The Color Company benefits from simplified territory creation and balancingJuly 13th, 2015
Powerful mapping, analysis and territory management software from Mapmechanics has played a key role for The Color Company Distribution Team in securing a brand new contract to distribute The Phone Book for BT to 11 million UK addresses – ensuring that the company can optimise delivery territories and issue individual maps and addresses to distribution agents.
“The system from Mapmechanics has been invaluable in providing us with a quick and efficient planning process that creates sensible routes for our agents,” says Operations Manager David Meikle. He adds that after only two months, the process has more than lived up to its promise.
The Color Company is a fast-growing group that started in print and design, but has since expanded into related fields including marketing support, logistics and fulfilment and has 12 locations throughout the UK as well as operations in the USA. The two-year BT contract is the biggest won by the company in the logistics world so far, involving more than half of The Phone Book’s annual distribution requirement.
Among its tasks, The Color Company needed to be able to divide its areas of coverage into manageable territories, in which its delivery teams could be given a consistent number of Phone Books to deliver. Typically each route involves around 700 books, and as David Meikle puts it:
The key is to ensure that we never allocate more books to an individual than they can handle.
At the heart of Mapmechanics’ solution is Geoconcept, the powerful mapping and geographic information system, which is being used in combination with a range of mapping and data products that have also been supplied by Mapmechanics. These include the Postcode Address file (PAF), postcode boundaries, HERE Premium vector digital street mapping, and two Geoconcept modules developed by Mapmechanics – Territories Pro and Batch Print.
Territories Pro partially automates the task of creating the routes without removing the kind of hands-on control that ensures rounds are sensible, and work efficiently in the real world. This means it has advantages both over an entirely manual approach, and over the kind of automated redistricting function typically offered in other GIS packages.
Each area covered by The Color Company’s contract centres on a warehouse facility, from which deliveries are made to the surrounding population by agents using their own cars or vans. Territories Pro is used to assemble these deliveries into compact and efficient routes.
Territories Pro automatically creates sequentially numbered territories incorporating the target number of call points; yet users can interact with it to ensure the territory has a logical shape and meets subjective rules such as not crossing a busy road unnecessarily.
Once the territories have been defined, the company is using the Batch Print module of Geoconcept to print out individual maps for each delivery agent. Batch Print automatically centres the map on each delivery area, scaling it to fit either an A4 or an A5 sheet, and choosing landscape or portrait orientation according to which provides the best fit.
Batch print offers a range of user-definable features such as legends and labelling, and can also “grey out” or otherwise distinguish areas not relevant to the activity in question.
The Color Company also issues agents with lists of addresses to visit in text form, outputting them from a Microsoft Access database. In many cases agents simply visit each property in a street, but some occupants will have opted out of receiving directories, and these are clearly delineated in the list.
The distribution contract awarded to The Color Company includes collecting Phone Books from the port of entry, transporting them in bulk to regional warehouses, and then delivering them to individual recipients. The company works with logistics partners to handle the bulk operations, hiring in delivery agents on short-term contracts to do the final deliveries.
Unlike some such operators, it uses permanent warehousing rather than temporary accommodation to serve as distribution points, and verifies the performance of its teams by post-delivery follow-up phone calls.
Mapping is a vital part of the whole process, says David Meikle, who has many years’ experience in this field with other operators.
Mapmechanics has gained special expertise in this business, and in my book is now the ‘go-to’ company for this kind of resource. Their support team is particularly helpful.