Company: William M. Bird Co., Charleston, S.C.

Operation: Wholesale floor covering company delivers hardwood, tile, and vinyl flooring throughout the Southeast.

Jody Powell, fleet analyst

PROBLEM: "Until January 1998, our Atlanta operation was manually creating the routes for its 20-25 trucks, which managed an average of 12-13 stops per truck per day," notes Jody Powell, fleet analyst for the company.

Powell's responsibilities include analyzing routes to help ensure they are being run in the most cost-effective manner. "We had a data base of approximately 3,000 customers on our AS/400, and we'd purchased a PC-based routing and scheduling system, but we were still doing things by hand, mostly due to lack of training on the new system," he explains. "The process involved pulling customer names, products, and delivery dates off the AS/400 and then manually building the routes by looking at maps.

"It took half a day or more to do," Powell adds. "I was sure we could work more efficiently and better utilize our trucks and our drivers' time."

SOLUTION:The company implemented TruckStops for Windows Routing and Scheduling in January of last year. "We eliminated one inefficient route immediately after I got back from a TruckStops training course. Since then, we haven't had to add any trucks, even though our customer base is growing," says Powell. The system was developed by MicroAnalytics Inc., which is based in Arlington, Va.

"Today, the Atlanta operation is averaging 16-20 stops per truck per day, and it takes about 45 minutes to do the day's routing. What's more, even though drivers are making additional stops every day, they are still getting back to the terminal by 2:00-3:00pm, just like before," he notes. "If a driver believes he or she uses a better route, I can even enter their route information into the TruckStops system and actually compare the results to show how the TruckStops route is more efficient," Powell adds. "Our customers are happier, too, because we don't miss stops anymore."

According to Powell, the Atlanta distribution center for William M. Bird saved over $140,000 in 1998 by using TruckStops, based only on the dollars saved by eliminating a route and not having to add extra equipment to keep up with growth.

What's next? "Today we use TruckStops to help us load our trucks according to the best stop sequence along each route," says Powell. "What I'd really like to do is eliminate fixed routes altogether and load sequence the entire fleet as a whole, but that requires a racking and staging area, so it won't happen overnight. The TruckStops system will permit us to do it though, and that's a good efficiency move to have available."