Case Study: Procter & Gamble
P&G Optimizes Planning Approach
More than a decade ago, The Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, recognized that it needed a way to address axle weight management, overweight accessorial charges, and delivery delays that stemmed from suboptimal trailer loading, says Robert C. Wuerdeman, global physical distribution manager for the consumer products giant.
A manual planning approach that included use of generic loading plans worked adequately for P&G until the early 1990s.
"The mix of products and our one shipment-one delivery structure were pretty simple to execute," Wuerdeman recalls. As the company moved to more diverse products and multiple delivery distribution programs, however, managing axle weight grew more difficult.
In addition, "the increased complexity and diversity of products required personnel to spend more time determining how they were going to load a trailer," which dampened internal productivity, he says.
To address the situation, P&G turned to Transportation | Warehouse Optimization LLC, a systems developer based in Franklin, Tenn., for assistance in developing a truck loading software system that would maximize cube/weight utilization, manage axle weights more efficiently, and reduce the time required to load trailers.
The need for such a tool is not universal across the corporation, Wuerdeman explains. Some business units, such as P&G's paper products and fabric care business units, have fairly standard and consistent products with straightforward planning needs. A truck loading tool, called AutoLoaderT3, is used by business units with diverse products and complex multistop delivery programs, and by facilities operated by third-party logistics providers.
Automated trailer load planning "is markedly more effective," Wuerdeman says. Not only does the tool use an expert, rule-driven planning engine, "the solution is repeatable," he explains; such consistency is not necessarily the case with manual load planning.
Increased productivity, elimination of accessorial charges for overweight loading, reduced product damage, and improved customer service are some of the benefits P&G experienced with the load planning tool. P&G has commercialized the AutoLoaderT3 tool, making it available to other companies through Transportation | Warehouse Optimization.
P&G is currently implementing a new version of the tool. "The original load planning tool was an offline tool that sat between the order management system and the warehouse management system," Wuerdeman notes. "Orders that came in for sites using the load planning tool went into the system, which generated a report that was matched with the loading documents."
The latest version of AutoLoaderT3 is being integrated with P&G's proprietary warehouse management system, and will have task management functionality, enabling orders to be picked in the sequence of loading.
The tool will have greater flexibility for managing products within orders, according to Wuerdeman. "The original tool treated each stop as a unique delivery, even if multiple orders were delivered to the same location. We've allowed the tool to have more flexibility to sequence the stops and mix unit loads for greater rideability," he says.
The tool's new in-transit damage avoidance capability takes into account whether unit loads or pallets should be loaded wide or narrow, checks height profiles, and signals for installing inflatable dunnage when needed.
"The truckload planning tool attempts to optimize orders that are already written," Wuerdeman says. "P&G is now looking at having a truckload building tool on the front end, in conjunction with our order-taking/management tool, to optimize at the front end rather than the back."