COMPANY:

American Signature Inc. Columbus, OH

OPERATION:

60-year-old company designs, manufactures, sells and delivers furniture through 130 American Signature Furniture stores and five distribution centers.

Problem:

American Signature Furniture operates a private fleet of about 650 vehicles, including tractor-trailers that run from distribution centers to retail stores, delivery trucks that take products from stores to customers, as well as service vans used by technicians who handle repairs. In the past, routing and dispatching of trucks was handled manually by each store, according to Sonny Rice, senior analyst for American Signature, and the process could be very slow.

“When our stores made sales, the goods were ordered from the distribution center, delivered to the store, opened and prepared, and then delivered to the end customer,” Rice says. “Some stores were doing 80 deliveries per day and developing the routes for those deliveries manually by grouping stops according to zip code. It could take two-and-a-half hours to get the routing job done.”

Solution:

In April 2007, the company ran a pilot program with six delivery trucks and two service vans to evaluate the Visual Control Room (VCR) fleet management information system from Intergis, which is designed to automate routing, scheduling and tracking. Today, about 50 stores are using the system and plans are to deploy it across the fleet.

“Now, from the moment we bring the delivery file over and say, ‘route it,’ the process takes only about ten minutes,” says Rice, “and we are driving fewer miles, spending fewer total hours making deliveries, and using fewer trucks besides. We route out two days ahead and then contact our customers to let them know when to expect the truck. If changes have to be made, we can send a request to the Intergis server and it makes the changes and re-optimizes the route.

“The system will also create maps and turn-by-turn directions for our drivers,” adds Rice. “It is possible to override the system, too, to make on-the-fly changes. If a stop takes longer than expected, we can say ‘add an extra hour to this stop.’

“We can also change the set operating parameters to accommodate local or temporary conditions,” he says. “For instance, I can take a certain city or zip code and tell the system that drivers can only travel 60% of the posted speed there because of heavy traffic. Then the system changes the delivery times to take that into consideration. I can also restrict access to certain areas because of security issues, construction or other factors.

“The Intergis system also helps us improve our truck loading,” notes Rice. “Our delivery trucks have so many cubic feet to load, and the system will flag a load if the products on the order exceed our set parameters. Then we can make an exception or a change. It also helps us to manage driver overtime. In the past, we really had no idea how long our drivers would be out.”

The company also added GPS tracking capabilities to some vehicles via the Intergis Maya GPS hub. “I'd love to have GPS on every vehicle,” he notes. “In some delivery areas, for instance, we worry about theft. With GPS, we can ping the trucks every three to three-and-a-half minutes to see exactly where they are and how long they've been there.”

Rice says the Intergis system gives American Signature a competitive advantage. “We keep track of the overall dollar value of products being delivered per mile,” he says. “With Intergis, we've seen an 11% improvement in dollars delivered per mile traveled.”