Mid South Baking Co.
Bakery Supplier Uses Trimble for Efficient Distribution of Quality Product to Over 2,500 Fast Food Restaurants
Find a system that provides in-cab management data and greater visibility into vehicle status; integrate data into backend systems
PeopleNet onboard computers, Vehicle Management, eDriver Logs, Automated Fuel Tax, Automated Workflow, Locating, Messaging, PeopleNet LinkTM
Mid South Baking Co., a key supplier of buns, rolls, and English muffins to more than 2,500 locations of a leading fast food chain, has grown to $100 million in sales (1.5 million buns each week) by focusing on continuous improvement.
As a company that places great emphasis on having an assured supply of quality product to meet its customers’ demands, Mid South places equally as much importance on the quality of its delivery and distribution system. Therefore, the bakery is committed to not only producing product according to specification, but also delivering product accurately and on time.
PeopleNet chosen to drive distribution productivity
That’s why in 2007 Mid South installed PeopleNet onboard computers in all 60 of its leased power units that comprise its transportation division, Service First Distribution. Each week, Service First makes approximately 7,500 deliveries of 1.5 million buns baked in two facilities—one in Bryan, Texas, the other in Pelahatchie, Miss. The recipients are restaurants from New Mexico to the Carolinas.
According to Service First Distribution Director Mike Little, Service First chose PeopleNet, because customer service and support, customization, and integration were top priorities. “PeopleNet has delivered first-rate customer service. Our PeopleNet manager is always there for us. One time she called us back from the hospital, where she was having her broken foot x-rayed. That dedication proves they really care and want to make sure we use their product in a way that works for us. By the way, we sent her flowers. That’s what you do for a friend; we have a fabulous relationship.”
Learning the ropes
At first Mid South’s 140 drivers reluctantly eyed the change. “But now they wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Little. “They’re happy not having to manually log their time, and they get more respect from local law enforcement. eDriver Logs are keeping us from getting tickets due to service violations and mistakes on paper logs. In fact, I spoke with one state trooper who cited one of our drivers. He was used to printouts, but when we walked him through the eDriver Logs, he tore up the citations. That just doesn’t happen.”
He adds that PeopleNet was easy for the drivers to learn once they got their mind around the fact that it was going to happen. He explains, “We purposely took our time, installing the computers and encouraging drivers to ‘play’ with them before they started using eDriver Logs. In fact, our first training focus was on front line supervisors and managers, since it’s critical that they know how to support the data and understand how it ties together with our back-end systems.
PeopleNet Link speeds integration with back-office systems
The PeopleNet Link hardware/software device was an important piece of the implementation because it enabled integration of Mid South’s PeopleNet data with back-office applications—custom routing and dispatching, payroll, etc. Mid South’s Integration Manager Sean Poole explains, “This tool takes the heavy lifting out of the process by eliminating the need to write a lot of code for retrieving vehicle information from PeopleNet over the Internet. There’s even built-in error correction for the Internet.”
Without having to write code to get the infrastructure in place and dealing with network communications, Poole immediately started writing applications. He set up the PeopleNet Link and completed the company’s initial Automated Workflow integration in less than three weeks—about one-third the time it takes most users. He credits PeopleNet’s documentation for making the project easy, explaining, “Every table, where the data is located, etc. is listed. Other solutions with some sort of API or web facing would be much more difficult.”
For quickly integrating Automated Workflow with Mid South’s routing and dispatch systems, Poole simply wrote code for routes and customer locations to populate a table in the PeopleNet Link database. The PeopleNet Link translated that information into individual routes, so when a driver sends a route request, the Link retrieves it and sends the route back to the driver through PeopleNet’s Network Operations Center. The integration with Automated Workflow essentially ensures that all routes are tracked, drivers are prompted at each stop, and key metrics such as arrival and service time at each stop are collected along with travel time and mileage values. Poole says, “While dispatch is in progress, we get information back as to what time they got there, delivery data, how long and when they leave.”
The PeopleNet Link interface, which is installed on Mid South’s network, is the bridge between its server and database and PeopleNet’s Network Operations Center. It pulls vehicle data from PeopleNet and pushes that data into tables that reside in Mid South’s database. The interface eliminates the need to write directly to the web services known as the Open Interface and manages all data polling and transmission. PeopleNet transmits data over its cellular network through the PeopleNet Link, which integrates the data with Mid South’s backend applications.
PeopleNet remotely manages PeopleNet Link, which “gives me peace of mind,” says Poole. “PeopleNet monitors the device, automatically upgrades/new features as they become available, and troubleshoots any issues. As a backup, Mid South has a cold unit on standby, because of how critical it is to operations. At any given time, should the primary unit fail for any reason, the data that is backed up at PeopleNet’s Network Operations Center would be downloaded to the backup unit.
Poole soloed the back-office integration of Google maps, and is currently working on integrating PeopleNet route detail (number of miles driven, number of stops, number of items delivered) with Mid South’s payroll system—using the PeopleNet Link, of course. Poole says, “By eliminating timesheet manual entry, we’ll automate payroll, make it more accurate and bullet proof.”
Little isn’t shy about discussing the value that PeopleNet and the PeopleNet Link have added to Service First’s operations.
“We reached ROI in less than a year. Right off the bat. MPG jumped by .8, or approximately 15% fuel savings for 10 million miles.”
-Mike Little, Director
Fault code reporting has prevented downtime and delays. Little explains, “It alerts us as to why certain tractors are performing better than others. It also prevented a turbo from going out, requiring only preventative maintenance.”
With immediate visibility as to where each vehicle has been, where it’s going, and when it should arrive at its next scheduled stop, Mid South’s customer service reps can answer customer questions quickly without having to call drivers. In the old system, drivers called in and reps updated the system manually. Now Automated Workflow dispatches constantly updated information, and the reps simply look at the dashboard.
Little stresses how important this is for the company. “We’re demonstrating our commitment to continually improving the way we serve our customers, the restaurant owners. Since there are no contracts, relationships are everything, and we do everything we can to improve them. Messaging has improved driver communication, which has paid off. By alerting drivers to road and bridge closures and accidents, we’ve helped them avoid major delays.”
While Little appreciates the hard cost savings, he is keenly aware that some improvements don’t carry a direct dollar value, yet they are priceless.