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New technology enables transport management company to optimise logistics processes

A transport management company has launched a new software tool this month (September) designed to reduce their clients’ transport costs at the same time as improving service levels.

Developed in-house by British company 3t, the new software, known as the Optimiser, uses state of the art heuristic algorithms. Using available data, the Optimiser creates the most cost effective transport plan for 3t’s clients, using the tariffs and availability set up on the system. It is also able to take into account all modes and service levels available for the operation.

The technology for the system was developed over a two year period as part of a collaboration with the University of Nottingham. Following on from a two year KTP (Knowledge Transfer Programme) with the university, the project was also the subject of several PhD projects.

As 3t manage multi-carrier, multi-modal transportation solutions, the Optimiser’s facility for improving transport efficiency regardless of mode or carrier is critical. It also complements the company’s end to end transport management system SOLO, which automates much of the administration involved in managing logistics.

"The challenge we faced was a little different to the norm," comments 3t’s managing director Tim Fawkes. "When we are dealing with fleet of vehicles that return back to base, the focus is usually on minimising distance. However, in this scenario, we were working around individual carrier availability with the focus on minimising cost, taking into account carriers who want their routes to end at their next pick up, which could be anywhere."

The technology is also required to run in a live environment, taking into account multiple customer constraints – all whilst generating a result within 10 minutes.

"Key to the development has been the modular structure of the programme, which enables the system to be configured very quickly and specifically for each individual client’s problem," adds Tim. "Whilst some issues involve all the modules, others may require just a proportion of those available, making it a more flexible, tailored solution for companies."

The Optimiser facilitates a more structured central planning approach, enabling client-based transport planners to work more closely with carriers and clients. So far, the tool has been successfully deployed by packaging specialists SAICA Pack and LINPAC, and is currently being rolled out to other companies in the 3t portfolio.

Tim is delighted with the results so far. "The feedback we have received has been very encouraging. Our customers report that the software has helped to drive costs down, improving efficiency significantly. It enables us to focus on added value tasks that save our clients money at the same time as improving services."

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