By upgrading to the latest version of the TRUCKSTOPS truck routing and scheduling system from MAPMECHANICS, leading air filtration specialist Bonded Filter Co. has gained further efficiencies in planning the journeys of its mobile technicians. It has also been able to integrate its scheduling more tightly into other corporate systems – especially the GPS navigation system used in its van fleet.
The latest version has become such an integral feature of the company’s operations that its schedules now contribute to the process of forward production planning.
TRUCKSTOPS is used to simplify complex planning while obeying companies’ operational constraints, bringing typical cost savings of 10 to 30 per cent, as well as planning time reductions of 40 to 50 per cent. Recent product updates have introduced direct links to international internet mapping, along with geocoding, aerial photography, live traffic information, more detailed road speed data, a new more flexible, intuitive interface, and smart integration with tracking systems to facilitate "plan versus actual" analysis.
Bonded Filter Co. (BFC) manufactures the patented PleatLink® range of air filters, which are used widely throughout the United States in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment for commercial premises – stores, warehouses, movie theaters, and other public spaces.
Unlike other companies in this field, BFC offers a service to its customers under which it renews its filters on a regular cycle (typically every 90 days), saving customers from having to call out local engineers to do the job on an ad hoc basis, and ensuring continued high performance from the equipment. The service is provided throughout the 48 contiguous states. Filters are also shipped to other states and territories.
To provide the regular filter replacement service, BFC employs a team of over 70 technicians, who are based at major population centers throughout the contiguous states, and serve 23,000 customer sites in total. Working from a local storage base in each area, they replace the filters of customers across that area, making about half a dozen calls a day – sometimes up to ten.
It was around ten years ago that the replacement service really started to grow. "Back then, we only employed seven or eight field technicians, so we could plan their movements on paper," recalls Gary Mudd, BFC’s chief operating officer. "But as we added more routes, the scheduling became more complicated and time-consuming. If we’d continued on that basis, we would have needed a whole army of schedulers by now."
To solve the problem, the company introduced TRUCKSTOPS, and Bryan Grigsby joined later to organize the scheduling, spending some months on the road as a technician first to learn the requirements first hand. He proved that the product could be much more efficient than the old paper system. "It enabled us to take on a large number of new sites and routes, and still manage them systematically and efficiently," he says.
Now the company has upgraded to the latest version, which is supplied by MAPMECHANICS, which has offices in Clearwater, Florida and London, United Kingdom. In doing so, it has gained the advantages of its more modern interface, richer range of features and expanded backup service.
"It’s particularly effective at complex tasks like planning ‘night out of town’ trips," says Gary Mudd. "These can arise when a technician has to travel more than eighty miles to a call point or group of calls, and it is more efficient for him to stay in the area overnight than to return home and then go back there next day."
TRUCKSTOPS also takes account of replacement cycles that vary from one customer to another, ranging from 30 to 90 days, and it can be set up to allow slight variances in the strict schedule (within agreed parameters) if this produces a more efficient result.
The scheduling has now become so reliable, Gary says, that BFC is able to take account of its predicted requirements when working on the factory’s production plan. "It gives us really useful visibility of future product demand."
Bryan Grigsby praises the exceptional support provided MAPMECHANICS. "Until they came along, all I knew about this software was what I learned from my predecessor. They provided us with really useful formal webinar-based training."
The gains have ranged from color-coding different customers on a map to much more wide-ranging improvements. "I used to run a separate solution for each of the thirteen weeks in a quarter," Bryan says, "but they showed me how I could combine all thirteen weeks into a single solution, which is much more efficient all round."
It was fortunate timing that convinced BFC to invest in the latest version. "When the product ownership of TRUCKSTOPS first changed a few years ago we were unclear whether support and development would continue," Gary Mudd says.
"We felt we needed to review other possible options. But believe it or not, none of their sample solutions was as efficient as those we were getting with our existing version."
Just when this seemed to present the company with a quandary, BFC was approached by MAPMECHANICS, which by then had secured all rights to the product In North America. "The timing couldn’t have been better." Following an introductory visit to BFC’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee by MAPMECHANICS’ founder and director Mary Short, the company upgraded to the current version, "and since then we haven’t looked back."
Integration with other company systems has been particularly effective, Gary reports. "For instance, we’re just completing integration with the SageQuest GPS navigation system fitted in our vans, so that our technicians can call up details of their next visit on their windshield display automatically without having to type anything in."
He sums up: "Making contact with MAPMECHANICS was a refreshing discovery. It gave us the confidence we needed to move forward with TRUCKSTOPS, knowing we were using a proven product that would only get better."