COMPANY: Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated

OPERATION: The nation’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, operating five production centers and 50 distribution centers in 11 states

Problem: Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated (CCBC) produces 160 million cases of soft drinks a year. To move that much product requires 250 tractors and over 800 trailers spread throughout the Southeast. But keeping track of all that equipment, let alone ensuring it is in the right place at the right time, was a massive undertaking.

The company used to do manual yard checks of trailers. That process, though, required over 100 workerhours a week and was costing the company upwards of $20,000 per unit in unaccounted for fleet assets. “We have multiple locations, both that are owned by Coke Consolidated and those by other parties where we keep our trailers,” says Mike Edwards, business process manager for logistics. “We had trouble [knowing] where our trailers were.”

And not knowing where trailers were at any given time impacted other areas as well. There was the additional leasing of trailers to fill gaps in delivery runs and production line shutdowns resulting from an abundance of product sitting in distribution centers waiting for an available trailer.

“It’s definitely not conducive to a smooth supply chain,” Edwards says.

Solution: The solution to CCBC’s problem was as simple as positioning trailer assets in the proper place. But to do that, the company needed to know where those trailers were. Enter FleetLocate by Spireon, a configurable and scalable real-time GPS tracking and monitoring system. “Most of the other systems [tested] offered very limited data,” Edwards says. “In our world, in 12 hours, a lot of things can change; six-hour-old data is not that useful.”

Fully installed in August 2011, CCBC saw immediate results from the “trailer information platform,” which provides real-time GPS location, historical trailer location information, trailer idle time, arrival and departure from geofencing, automated yard check, trailer mileage, and number of turns per trailer.

Through daily reports that identify the numbers and types of trailers on-hand at each location compared to the anticipated number of trailers needed at a given location, CCBC is now able to position assets to prevent production line shutdowns.

Before installing FleetLocate, CCBC estimates about 10% of its trailer fleet was unaccounted for. That number has dropped to near zero and as a result of better utilization, the company has seen a 20% savings in rental and lease-related costs.

FleetLocate also offers the ability to drill down to achieve the proper reporting detail needed. Edwards says the filtering ability of the platform, which includes a hardware device installed on the trailers that uses cellular technology to report GPS location and data, allows information to be delivered to the appropriate personnel at the proper time.

One of the benefits of the solution is the ability to schedule preventive maintenance (PM). CCBC is working with Spireon to develop a reporting module that will identify trailers in need of PM service based on mileage instead of the traditional 90-day interval. According to CCBC, this feature will save an estimated $400 per trailer per year in unnecessary maintenance costs. “The [trailers] being used more are now receiving more attention while the others are not being over- PM’ed,” Edwards says.

Technicians simply enter a number to locate the trailer and then schedule the PM at the nearest facility. The system also identifies assets that have been sitting idle for extended periods of time, reducing trailer wear from non-use.