultaneously eliminating operational silos and coordinating yard and dock activity with distribution center demand.

“The Retalix Yard Management system was very attractive because it offers real-time control over all yard and dock operations in our distribution centers,” says Dave Schmitz, director of distribution for the Schenectady, N.Y.-based grocer. “The solution will help us quickly locate equipment, personnel and products anywhere in our yard, and will greatly reduce trailer wait times -- all of which means higher supply chain visibility, efficiency and productivity.”

Price Chopper will use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in tandem with the Retalix solution to automate the processing of arrival and departure information. RFID readers are being installed at the entry and exit points of the company’s distribution centers, and all of its fleet will be affixed with a rugged RFID tag.

Since retail fleets are tremendous consumers of fossil fuel, enhancing the efficiency of retail fleets often results in reduced fuel consumption, though this is most often a side benefit of, and not the reason for, deploying transportation management solutions.

But that’s exactly the reason U.K.-based organic food retailer Abel & Cole implemented an online vehicle-tracking solution for its home delivery fleet. The grocer is using a solution from U.K.-based online telematics service provider Cybit to reduce its carbon footprint and benchmark all home delivery vehicles across its six national depots -- making the distribution of its organic produce more efficient.

“We have had great success in growing our home delivery network throughout the past 20 years -- starting from just going door to door to now having nearly 100 vehicles across the country,” says Ben Reardon, head of logistics for Abel & Cole. “As a supplier of high-quality, locally sourced organic produce, we feel we must also reduce our own impact on the environment. We have been piloting the use of plant oil as a fuel with Regenatec Biofuel systems, and strategically implementing vehicle telematics will further cut our footprint by focusing on efficiency in our operation.”

Fleetstar-Online, Cybit’s scalable Internet-based solution, features real-time vehicle
tracking, exception reporting, replay mode, customized reports, mileage information, SMS messaging and live traffic information.

To use the solution, fleet vehicles are fitted with a small electronic in-vehicle unit, which is tracked by GPS in real time and transmits data to Cybit’s online control center. Users at Abel & Cole can access the system via a standardWeb browser. But not just the trucks are being monitored; the grocer uses the system’s Driver ID module to provide visibility of fleet activity by employee to optimize the efficiencies of individual drivers. Abel & Cole also plans to use Cybit’s Data Analyzer solution to analyze fleet performance and gauge the effectiveness of management programs over periods ranging from weeks to months and years.

“We never air-freight our produce, and environmentally friendly road transport is a fundamental principle of our business,” says Reardon. “The system will add real value to our business: optimizing the effectiveness of our existing operations and helping to manage future growth.”