Nightfreight narrows home delivery time windows
TruckStops scheduling helps streamline two-man operation and add more stops per trip
Nightfreight, the national express delivery and supply-chain specialist, has enhanced the service offering of its Deliver2Home two-man home delivery service significantly by introducing the TruckStops routing and scheduling optimisation system from MapMechanics.
More precise delivery time windows can now be offered to customers, and the planning and interaction can be handled on a national basis. The company has also improved efficiency by maximising the number of deliveries each vehicle can make per trip.
“Since introducing TruckStops routing and scheduling we’ve become increasingly confident about predicting delivery times,” says Deliver2Home director Paul Tyson. “Our recently-introduced three-hour delivery time window is really working well, and the accuracy is down to TruckStops.”
Nightfreight’s Deliver2Home service handles a wide range of products such as furniture, bathrooms and kitchens and fitness equipment. Customers include big national retailers such as John Lewis. Orders are placed either in stores or online, and are then aggregated into delivery rounds. Consumers are kept informed about the expected day and time of the delivery throughout the process.
As orders are entered into the Nightfreight’s system, “virtual” delivery rounds are built up progressively for future dates, using the consumer’s postcode as the basis for each route. In some cases these orders are passed to Nightfreight in batch form, while in other cases they are captured live from input into retail web sites.
Data from the TruckStops routing and scheduling optimisation system now indicates initial fleet availability. Then on the afternoon before each set of deliveries, the data is fed to TruckStops to do the actual scheduling. TruckStops allocates the deliveries to individual vehicles, spreading the load across the fleet for maximum efficiency.
Then planners fine-tune the proposed routes manually – a capability specially built into the TruckStops system. This is necessary to ensure there is enough capacity for next-day deliveries, which are still an unknown quantity when the virtual rounds are being created.
Finally the data is passed back to the Nightfreight system, and consumers are automatically sent a text or email to inform them of the expected delivery time window.
Paul Tyson points out that Nightfreight was one of the first home delivery companies to offer a choice of am or pm deliveries and consumer text alerting. “In the past we offered deliveries between 7am and 1pm, or between 12.30pm and 6pm,” he explains. “Since introducing TruckStops, we have become confident enough to tell consumers to expect us between 9.30 and 12.30.”
He adds: “Actually TruckStops gives us even more precise estimates than that, but you always have to allow for delays. We add an hour before the expected delivery and two hours after.”
Moreover, he says TruckStops is producing increasingly accurate delivery schedules over time. This is because it can be set up to reflect actual delivery times for different products and types of environment.
“As part of our telematics system, our drivers have handheld terminals for recording drop details and capturing proof of delivery, and we also use these to measure dwell times on site for various consignment types.
“This means we no longer have to rely on average delivery time estimates – we can plan true delivery times. We might for instance allocate 14 minutes for delivering a sofa, and so on.”
He points out that TruckStops will also respect delivery restrictions captured from Nightfreight’s own software. These might reflect areas with known delivery problems or other factors affecting the delivery process.
Nightfreight’s Delver2Home handles anything from soft furnishings to white and brown goods, television sets, kitchens and bathrooms, sheds and garden furniture. Its range of services includes delivery to a room of the consumer’s choice, packaging and waste removal, collection for WEEE electrical goods recycling, light assembly work and “wet” appliance connection.
The company runs its home delivery operation from 25 of its 50-odd branches – an unusually extensive network for this type of business, and one that helps reduce unforeseen delays by keeping travel times down. In addition, Nightfreight can bring further depots into the network to cover peaks or changes in delivery patterns.
Delivery vehicles are mostly 7.5-tonne MAN rigid trucks with tail-lifts.