Keeping Track to Optimise the Supply Chain BT Supply Chain has been using a mobile computing solution for almost ten years to better control the movement of over 20,000 parts per day to ensure that its 22,000 engineers are supplied with the right parts at the right time. However, this advanced transport management system has not only enabled them to optimise its parts distribution using advanced tracking, but also streamline the overall supply chain by accessing meaningful business intelligence to make better informed management decisions.
In 2002, BT Supply Chain teamed up with Skillweb to develop a comprehensive transport management solution designed to track the movement of goods through its supply chain. The organisation is tasked with providing flexible, innovative and cost effective end-to-end logistics solutions for the whole of BT and a host of external customers, so needed a tracking system that would help it become more efficient and productive. Supply Chain Optimisation Known, internally as BT TraX, the system has now processed more than 100 million collections and deliveries to date with over one billion tracking events. This added insight has enabled BT Supply Chain to analyse the delivery needs of its internal customers such as BT Openreach and BT Payphones to identify potential operating efficiencies and rationalise the operational infrastructure.
The original BT TraX used Intermec mobile computers that were operated by over 250 delivery drivers and around 80 depot teams to manage and track the goods as they move from the warehouse or collection point through the trunk network for onward delivery to each engineer. It has played a vital role in understanding how BT Supply Chain functions by analysing the delivery needs of customers, so the company can adapt its operation to offer a more cost-effective and lower carbon footprint solution. By providing visibility of the planning and distribution of parts through the UK and Northern Ireland and improving communications to the engineer via automated text messages and e-mails, Skillweb has helped BT Supply Chain to monitor the impact of the changes on productivity and adjust transport operations accordingly.
The vast amounts of information generated through BT TraX has enabled BT Supply Chain to analyse vital operational data to make informed business decisions regarding the restructure of their transport operation and manage the overall change process. “BT’s major challenge was maintaining the right balance of responsiveness and cost effectiveness within its delivery process. With a mix of parts requiring next-day delivery and larger volumes with a lower priority status, we have worked closely with the company to help them create a transport structure to service the needs of engineers in the field in the most timely and efficient manner,” explains Paul Ridden, Managing Director of Skillweb. As a result, the BT TraX solution has enabled BT Supply Chain to optimise its supply chain by restructuring the operational infrastructure. This has meant the transport operation used to supply the service engineers with parts has been reduced by over 25 per cent and six sites have been removed from the depot network. Enhanced Performance Towards the end of 2010, BT Supply chain and Skillweb undertook an extensive review of the existing BT TraX system to identify areas of improvement and ensure it was meeting current and future requirements. The updated system which utilises components of the Houndit Enterprise system ensures the distribution of spares from BT Supply Chain’s National Distribution Centre in Magna Park and the Distribution Centre in Northallerton are managed effectively throughout the distribution process to stores hubs for collection by local engineers or delivered onwards to engineers lockers where geography dictates. The joint initiative undertaken by BT and Skillweb will ensure that the mobile computing solution continues to meet business and operational requirements now and in the future.
BT TraX 2 is supporting the needs of BT Supply Chain’s changing business landscape and ensuring the company is in the best possible position to operate at maximum efficiency throughout the current decade. It has already achieved considerable results from both a business and operational perspective, so represents a truly innovative approach. BT TraX has already delivered significant improvements helping to meet service level agreements with internal customers such as BT Openreach and BT Payphones, whilst reducing mileage in the distribution fleet by in excess of 30 per cent. This represents a considerable saving in fuel costs with the added benefit of a reduction in the fleet size required to service the engineers demands for stores. The system not only handles the distribution of spares but also tracks each item as it moves through the supply chain. By utilising SMS and e-mail messaging, individual engineers are notified automatically of parts arrival at a hub or locker so they know when their parts are available for collection minimising wasted trips. Reverse logistics channels are also maintained by the system allowing collection and redistribution of items including returning high value equipment for maintenance and or repair.
Leading Edge Technology Solution As part of this process Skillweb was also tasked with upgrading the IT infrastructure to not only enhance its functionality but also reduce the ongoing running costs and carbon footprint. Working closely with BT’s internal process reengineering team, Skillweb has introduced a range of enhancements to the IT infrastructure in terms of functionality, running costs and efficiency. This has included the virtualisation of the server hosting, which will reduce power demands from the transport management system by up to 80 per cent. By adopting a series of software upgrades and migrating the mobile computers used by 250 delivery drivers, depot staff and store hub operators to Motorola MC55s, BT SCP has access to real-time availability of tracking data using GPRS. This advanced solution provides a flexible framework to both track the movement of parts via barcode scanning, POD, unattended delivery and the GPS location of individual mobile devices.
The system also utilises the innovative Houndit planning tool to reduce trip planning by as much as 75 per cent and support the complex needs of the network of stores hubs. Meanwhile, the inbuilt reporting capability has enabled BT SCP to consolidate multiple systems to provide its operational personnel with greater access to supply chain data to continue to identify efficiencies moving forward. BT Supply Chain can now plan and track spare parts and other essential transport movements from source to destination using an integrated suite of software using web technology. This kind of solution is unique within the supply chain and vastly reduces the technology infrastructure required to deliver a system of this nature.