Bulk milk collection for Peter Stoitse Transport with Truckstops LoadsJuly 25th, 2017
Peter Stoitse Transport centralises bulk milk collection planning in south-eastern Australia with Truckstops Loads, streamlining operations and saving cost
Peter Stoitse Transport (PST), a leading operator in Victoria, Australia, has made potential savings of many thousands of dollars a year, as well as achieving substantial operating efficiencies, by automating the planning of bulk milk collections from farms and delivery to processing plants with Truckstops Loads from Mapmechanics.
The development has allowed planning to be centralised, saving around four hours of planning time a day at each of the company’s main locations. Scheduling manager Sharon Finlay says: “Overall, the savings amount to at least one scheduler, and possibly two”.
At the same time, she says, Truckstops Loads has produced more efficient schedules than when the planning was done manually. “In some cases Truckstops has surprised us by proposing schedules that we wouldn’t have thought of ourselves.”
Truckstops Loads has also provided the company with a safety net by reducing its reliance on the expertise and experience of manual planners. “It was adopted initially as an ‘insurance policy’ in a market where expert labour is expensive and increasingly difficult to find.”
Not only has Truckstops Loads become a key to the company’s collection and delivery planning; it is now also playing an important role in performance analysis, route compliance checking, budgeting, staff planning, contract tendering and analysis of new business opportunities. Increasingly, it is becoming central to the company’s operations.
Peter Stoitse Transport is a long-established family-owned business operating throughout Victoria, in the south-east of Australia. Bulk milk transport is the company’s key specialty, and it has become a leading player in this market. It collects raw milk from around 450 farms and delivers it to more than 60 factories and processing plants across hundreds of miles, using a fleet of around 65 prime movers and 110 tanker trailers. These are double-shifted on an intensive seven-days-a-week operation.
Truckstops Loads is a variant of the widely-used Truckstops VRS (vehicle routing and scheduling system), which is developed and supported by UK-based Mapmechanics, a leading specialist in logistics solutions, digital mapping, location-based services (LBS) and geospatial business intelligence (GeoBI).
Truckstops Loads has become virtually an industry standard scheduling package for the bulk milk transport industry, having been adopted by a range of leading players such as the UK’s Wincanton. It has the ability to schedule multiple pickups and deliveries on the same route, and can take account of numerous special requirements at individual call points, including delivery time windows, access constraints, special driver skills, time out for tank cleaning, and speed of loading and unloading.
The largest of PST’s tankers have a capacity of 42,000 litres, and some can make up to 22 farm collections on a single shift, though typically its vehicles make between five and ten collections per journey, two to three times a shift. In the course of a shift they deliver to factories producing a variety of products such as added-value foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. A small proportion of the output is processed as bottled milk.
Before introducing Truckstops Loads, PST scheduled collection and delivery runs locally in each of its three separate operating areas, using a largely manual system. “It was a complex and labour-intensive process taking up to four hours per depot,” Sharon Finlay says, “and it was done by supervisors, who therefore needed to have scheduling skills alongside their management abilities. It was hard to find people with strengths in both activities, and there was always a worry that if a supervisor left the company, no one else would be competent to pick up the scheduling task.”
PST researched automated scheduling solutions worldwide, and discovered Truckstops Loads through reading reports of the Wincanton application. “We liked the way Truckstops was designed to take account of the enormous number of variables in our business.”
Mapmechanics was quick to respond to its enquiries, and by September 2014 PST was ready to launch a pilot in its biggest operating area. “We decided we would be satisfied if Truckstops produced schedules as efficient as the ones our manual planners could come up with – but it surprised us. Its schedules were actually better.”
Partly this was because Truckstops can view multiple depots within an operating area in the round, switching call points between depots according to overall demand. “Previously we tended to allocate specific farms to given depots,” Sharon explains. “Truckstops made us look at the task in a new way.”
After the extended pilot exercise, Truckstops was introduced in a second operating area – a move given added significance by the launch of a new contract that increased the work load at a stroke by a third. “Truckstops enabled us to take the increase in our stride,” Sharon says, “whereas it would have been an enormous new burden for a manual scheduler.” In the light of this success, Truckstops was rolled out to the third operating area.
Planning for all three areas and seven depots is now managed centrally at the company’s headquarters in Welshpool, Victoria. Orders are fed to Truckstops by PST’s cloud-based order management software, then Truckstops’ plans for each shift are sent to the respective depots.
“Some time after we introduced Truckstops, one of our supervisors left the company,” Sharon Finlay reports, “but we decided that because Truckstops had proved so reliable, we didn’t need to look for a replacement supervisor with scheduling skills – we were able to focus on the candidate’s management abilities. There was no need to compromise any more.”
She says Truckstops is becoming increasingly important throughout the company. “For instance, we can plug in map coordinates for a contract we’re chasing, and come up with a precise delivery cost per litre. Fractions of cents either way can make all the difference.”
Truckstops can also be used to answer “what-if” enquiries. “Customers might ask us what it would cost to do a ‘milk swap’ between locations – for instance, diverting milk to a different processor or changing the sourcing arrangements. Truckstops can help us find the answer.” Such analysis is underpinned by Truckstops’ ability to output data in a variety of presentational forms, including Excel spreadsheet format.
Since the Peter Stoitse launch, Mapmechanics has fine-tuned Truckstops Loads to include features that reflect PST’s special requirements. For instance, it can now allocate specific vehicles to given customers, and can determine which loads go where on a cost-driven basis.
Buying an IT solution from a supplier on the other side of the world has presented no problems, Sharon says. “The Mapmechanics team in London are always happy to fit in with our working hours, and ready to work out of hours if necessary. Interactive on-screen training over the web has worked really well.”
“The Mapmechanics team have been consistently patient and quick to understand exactly what we need,” she says. “I’d have no hesitation in saying Mapmechanics is the best IT company I’ve ever dealt with.”
Mary Short, founder and director of Mapmechanics, comments: “Although Truckstops Loads is a generic solution for streamlining the scheduling of bulk products of all kinds, the PST application demonstrates once again just how well suited it is to the tanker transport of raw milk and bulk liquid dairy products, and how enthusiastically it is being adopted in that business sector. In turn, our growing experience of this market has helped us fine-tune the solution to meet its special needs.”
About Peter Stoitse Transport
Founded more than 40 years ago, Peter Stoitse Transport is a family-owned business operating throughout Victoria in south-east Australia, as well as serving interstate destinations further afield. PST provides a range of general freight and bulk liquid transport services, and also offers extensive warehousing. It is one of Victoria’s largest raw milk and dairy product carriers, and has long-term associations with some of Australia’s premier dairy companies. The company operates from a network of locations across Victoria, and has its headquarters in the town of Welshpool.