With over 40 years experience and in excess of 450 vehicles, Lane Group plc is a national logistics company, providing dedicated distribution services throughout the UK in all areas of the retail, manufacturing and high tech business sectors. Headquartered in Portbury, near Bristol, Lane Group has five key distribution centres located around the UK.
Its home delivery division, currently making 3,500 deliveries a week, is particularly thriving where it specialises in home delivery of large or awkward items such as kitchens, bathrooms and furniture.
In meeting the complex logistical considerations encountered by these customers, Lane Group has developed bespoke software solutions designed to meet specific client needs. These can include call centre services and management timed delivery bookings through to follow up after delivery compliance.
John Bartlett, head of management services, says: “Our previous packaged software just didn't work for us. It was inflexible and unresponsive to changing operational challenges.”
In response to the needs of the home delivery sector, Lane Group developed the Mobile Management System (MMS). This system controls and monitors deliveries to home consumers using Intermec's 760 rugged handheld mobile computers with integrated barcode scanners. Currently 2.5 million items a year are scanned at the point of delivery, a figure set to increase as more customers come on board.
During the development and evaluation phase, Lane Group required a one-piece unit which was user friendly, robust, with sufficient battery power and was compatible with the in-house software package. They also required sturdy portable printers.
Having reviewed the requirements, Sandpiper recommended and supplied Intermec 760 Colour series mobile computers with 2-D image, scanners, and GPRS communications. These Handhelds also have sufficient power and memory to provide comprehensive multi-functional support for drivers and crew on the road, and at the depot.
In addition to the Handheld computers, and following a thorough evaluation of available options, Sandpiper supplied over 35 Intermec PW40 workboard portable thermal printers. This device positively locates and interfaces the Intermec 760 creating a one-piece portable rugged unit that allows the driver to print a Proof Of Delivery document listing all the goods that have been delivered, any discrepancies and an image of the recipients signature captured from the screen of the handheld computer. An electronic file copy is also saved for reference and archiving back at HQ.
“Sandpipers Mobile solution has allowed Lane Group to make huge operational savings” stated John Bartlett, “and ensured we obtained a significant customer contract that specifically demanded a solution which involved scanners and systems to monitor their deliveries.”
For all deliveries, product and customer data is downloaded to the mobile computers in an early morning synchronisation process at delivery depots. From this point onwards delivery crew are fully mobile, the system providing complete information about their route (including maps), their customers, access restrictions and any special delivery instructions. As each product is scanned, the mobile computer controls and monitors events.
Each delivery typically consists of between 300 to 500 individual items that are scanned in to the home or branch using the Intermec 760's integrated scanner. When the delivery is complete, the customer checks and signs on the screen as Proof of Delivery.
At the end of each drop the 760 is placed in the PW40 Workboard printer and a record of the delivery is printed for the customer, including an image of their own electronic signature, and all details are uploaded to central servers using GPRS so that Lane's Customer Services team are fully aware of any discrepancies within minutes. In addition, the Intermec 760's image scanner can be used for photographing accidents or product damage, offering the prospect of significant reductions in the time taken to rectify discrepancies.
The initial introduction of the mobile computers was met with trepidation from the drivers but through intensive training and usage the drivers “wouldn't be without them” stated John Bartlett. They speed up the deliveries considerably and have radically changed Lane Group's work practices.
“The total solution has allowed us to reduce compliance issues by 65% and improve productivity with driver efficiency up by 25%”, stated John Bartlett. Lane Group will continue to evolve the software suite during 2005 with new features to further add value and to ensure its customer requirements are satisfied. Sandpiper look forward in helping Lane meet these challenges.
The total suite comprises of 3 systems. The Transport Management System (TMS) – this system sits at the heart of the transport operations, managing delivery orders, planning routes and optimising schedules. The Customer Relationship Management System (LCRM) – used principally in home delivery environments to manage call centre interaction with consumers, it also ensures that delivery dates meet expectations and that vehicle utilisation is maximised. Finally the Mobile Management System (MMS) as described above in this article.
“Sandpipers focus is Customer Service” says Simon Hagenbuch, Sandpiper's Managing Director, “and to ensure that Lane Group are utilising these technologies to the maximum, we have customised the solution to meet other of Lane Group's customer's requirements.”