Geographic modelling project minimises costs for adhesive manufacturer

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Henkel’s Loctite branded fleet

Henkel UK & Ireland, the producer of famous adhesive brands such as Solvite, Loctite, Unibond and Pritt Stick, has set up an in-house field merchandising team to enhance its interaction with leading DIY retail businesses, and has been able to create logical and economical regions for each merchandiser by commissioning a geographic modelling project from Mapmechanics.

As national merchandising manager Henry Gould explains that the merchandisers have to make regular visits to many hundreds of stores belonging to several leading retail chains. “Even if you view the locations on a map, it’s more than a human can do to take account of them all and come up with optimum territories that keep overall travel time for each merchandiser to a minimum.”

He explains:

Initially we just divided the country into thirteen regions, one for each graduate merchandiser, but we soon realised the task needed much more sophistication than that.

Henkel therefore looked for a mapping supplier that could offer a more structured solution, and found Mapmechanics.

They matched all our requirements, and were prepared to handle the job on a project basis

Henry Gould says. “As it was a one-off exercise, this was a much better prospect than buying software and going through a learning process ourselves.”

Henkel supplied Mapmechanics with lists of the retail outlets and the locations of its merchandisers’ homes, and Mapmechanics’ own analysts took on the project.

They used various software tools including the powerful GeoConcept geographic information system, plus the Territory Manager module. This takes account of the location, density and spread of call points and travel times from given starting points, and creates regions that provide optimum coverage at the minimum overall cost.

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Henkel’s Unibond branded fleet

On the basis of this, the Mapmechanics team were able to generate maps showing the boundaries of the optimised territories and the store locations within them. “That original map was fantastic,” Henry Gould says. “It was far better than anything we’d been able to produce manually.”

Following on from this initial exercise, Henkel was then able to move to a second phase. “Several new merchandisers had replaced original team members, and were working from different bases, and as we were re-running the exercise, we felt it would be helpful to display more information on the resultant map.”

Mapmechanics therefore re-ran the optimisation process, this time producing maps that included main road networks, town names and other detail, as well as store locations and boundaries. “This was much more productive in terms of planning the team’s activities.”

Henkel also considered asking Mapmechanics to plan routes for its merchandisers, “but their travel varies too much from day to day. Sometimes a merchandiser will visit several stores in a day, but on other occasions will stay a whole day at a single store, and there’s no set call pattern from one week to the next.”

The benefit of the existing Mapmechanics system, he adds, is that whatever the schedule, the merchandisers are always operating within a territory that has been optimised for them.

Henkel’s graduate merchandisers deal with a wide range of functions at retail stores, including fixture compliance (ensuring racks and displays conform to contracts with the retailer), corporate secondary site compliance (securing additional locations for specified displays), and correcting database errors. They also deliver one-off point-of-sale materials to specific stores. A fleet of branded vans has been acquired for them.

Prior to the creation of the new team, the task had been contracted out, but Henkel decided that an in-house resource would have more impact and help build up its profile in stores.

Inevitably team members will join and leave over time, but as Henry Gould comments:

We will have no hesitation in going back to Mapmechanics and re-optimising our territories if we need to.