Having pioneered the use of bar code tracking, Emplas is about to take customer service to the next level with real time notifications on delivery times.
It’s what we expect when we order online. Place an order and you get a confirmation of order, dispatch, delivery progress, and a 2-hour delivery slot.
You don’t lose time hanging around for orders to turn up, that may or may not come and you know exactly when to be back.
Window and door deliveries are different. Where bar code tracking is used, it tends to only go as far as dispatch. Where your order is on the UK’s frequently unpredictable road network, is often anyone’s guess and delays are common.
Emplas is working to change that. Having pioneered the use of bar code tracking, a decade on its working on another step change in customer service – real time updates on deliveries and two-hour delivery slots.
“The principle is simple”, says Jody Vincent, Sales Director, Emplas, “the practice is complex.
“Working to an allocated delivery slot with real time updates is a combination of forecasting and planning. You need to map journey times but also predict and allow for congestion; have the technology that allows you to deliver updates; and most importantly have the buy in from the entire team to make it work.
“It impacts the whole factory – but the benefits to the customer are potentially huge. It could mean finishing a job on site or leaving it to go back and handball product.”
Emplas introduced a bar code system to its manufacturing process in 2013. Accessed through EVA, the Emplas virtual assistant and ordering portal, it has allowed Emplas customers to create and place orders online but also to track their progress through Emplas’ state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
Emplas has since expanded the system to dispatch, also introducing inspection at the point at which it’s offloaded. On the rare occasion that any damage has occurred in transit, the product is scanned by the driver, the damaged part is photographed and its replacement is automatically generated in the factory production schedule.
What Emplas is now doing, however, represents a step-change in service – a two hour scheduled delivery with real time updates delivered through a unique EVA delivery app.
“We have an in-house team of developers. They’ve led the development of EVA and are now developing the new app”, says Jody. “It’s unique to Emplas and has required a big investment, lots of development and multiple versions so that it’s a really easy-to-use platform.
“But you still have to get that app to talk the other systems in the factory and deliver real time push notifications to the customer against an accurate delivery schedule, the investment we’ve made in that last element has been mammoth.”
Accurate journey planning is key if you’re going to get deliveries made on time. Emplas has been trialling this throughout the autumn and into this winter. This has included optimising routes but then also tracking and collating data on ‘real journey times’.
“The programme feeds back into the business throughout the day and in real time”, explains Jody. “We’ve applied a colour code scheme so that if something is delivered exactly within its two-hour slot it’s highlighted green; if it’s a little late or early, amber; and so on. If it’s red, it highlights a problem.
“We then work to understand if we’ve missed our slot or delivery has failed because of a one-off, for example, the bad weather that we had in early December, or if there’s an underlying issue that we need to make an adjustment or mitigate for.
“It’s something which sounds simple in practice but which you need the raw data for to make an informed decision against – and that’s something which takes time.”
As part of the project Emplas is also trialling the use of next generation scanning technology similar to those used by specialist distributors, including Amazon and DPD.
The mobile devices are being used in dispatch to scan windows and doors onto the lorries and to plan and track deliveries. Notifying Emplas customers where their delivery is in real time and confirming delivery slots or communicating a delay.
It’s also being used in the trial to scan product off the truck to make sure everything is delivered as it should be, so that the truck doesn’t leave for the next delivery until all products and ancillaries are accounted for.
“We’ve been working for a long time to deliver absolute transparency to all elements of production and delivery of orders”, continues Jody.
“It’s been comparatively straight forward to get to the point at which we were. We were the first out of the blocks but we know a lot of people have caught up.
“What we’re doing now isn’t easy, but we believe the investment gives us and our customers a critical advantage.”
Still going through a trial, Jody said he expected Emplas to be in a position to roll-out the scheme in the first half of this year .
“Our work-flow is fully integrated, we and our customers can check or access any orders at any time. We know that it’s right when it leaves the factory and we know it’s right when it’s unloaded at the other end.
“And very soon our customers are going to be able to see exactly where their order is with a two-hour delivery slot and 15-minute push notifications on arrival.
“The benefits that that delivers to our customers in potential time saved is immeasurable”, he concludes.