St Vincent de Paul has boosted the efficiency of its Victorian deliveries and pick-ups thanks to an IT system roll out that is scheduled to finish in early 2011.
Works good for good works? (Credit: St Vincent de Paul's Society)
Previously, collection drivers worked with the St Vincent de Paul logistics team to plan routes by hand for an hour or two in the morning before going off to pick up and drop off collections. The society assists the disadvantaged by providing them with donated furniture, clothing and household goods free of charge.
"With the old system, drivers would come to work and the first thing they'd do is look at their orders and the first hour of their day was used planning for the runs," said St Vincent de Paul Victoria's logistics manager Louis La Sala.
"Sometime back, we had one vehicle covering a certain area of Melbourne and it really didn't go outside that area — working in solo, so to speak — when you multiply that to 15 or 16 vehicles you get inefficiencies," said La Sala, adding that company growth was putting pressure on the service.
He found that while certain areas were busy and flat out with deliveries, drivers in other areas were standing by waiting for jobs. This was because there was no visibility on where the drivers were and what they were doing.
So he decided to roll out a system to handle the logistics, settling on Infor's SCM Fleet Management software system. The system processes order information, addresses and collection times. From this information, pre-planned routes are created by the system to allow drivers to cross into different routes and areas where they were needed, but had never been before. This information is stored in an in-house server.
The Infor system is integrated into its existing order management system, developed by transport software developer TransLogix.
According to La Sala, the time saved by not having to plan delivery schedules has given St Vincent de Paul the equivalent of two extra drivers a day. Currently, the organisation is doing in excess of 300 to 400 orders, deliveries and pick-ups a day in Victoria.
La Sala, an efficiency veteran who worked as a solutions architect for trucking company Linfox, has been deliberately rolling out the system in a careful, very gradual manner; ironing out kinks as they occur.
The system was first rolled out to one vehicle in April and May before expanding to more. The roll-out is progressing smoothly.
"We're at 60 to 70 per cent completion of the roll-out through the metro area, which is where we want to be at this stage," La Sala said, adding that he was generally pleased with Infor's system. Infor beat three other large software companies in the tendering process primarily due to its functionality and cost, he said.
Although the new system initially had teething problems, for example, putting welfare routes together with donation collection routes (not possible as drivers need empty cars for donation collections, but loaded up cars for welfare drop-offs), La Sala feels it has become quite robust after a few tweaks.
While the current fleet management system is not nationwide, La Sala believes that the portability of the system will enable its adoption in other St Vincent de Paul branches both in Australia and the rest of the world.
In the future, the organisation is looking at integrating GPS technology into its fleet. According to La Sala, the company isn't in a rush adding that it may be at least half a year before it begins to seriously look into it.