COMPANY:

George R. Ruhl & Son Inc.

OPERATION:

A full-line bakery supply house distributing dry and frozen products in four states and Washington, D.C.

Problem:

George R. Ruhl & Son Inc. (GRRS) is an old company by almost any measure. The bakery supply firm was founded in 1789, when the United States had yet to see its 14th birthday. Bill Ruhl, vp of operations, and his sister, Erin Ruhl, vp of sales, are the sixth generation to manage the family-owned business, which was started by Conrad Ruhl and incorporated by Bill and Erin's father George R. Ruhl III in 1976. “We still have customers who worked with my grandfather,” says Bill Ruhl, “and we still work very hard, like he did.”

Today, the company's ten refrigerated trucks, all leased through Ryder, distribute thousands of different products from a single warehouse to about 500 customers in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

The problem the company had was not at the warehouse, however; it was on the road, with driver tracking. GRRS had an automated routing system it was using to plan driver schedules, and it worked fine as far as it went. “We had no way to verify driver location except to keep calling and asking, ‘Where are you now?’” says Bill Ruhl.

Solution:

The Ruhls decided they needed a mobile resource management system to ensure that schedules were being met, to enable them to make changes on the fly in case of problems, and to give customers better visibility concerning delivery times. After testing several solutions, they began a pilot program with five vehicles using the Vericom mobile resource management solution from Intergis. The Intergis system features built-in GPS vehicle tracking that reports location, speed and driver status in real time, enabling dispatchers to see as much or as little data as they need on demand.

GRRS implemented the Intergis system about three years ago and eventually added it to five more trucks as the company grew. According to Bill Ruhl, the ability to monitor driver activity has resulted in noticeable improvements in mileage and delivery efficiency and put a virtual end to unauthorized vehicle use.

“Now we don't have to depend on cellphones to know where our drivers are,” says Bill Ruhl. “Our drivers can focus on their driving instead of talking on the phone, and we can make changes on the fly if we need to. Most importantly, it has given us a way to provide better service to our customers.

“The drivers know they are being watched and that has had only positive effects,” he adds. “We have a great crew with very low turnover, and we have never received any negative comments from our drivers about the system. They know that the technology improves safety because we can respond quickly if they are lost or need assistance. Managers no longer depend on cellphones to pinpoint employees, which could be a problem because of spotty service in some areas, and we did not want drivers taking their concentration off the road.”

While the company is not currently using the Intergis system to do driver performance monitoring or messaging, it may add those functions in the future, according to Ruhl. “Intergis has been a good system for us,” he says. “Over the long haul, it has helped us to serve our customers better.”