When it comes to fleet management, there are those that simply glance over the occasional report and those that are much more invested in making their fleet work for their business. We have already spoken to fleet managers at both ends of the spectrum and so we paid a visit to Marius Jooste and his team at Resolve, the company that runs the Imperial Logistics control centre.

Over 1,500 vehicles are monitored at the centre for clients including Imperial, Pick n Pay, Sasol and Simba.

The centre manages 500 Imperial vehicles including planning tracking and managing them in a live environment.

“We want to make everyone work better,” said Jooste, noting that “there is still lots of inefficiency in logistics”. He said that his team always tries to create the best possible plan for vehicle movements but it is a strategy of continuous improvement.

The business only started three years ago, but today it ensures deliveries are made to more than 70 main sites. “Every site is different,” he said. “Nothing is ever perfect and it all has to align with the system.”

There are 170 people working across all the sites, but Jooste says that getting and retaining quality people is an issue.

According to William Sears, executive for transport management services at Resolve, the lifecycle of an employee is generally 12-18 months. “It’s fine to have a theoretical plan, but you need to have operational resources.”

The team has plenty of operational issues to deal with. One is integration. They have to manage 13 different tracking system providers and while there might be service level agreements, the levels of service vary widely.

Ultimately everything comes down to managing costs and Jooste says his team takes a holistic approach. The major aims are to improve the cost per route and the cost per vehicle. The retail environment is particularly difficult he said, with over 7,200 drops a day and a massive 25,000 acceptances.

On average there are four events per delivery, all of which can be monitored live.

Watching the system at work, it was clear that Jooste and his team monitor it all very closely. At one point a red flag came up because a vehicle was parked off-route for too long. Using the tracking system and Google StreetView, the team could see where the truck was stopped. The driver had gone to a local fast food outlet. According to Jooste, off-route stops represent the biggest number of exceptions that the centre picks up.

Other common occurrences include breakdowns, crashes, customer queuing delays, industrial action and of course, load shedding. The live environment allows the team to reroute vehicles quickly and efficiently or to call out assistance should it be required. However, synchronisation across multiple suppliers can make things difficult.

Traffic congestion is a big issue as delivery companies look to optimise their routes. As an example, during rush hour in Sandton, the average road speed drops by 50%.

A controversial plan to ban trucks during peak hours is just one element of forthcoming legislation changes under consideration. So would a rush hour truck ban be such a bad thing?

“Night delivery would impact far less than people think,” said Jooste. “Banning trucks during the day will force people to plan better. Costs and legislation will force changes to optimisation.”

There will be plenty of other changes in the future too. Jooste says that vehicles will provide updates every two minutes. The system will know the second a door is opened and the centre will be able to manage a vehicle on a turn-by-tun basis. It will be more integrated with the driver, allowing systems to monitor not only how safe a driver is, but also how green a delivery is in terms of fuel use and driving habits. There will be even more data available and there will be more integration, particularly between the delivery channels and the warehouses themselves.

While systems can improve efficiencies now, in the future they will be able to minimise costs even more by clever route scheduling, quicker turnaround times and reporting on the efficiency of both personnel and vehicles.

For some it all seems a bit Big Brother, but the reality is that it is all in the interest of efficiency and reducing those constantly escalating costs.

Written by Mark Smyth – Business Day Live
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