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On site - The Spaeter company relies on Wanko.

With the PraCar tour planning system and the PraBord telematics solution integrated into it, the Swiss Spaeter Group is digitizing its transport logistics and ensuring uniform standards at all logistics locations.

Practice Report | Spaeter | | Article by Marcus Walter, Freier Journalist
Wanko Anwenderbericht der Spaeter Gruppe ueber den Einsatz unserer Logistiksoftware

Fredy Gmünder is delighted with his fleet of vehicles. The logistics manager of the Spaeter Group (see box) is convinced that delivery to the last mile is one of the core competencies of the company specializing in steel, construction and building services. "Drivers act like a business card, because they see our customers more often than our field staff," affirms Gmünder, who outsources only five percent of shipping volume to external transport partners. He only hires service providers to cushion peaks in demand and for very small quantities to remote locations. The Spaeter Group transports the remaining 95 percent with its own 75 trucks stationed at six Swiss locations.

Direct comparison
In order to optimize the dispatching of the vehicles, the company looked for an alternative to the SAP-based solution it had been using until then in April 2016. "We wanted independent software that would adapt to the specifics of our industries," emphasizes dispatcher Hans-Peter Ritter, who, together with his colleagues, was involved in the IT project from the very beginning. The native Austrian is team leader of the three-person dispatching team at the Nänikon site. During a workshop, he was able to see for himself the performance features of various tour planning systems and compare them directly with each other.
Four software providers took part in the international tender, and in the end Wanko Informationslogistik came out on top with its PraCar tour planning system and the integrated PraBord telematic solution. "We liked the ease of use, the sophisticated optimization algorithms, and the many references from the steel and building services industries," recalls Gmünder, who had already come to know and appreciate the application at a previous employer.

Interface to SAP
After the official start of the project in July, the first branches were already converted to PraCar andPraBord in October 2016. This was preceded by three days of training and a subsequent two-week learning phase. The pioneers included the Nänikon, Birsfelden, Chur and Sins sites located in German-speaking Switzerland. Up to 38 unloading points and various delivery restrictions are now processed here into optimized tours with the help of PraCar. Afterwards, the results are transmitted via interface to the warehouse management system of SAP. This means that the shipment data is available for loading immediately after scheduling is completed.
Other departments can follow the process according to their SAP access rights and determine which packages have already been loaded. "Now, colleagues from the sales department find out directly via SAP about the shipment progress and can answer customer inquiries quickly and competently without having to call the scheduling department first," explains Gmünder, whose employees have been significantly relieved as a result.

Information available early
As soon as the evening loading is completed, the driver receives the complete loading list with all tour data sent to his terminal. Here, Spaeter opted for handheld computers of the type Zebra TC75, which were equipped with an app developed by Wanko. In this way, the drivers already know the evening before what is in store for them the next day and when their tour will start.
When the time comes, the navigation along the optimized route starts on the handheld. When the driver arrives at the destination, the TC75 is used to sign for the order on the touch display. Irregularities such as incomplete shipments or transport damage can be documented. The current tour progress, including the current position data of the truck, can be monitored in real time on the dispatch screen.

Paperless process
The delivery receipt is transferred with a time stamp to PraCar immediately after the signature and from there to SAP, where the completed order can be invoiced immediately. The entire process works paperless, which not only reduces the burden on the environment, but also on the administration. Every digital document is archived securely and easily retrievable at Spaeter, where customers still insist on a paper delivery bill.
However, the Wanko solution not only connects the different departments, but also the individual locations. "Now we have a permanent overview of the deployment plans, tour progress and current locations of all vehicles that are dispatched with PraCar within the Spaeter Group," notes Ritter. This cross-location transparency prevents, for example, two branches from heading to the same destination. "Such overlaps used to occur from time to time at the Nänikon and Sins sites, which are only about 50 kilometers apart and offer an almost identical range of products with structural steel and building services," explains Ritter.

Centralized scheduling
With PraCar, it was possible to centralize the scheduling of both locations in Nänikon. "This allowed us to reduce empty runs and make better use of potential synergies," says Gmünder. However, the Chur and Birsfelden locations will continue to have their own dispatching in the future. This is partly due to the different product ranges and partly to the geographical characteristics of the respective delivery areas. "In Chur, we have to deal with weather-related closures of the surrounding mountain roads," explains Gmünder. Against this background, he says, dispatching has to be as close to the action as possible.
Irrespective of the centralization of the locations, Spaeter benefited from considerable savings already in the first year after the change, although it is not yet possible to put an exact figure on these savings. What is certain, he says, is that "the number of overtime hours has dropped significantly and communication is much calmer." All the specifics of planned and ongoing tours are now accurately mapped in PraCar, which not least simplifies work handovers between dispatchers. "What used to take up to 20 minutes now only takes one minute," confirms Ritter.

Great transparency
Another effect of the Wanko solution is that it has created the prerequisites for the Spaeter Group's next development step. From May 2018, the previously independent subsidiaries in German-speaking Switzerland are to be merged into one company organized by divisions. This requires a change in thinking of the employees, which is supported by the cross-location transparency of the disposition. "Thanks to PraCar, our six dispatchers in German-speaking Switzerland are already living the restructuring and are one step ahead of the development," says Gmünder.

Background: Spaeter Group
The roots of the Basel-based Spaeter Group go back to the end of the 19th century, when Carl Spaeter founded an iron wholesaler in Koblenz. In 1901, he opened branches in Basel and Birsfelden. Subsequently, two independent companies developed in parallel in Germany and Switzerland.
In the sixties of the 20th century, Carl Spaeter AG began to expand through acquisitions of regionalgsteel traders in Switzerland. The product range was also gradually expanded. Additional product ranges were introduced around steel. The division into the organizational units Steel, Construction and Building Technology was implemented throughout the group. The market position of the Spaeter Group as one of the top three supplier companies in Switzerland for the main and ancillary construction trades as well as for industry was consolidated.
The Spaeter Group Switzerland comprises six companies operating at 26 locations throughout Switzerland.

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