Logistics planning with Truckstops frees grower’s team to spend more time on customer service

Prides Corner Farms, New England’s leading supplier of plants to the independent garden center trade, says it will almost double the customer service time available to its existing sales team by introducing the Truckstops route planning solution.

The Truckstops logistics software solution is expected to reduce the number of people involved in the scheduling task from six to one, and to cut the scheduling time from several hours per person per day to under an hour and a half in total.

Truckstops, one of the world’s leading routing and scheduling solutions, is developed and marketed worldwide by CACI’s logistics optimisation solutions team. It is widely used for day-to-day planning and scheduling of routes and vehicles, and can also be used for strategic planning and fixed-route revision.

From its base in Lebanon, Connecticut, Prides Corner Farms delivers a wide range of plant products to outlets such as garden centers throughout the north-eastern United States. Its coverage extends as far south and west as Virginia and Indiana, and it aims to offer customers a “one-stop-shop” service, providing all the plants, shrubs and trees they require.

At peak times Prides Corner Farms can ship out as many as 50 loads a day. On average, each load involves around six drops. Most are dispatched by common carrier, but the company also has a core fleet of around ten trucks and trailers of its own.

“The planning job is complicated, and can be highly challenging,” says IT manager Christian Joseph. “We had been feeling for some time that we needed an automated system to improve our efficiency.”

It was while attending MANTS (the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show) in Baltimore, Maryland in the USA that the company discovered Truckstops. “Our sales people were intrigued,” says Christian, “especially when they found out that Truckstops was already being used successfully by a number of other leading growers in north-east America.”

The company decided to mount a two-month pilot exercise to test Truckstops’ potential benefits. “This was no superficial trial,” says Christian. “It was a pretty exhaustive proof-of-concept exercise. We spent a lot of time on getting the setup right and taking account of the variables in our operation, then we hunkered down to see how Truckstops would perform.”

Truckstops came through with flying colours, he says. “It did exactly what we hoped it would.” Now Prides Corner Farms is in the process of rolling out Truckstops on a permanent basis.

Truckstops users also focus on the savings it can bring in delivery costs through improvements in efficiency, and the Prides Corner Farm trial confirmed that there could be a mileage saving of 10 per cent or more, which could mean savings of more than $100,000 in transport costs.

Christian agrees that this would be a bonus, “but our prime objective is the saving in scheduling and planning time,” he says. “A large part of our success lies in our attention to customer service. On many of our products we can offer a two-day delivery turnaround, and freeing our sales team from the scheduling task will mean they have more time to spend on keeping our customers happy.”

He says the support provided by the Truckstops team during the pilot phase was outstanding. “To call them helpful would be an understatement – they were fantastic. They asked a lot of pertinent questions, and took pains to understand our business needs. And they were always available if we needed help and support.”

For CACI’s logistics optimization team, Daniela Guragata comments: “Users have many reasons for adopting Truckstops. A reduction in scheduling time is one of the key benefits, and Prides Corner Farms has demonstrated just how valuable this can be in improving customer service without taking on more staff.

“When you also take into account the improved delivery efficiency and expected reduction in mileage travelled and the number of vehicles required, the savings to Prides Corner Farms start to look really striking.”