Menzies Distribution

Each night, Menzies Distribution processes approximately 1,500 tonnes of newspapers and magazines through 36 depots, and then out to over 21,000 retail premises throughout the UK.

Blue Menzies lorry parked in the foreground, with a row of blue vans parked in the background.

The Problem

The operation delivers over six million newspapers and magazines per day against a very tight turnaround time. Products arriving from publishers through the early hours are cross-docked, picked and packed to the copy, then consolidated for delivery to the retailer. High speed, good organisation and overall efficient distribution service is paramount when the product has such a short shelf life.

The Solution

Recipe for success

Optrak Distribution Software provided a Vehicle Routing and Scheduling (VRS) system for Edinburgh based Menzies in late 1998, and it has been part of their 'recipe for success' ever since.

The drive to investigate VRS as a potential solution came from a number of issues. As each depot acquired more business, and individual newspaper and magazine weights increased relentlessly, delivery rounds became ever larger and heavier. It was increasingly necessary to split and re-split runs.

As the scale of this problem grew, it became more and more difficult for manual scheduling to resolve effectively. Short-term expediency tended to take over, leading to unbalanced routes. Large increases in both market and catchment size, combined with depot rationalisation in a short time span, and pressure to contain distribution costs prompted Menzies to look closely at improving solutions. The time had come to use technology and tools to support the planner

Optrak was chosen to provide a high-tech and cost effective tool to help best improve customer service levels, whilst managing transport costs. The system provides 90% of the solution very quickly. From that point, routes are reviewed by local planners, with vital local knowledge, refining the results and ensuring practicality.

The Value

Scheduling with Optrak

As is often the case with scheduling implementation, initially, the use of Optrak was treated with scepticism. The Optrak team invested a lot of time in working with local management and staff to grow their understanding and win support.

The system deals with daily weight variations, supporting the planning of deliveries from 36 depots, each with an average of around 800 visits per day. With several newsagents on the same street, the right visiting sequence is critical. The Optrak solution goes right down to street number accuracy, using eight-figure grid referencing to allow location of each premise right down to a ten metres square.

Optrak was to prove invaluable when the newstrade introduced its 'Focus On Distribution Initiative', setting the groundwork for the introduction of mutually agreed retailer delivery times. Menzies found Optrak to be an excellent tool for planning how to best meet the optimum window for delivery.

Strategic and tactical use

The system is now used strategically and tactically around the United Kingdom on a depot by depot basis, assisting manual schedulers in the re-design of delivery sequences. It is also used strategically to test the effects of alternative scenarios and has enabled Menzies to venture into new markets confident that they know what to expect. The move into evening newspaper distribution was supported by an evaluation using Optrak.

Award winning software

Optrak software has proved to be a worthwhile and valuable tool for the Menzies Toolkit. Menzies Distribution and Optrak Distribution Software were jointly awarded the Fleet Management Systems Partnership Award.

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