If you’re a construction professional or a fan of do-it-yourself projects in New Zealand, you’ve probably spent a lot of time in PlaceMakers, the country’s largest supplier of building materials and hardware. A Southern Hemisphere version of The Home Depot or Lowe’s, the home improvement chain employs over 2,100 people at its 63 retail stores and eight manufacturing plants. It carries more than 74,000 product lines, ranging from concrete to paint and plasterboard.

Recently, the Auckland City-based company decided it needed a better system for scheduling deliveries to its more than 300,000 retail and trade customers. So it turned to Bestrane Group, a Melbourne, Australia-based reseller of software from the logistics technology developer Descartes Systems Group Inc. Based on Bestrane’s recommendation, PlaceMakers implemented the cloud-based Descartes Route Planner solution to centralize its distribution planning operations across the country and has seen swift results.

As of February, PlaceMakers had nearly completed the software deployment and had already seen a 40% to 50% increase in delivery satisfaction, while achieving “significant” financial savings. In addition, the company has reduced inbound calls by 16%, increased load utilization by 13%, and reduced loading times by 14%.

“We sought to transform our customer delivery experience by moving each of our 63 branches from dispatching and executing deliveries with multiple logistics services providers to centralized logistics planning and our own fleet,” Wayne Armstrong, business transformation manager at PlaceMakers, said in a release. He added that Descartes Route Planner has proved to be “a world-class, end-to-end solution that is helping us provide an industry-leading customer experience.”

OPTIMIZING ROUTES IN REAL TIME

According to Descartes, its route-planning solution follows a two-phase approach: efficiently deploying vehicles to meet customer demands, and then fine-tuning that plan to reflect real-world changes.

The system incrementally builds shipment schedules and route plans, so as each new order is received, the schedule is regenerated in real time to reallocate resources to optimize efficiency, deliver priority service to the most profitable accounts and routes, and maintain overall customer service objectives. With an integrated GPS-based mobile application, the solution also has the capability to coordinate drivers, dispatchers, and call centers to help ensure that routes are executed according to plan and exceptions are handled efficiently, the developer says. Descartes adds that the platform integrates with existing order management or transportation planning systems to help companies reduce operating costs.

“We’re pleased to support PlaceMakers’ initiative to dramatically improve its customer experience, delivery productivity, and agility,” Lee Karlinsky, Descartes’ senior vice president, emerging markets, said in the release. “Companies like PlaceMakers are seeing the customer service differentiation, cost savings, and improved operational effectiveness that centralized route planning combined with mobile applications for execution can provide.”



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