New technology bringing efficiency to supply

Viva Energy’s Paul Bell talks about a cloud-based software system that is helping to change the way supply and logistics industries manage business practices.

As a major fuel supplier, it’s critical that we maintain prompt, reliable supply to our customers. With four crucial yet disparate elements to the process – how much fuel is needed, where it’s needed, how it will get there and the regulations governing its movement – technology is playing an ever-increasing role, in the form of a cloud-based supply chain planning system built by Quintiq.


Paperless on-time delivery

Some aspects of Viva Energy’s supply chain are already automated and these fit seamlessly into the Quintiq system. For a start, we have automatic tank gauges (ATGs) at each service station and can poll them regularly to check fuel levels in those tanks.

Likewise, most resellers are on a vendor-managed inventory (VMI), so they don’t have to place an order for fuel; we can see how much they have on site, look at what their sales demand has been over the past week and determine when to make the next delivery so they never run out of stock. This is mostly done through the cloud; any customers without ATGs, such as remote mining areas or industrial sites, create manual orders which are then entered into the system.

The next element in the process is the third-party carriers who deliver the fuel. They notify which trucks will be available over the next shift, and we have to take into account how those vehicles can be loaded, optimal delivery times, what routes can be taken, how to load safely, axle weights and so on.

There are a lot of restrictions around carrying fuel, but the Quintiq system can be configured to respect those rules and regulations as well as the organisation’s business rules, such as production capacity, inventory and logistics constraints and contractual requirements. It also uses mapping and traffic data, so it can account for road speeds, time and distances, and peak and non-peak periods when calculating schedules.

When the data from all the disparate elements is entered into Quintiq, all we need to do is press a button to generate the orders for the next shift. Once the schedules are finalised, the system sends them out to the terminals with precise loading instructions for each truck. A notification is sent back as soon as a truck is dispatched, so we know that it turned up, loaded and is en route. Proof of delivery (POD) technology then sends another notification when each order has been delivered.

The entire job can be completed without any physical paperwork, saving everyone in the supply chain considerable time and money.

Efficient and cost-effective

The system is still undergoing tests, but generally it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to plan each shift, per state. Previously it would have taken schedulers half a shift to do that task, whereas with Quintiq, 80 per cent can be achieved in under an hour, leaving the schedulers just having to oversee, apply their knowledge and make any adjustments.

In a perfect world everything would go according to plan, but traffic jams and even weather events cause delays, so an exciting aspect of this level of automation is being able to see in the system when a job needs to be re-planned. An alternative destination or more efficient route can then be found and sent directly to the driver’s tablet or handheld device, so they can continue their journey. Previously that would have been done through a series of phone calls or faxes; now it’s all done by the system.

The next big step will be to incorporate dynamic scheduling. Instead of being generated and published 12 hours ahead, the schedules for each shift will be updated in real time, allocating new jobs as the last one is completed. It’s expected that this will give even greater flexibility and efficiency, while reducing time wasted on the road.

Being able to take advantage of technological innovation means we can better ensure that we have the right truck carrying the right load at all times. For our customers, it means we can deliver more fuel for a lower cost and give them the best chance of maintaining a good fuel supply.

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