3663 Foodservice reviews routes and comes up with the winning numbers

3663 is the UK's leading food service wholesale distributor and provides a highly flexible delivery service to 53,000 customers from 38 depots.

3663 lorry with food pictured on the side, driving past on a wet road.

The Problem

3663 First for Foodservice is the UK's leading foodservice wholesale distributor and provides dedicated frozen, fresh, chilled and full multi-temperature delivery with flexibility, speed of response and local knowledge that is vital to its customers. 38 depots serve up to 53,000 customers and a fleet of single and multi-temperature vehicles follow a series of fixed routes or 'milk rounds' for delivery.

Graham Rennie, Director of Fleet, 3663 First for Foodservice, outlined the problem: 'We wanted to review the efficiency of our routes and ensure we make the most appropriate use of our transport resources. With recent legislation, there was an additional requirement to take a fresh look at our fleet and driver usage.'

Business challenges

3663 First for Foodservice operates in a highly competitive market where service is paramount and pressure on margins means that efficiency is the key to profitability.  With a growing customer base and the Working Time Directive (WTD) and Digital Tachograph rules over shift lengths and mandatory breaks to observe, the fixed routes need to be periodically reviewed. This was previously undertaken manually at the depot level.

Delivery times and windows are fairly static as both drivers and telesales staff build relationships with their key customers. New customers are added to the fixed routes based on local knowledge and expertise.

The OR Solution

Using Optrak to review fixed routes

3663 First for Foodservice needed a strategic modelling solution to review existing routes and re-plan depots with the aim of improving customer service by routing vehicles more efficiently, ensuring better usage of vehicles and allowing capacity for future growth.The responsibility for depot reviews falls under Graham Rennie's team of two Route Planning Managers (RPM) who visit each depot in turn reviewing, and then implementing, changes. Using the Optrak computerised vehicle routing solution is an essential part of this process.

12 weeks' worth of order and customer history data is imported into Optrak and 3663 First for Foodservice's existing distribution plan is recreated down to the vehicles used and the delivery time windows. Optrak consultants worked closely with 3663 First for Foodservice to gain a complete understanding of their business requirements. A number of procedures were created to help the RPMs build new fixed routes. These can be easily measured against existing routes. All new routes are then tested and validated against the historical data to ensure the routes are feasible and effective.

There was a learning curve from the first depot review that Optrak consultants and 3663 First for Foodservice worked on together. Alexa Allison, Route Planning Manager for the North commented, 'Optrak consultants have been excellent to work with, very knowledgeable and responsive.  They often suggest improvements which either save time or produce better results.'

Throughout the route reviews, Optrak automatically rechecks all constraints to make sure that delivery windows, vehicle weight/volume limits and customer access restrictions are all obeyed. Optrak copes with an unlimited number of time windows and this flexibility is critical to 3663 First for Foodservice satisfying customer needs.

Implementing the changes

Optrak has helped 3663 First for Foodservice find the most efficient way of complying with the WTD whilst minimising the impact on drivers' shift patterns. Graham Rennie's team manages the introduction of the new routes so as to minimise disruption.

Alexa Allison, explains, 'Optrak allows us to review our fixed routes in an accurate and timely fashion. When we are discussing the changes with local transport managers and drivers, it helps to show their current routes displayed against Optrak's detailed roadmap. This immediately highlights where routes are crossing over and areas of inefficiency. We can then show how the new routes are better which helps secure their buy-in. Feedback from the drivers is incorporated before we finalise routes.'

The Value

Reducing vehicles and mileage with Optrak

Graham Rennie explains the objectives from the depot reviews, 'With the Optrak project, we wanted to introduce simplicity of planning and look to see where we could improve vehicle utilisation and thus reduce the number of vehicles, mileage and fuel costs. All of this had to be achieved whilst still meeting customer service commitments.'

To assess improvements to the routes, 3663 First for Foodservice compare weekly averages against a number of KPIs, adjusted any seasonality factors e.g. measuring the number of km/drop eliminates the movement in customer base. It only takes a small improvement in a KPI to translate into significant savings when multiplied up over a month or year.

Other KPIs that are monitored include: kilometres driven, hours (drivers & vehicles), journeys (number and consistency across days), vehicle utilisation, drops per journey, and drop returns.

James Ogley, Route Planning Manager for the South, is enthusiastic about the depot re-planning, 'Optrak has to cope with recreating our unique and demanding logistics requirements and it does a very good job. The aim is to improve our efficiency and reduce transport costs by cutting mileage travelled and Optrak makes it easy for us to see this.'

3663 First for Foodservice has been able to reduce kilometres travelled and fuel usage which helps its commitment to managing environmental impacts and minimising carbon emissions. Other benefits from the re-planning include increased consistency over routes, the elimination of any routes crossing over and increased staff morale through the better management of drivers' hours.


Graham Rennie concludes: 'The Optrak vehicle routing solution matched our requirements closely and the team at Optrak also demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the food and drink sector. Optrak has played a vital role in helping 3663 First for Foodservice meet its responsibilities under the WTD and minimise our impact on the environment.  We have reduced the mileage that our vehicles travel whilst providing better service to customers.

Tim Pigden, Managing Director, Optrak said, 'We are delighted to help 3663 First for Foodservice meet its operational, legal and socially responsible targets. Each project is unique and a 'one size fits all' approach does not always work. Our knowledge of the food and drink sector ensures that we can apply industry best practice to 3663 First for Foodservice's demanding requirements and help deliver reduced transport costs and improved efficiency.'

To find out more about Optrak's award winning vehicle routing solutions, please visit www.optrak.com