TRUCKSTOPS helps Kurt Weiss Greenhouses streamline plant delivery scheduling

The challenge

  • Scheduling up to 100 plant deliveries a day throughout the US North East
  • Coping with deliveries that can vary widely from day to day
  • Loading wheeled plant “carts” in logical sequence for multi-drop deliveries
  • Avoiding ferry crossings that lack suitable capacity
  • Scheduling long-distance journeys to avoid intermediate deliveries on the stem journey

So long as we continue to differentiate carefully between the requirements of each customer, the economies will bring benefits all round.

Truckstops routing & scheduling helps Kurt Weiss streamline deliveriesKurt Weiss Greenhouses, Inc. is one of the US East Coast’s biggest growers and distributors of annual and perennial plants. The company operates from 10 locations throughout the eastern United States and employs 600 people. It has 11 million square feet under cultivation, and markets its products under various brands. Is specialties include azaleas, chrysanthemums, gardenias, hydrangeas, and poinsettias.

The company delivers across the entire East Coast, using a temperature-controlled distribution fleet made up of its own and contracted vehicles, and serves the outlets of retail giant Home Depot throughout the Greater New York metropolitan area. Its customers also include a range of other leading retailers, wholesalers, and growers.

“In peak season we can be running more than a hundred trips a day, and it would be virtually impossible to schedule all that work manually,” says assistant IT director Bill Brennan.

Need for automated scheduling

It was clear that an automated scheduling system was essential, but an unusual requirement was the need to avoid scheduling trips using ferry crossings where the vessel was too small or the service too infrequent – for instance, from the north tip of Long Island, where the company’s headquarters are located.

Mostly the plants are carried on wheeled steel carts. Because typically vehicles can make up to twelve calls per trip, it was also important to load the consignments in appropriate order.

Wide variation from day to day

Much of the distribution work is done using the vendor managed inventory (VMI) system, in which the supplier is paid only when goods are actually sold to end customers and scanned at the retail checkout.

“This puts extra pressure on us to monitor demand precisely and distribute exactly what is required,” Bill Brennan says, “and that means the scheduling task can vary significantly from one day to the next.”

The solution

Kurt Weiss had been using an older version of TRUCKSTOPS VRS (vehicle routing and scheduling system) for some years to streamline the daily scheduling of its deliveries, notably on its Home Depot operations.

After support for TRUCKSTOPS was suspended by its original developer, Kurt Weiss was uncertain about how to handle future scheduling requirements. However, it was contacted by MAPMECHANICS, which now has sole worldwide responsibility for development, sales, and support of the software. The company upgraded to the current version, gaining a much more modern interface, greater configurability, and full backup from the MAPMECHANICS team.

Orders are extracted daily from the Microsoft Great Plains enterprise resource management system used by Kurt Weiss and imported into TRUCKSTOPS in spreadsheet form for automated scheduling. In the latest implementation, the list of scheduled drops is then exported from TRUCKSTOPS back into the GP management system so that it can convert the orders into practical loading lists.

To deal with the need to avoid unsuitable ferry crossings, MAPMECHANICS has set up a configuration file that creates a “no-ferry” version of TRUCKSTOPS. This prevents it from scheduling ferry trips in Long Island, and also at Delaware Bay.

The benefits

  • Automated daily scheduling of complex multi-drop delivery trips
  • Loading of deliveries in correct call sequence
  • Separation of long-distance and more local trips to achieve optimum efficiency
  • A “no-ferry” feature prevents scheduling from using inappropriate ferry crossings
  • Opportunity to extend automated scheduling to further parts of the business

Suppose a truck has a group of deliveries to make five hundred miles from base, we can set up Truckstops to ignore calls that fall part-way along the outward run, ensuring that the driver in question has the maximum time available in the remote delivery area.

The flexibility of TRUCKSTOPS is bringing benefits in many aspects of Kurt Weiss’s distribution activities. For instance, it can be configured to differentiate between longer journeys and more local trips, and will schedule them achieve optimum overall efficiency, taking account of issues such as nights away from home.TRUCKSTOPS is helping Kurt Weiss with long-term planning.

“If a truck has a group of deliveries to make five hundred miles from base,” Bill Brennan says, “we can set up Truckstops to ignore calls that fall part-way along the outward run, ensuring that the driver in question has the maximum time available in the remote delivery area.”

Bill praises MAPMECHANICS’ proactive approach to the issue of ferry crossings. “They came up with a solution quickly as soon as we raised the matter,” he says.

Having made TRUCKSTOPS an integral feature of its Home Depot operation, Kurt Weiss is now introducing it on operations for other major retailers. Initially the company continued to schedule work for each individual customer separately, “but our longer-term plan is to take a bigger snapshot of our whole business, and to schedule deliveries for more than one customer on the same vehicles where it there is spare capacity and it makes economic sense.”

Bill adds: “So long as we continue to differentiate carefully between the requirements of each customer, the economies will bring benefits all round.”