With the number of consignments constantly increasing (currently 1,250+ a week) and new stores regularly being added to the portfolio (currently more than 60), Hoogvliet has a significant planning challenge on its hands. The supermarket chain has decided to join forces with Ortec, planning specialists from Gouda, to help it meet this challenge. Jan van Rijn, Supply Chain Manager at Hoogvliet: "Our main objective in joining forces with Ortec is first and foremost to increase levels of customer satisfaction. Ortec will also help us to make significant cost savings and prepare the ground for further growth in our logistics effort. But, more than this, we will be able to improve the quality of deliveries to stores.
Hoogvliet supplies its stores using the concept of interchangeable containers: trucks are loaded up with the consignment and on delivery the container is then left at the store. This concept offers several advantages: the short loading and unloading times mean inconvenience to the supermarket and surrounding area is minimized, and the store gets extra temporary storage. Working with Ortec, Hoogvliet plans to automate its current manual operations to ensure roll containers are loaded as efficiently as possible, to achieve better traceability of the contents and to minimise order-picking time.
Jan van Rijn explains how Hoogvliet runs its planning operation: "The stores are supplied from a distribution centre where, currently, five to six people are involved in planning. They ensure that orders received from stores and all cross-dock deliveries are assigned to the appropriate consignment. This manual process is every efficient, but it does however involve a large amount of paperwork. The roll containers scheduled for transportation are combined with the cross-docks; at the same time new orders are continually landing in the inbox, this is all happening at high speed and for all stores at once. The orders/consignments are labeled during the final round. For the documentation, we need just 18 minutes per truck: this is fast, but it could be faster. By optimizing the current order picking method, we believe the average turnaround time of six hours per truck will be reduced to five and a half hours."
This efficient planning operation means that the time between order and delivery is just three to six hours. "Stores that place an order in the morning can be supplied the same afternoon", according to Jan van Rijn. "We do not anticipate any increase in volume or faster deliveries, but we will be able to improve the quality of our deliveries. If we assume that loading 33,000 containers currently results in 20 to 40 mistakes a week, then our aim is to reduce that number by at least half."
Ortec's planning solution means that Hoogvliet will soon have all data available digitally. "This will help us to monitor consignments for discrepancies and to act faster in the event of changes. For example, if a store orders 31 containers but only 30 can be delivered with the consignment, we will be better placed to reach a quick decision on which container should be left behind. Having a clearer overview of which products need to go to which store and what is in each container will help us to make better choices. Furthermore, it will enable us to make the transition to paperless order picking".
Hoogvliet's employees are positive and enthusiastic about these new developments. "Of course, change is never easy and brings its own anxieties, but they are all too aware that the move towards automation cannot be put off any longer. They know from first-hand experience that the volume of work is getting to the stage where it can no longer be done manually. And, they are pleased that fewer mistakes will be made."
The entire automation process will undoubtedly result in savings for Hoogvliet in terms of people hours. "Planning activities will now only require two people instead of the five to six people currently involved." Van Rijn stresses that it is not just about cost savings. "All in all, it is more important for us that this solution will help us channel our growth, improve the quality of our deliveries to stores and so improve levels of customer service, and finally, that we will have data available in digital form."
Hoogvliet chose Ortec after shortlisting two candidates from a total of four. These two then carried out a functional analysis and the final decision in favor of Ortec was made on this basis. "Ortec is completely at home in this field and they fulfilled our requirements perfectly: it's as simple as that", says Jan van Rijn. "An Ortec specialist worked alongside us within the department right from the start, so all the ins & outs could be discussed in detail and incorporated in the solution. Working alongside us in this way was experienced very positively and helped to make the partnership a success. We really hit it off with Ortec and their planning solution was simply the best there is."