Founded in 1925, Cheney Brothers has grown from a distributor of milk and eggs into one of the largest foodservice distributors in the South. Today, Cheney Brothers carries more than 15,000 national brand products, and its annual revenues exceed $700 million.
Cheney Brothers is fully committed to providing stellar customer service, and known for its innovative use of technology. According to Joe Haber, chief information officer for Cheney Brothers, a key initiative for the company is to extend its supply chain management effort all the way to the point of customer delivery.
Cheney Brothers was one of the first foodservice distributors to implement fleet management software, originally using simple GPS and routing applications on two-way phones. While the applications helped drivers navigate their routes more easily, they did not incorporate any sort of delivery tracking capability, and drivers could easily disable the applications (making their vehicles untrackable) by turning off their phones.
“Aside from the obvious problem that drivers could disable the applications, we really wanted to go paperless, and the solution we had in place at the time did not have us on that path,” said Haber. “Our vision was to be able to scan products off the trucks using handheld devices, print a receipt on the spot, and hand it to the customer. The data would be downloaded in real-time from the handhelds to our inventory system, and an invoice would be automatically generated. The end result would be more accurate records and faster payment from customers.”
Haber and his team—Mark Epstein, operating systems manager; and Phil Tippett, fleet management systems manager—began to evaluate vendors. Criteria included:
- The ability to automatically track vehicle location and vital statistics such as speed and convey those details back to the yards in real time.
- The ability to collect delivery details via handheld at customer sites.
- The ability to continuously monitor temperature in trailers to ensure integrity of the cold chain.
The team ultimately selected Cadec Global’s Mobius TTS, an advanced fleet management system that enables companies to reduce costs, enhance customer service, enforce compliance and safety regulations, and improve driver productivity.
“We felt Cadec offered the most complete solution,” said Haber. “They were the only vendor that could cover all of our requirements, and their delivery tracking capabilities were far more advanced than anything else we saw. In addition, drivers can’t turn it off, because most of the data collection is automatically performed by the Cadec on-board computer, which is a fixed system installed in the truck cabs.”
In 2007, Cheney Brothers installed Cadec’s hardware and software across its entire fleet of 300 trucks at 15 distribution locations in three states. Cadec is now used to track every aspect of transportation and delivery. Drivers even clock in and out using fixed Cadec kiosks in the yards.
The company is now able to automatically track key efficiency and safety metrics such as hard decelerations, speeding, miles per gallon (mpg), unknown stops, and idle time, and post reports in its transportation office for everyone to see.
“When a driver sees he’s doing badly—and everyone else knows it, too—we’ve seen behavior change,” said Haber. “We also tie the Cadec data into drivers’ bonus structure, so there is a financial incentive for them to improve.”
One example of where Cadec has made a big impact on Cheney Brothers’ bottom line is excessive idle time. According to Haber, when Cheney Brothers installed the Cadec system in its first 30 trucks, the team performed baseline measurements of fleet performance. One was idle time, which it discovered was high. As a result, Cheney Brothers put a new rule in place that tractors cannot idle for more than five minutes, and instructed drivers to turn off their tractors during deliveries. Compliance is monitored by the Cadec OBC.
“Cadec helped us virtually eliminate excessive idle time and associated fuel waste,” said Haber. “We went from an average of 2,950 excessive idling hours per month to less than 200 per month—a reduction of more than 90%.”
The Cheney Brothers fleet has also reduced hard decels significantly since it began monitoring this behavior with Cadec, and Haber reports that as a result its accident rate has gone down. This in turn has helped reduce Cheney Brothers’ insurance rates.
“When we took our initial baseline measurements, we found 30 to 40 hard decels per week,” said Haber. “Now any instance of a hard decel is rare. Just bringing it to the drivers’ attention, and their knowing we are watching it, had a big impact on driving behavior.”
For the same reason, speeding incidences have been virtually eliminated, and mpg across the fleet is up, since Cheney Brothers started monitoring and measuring truck speed. In addition, unknown stops have decreased significantly.
Posting the reports in the office for all to see had one unexpected consequence, said Haber: “The Cadec reports have created some healthy competition among the drivers about who’s the best.”
Cadec has also helped Cheney Brothers with Department of Transportation compliance. “All of our logging is done via Cadec now, and we can automatically track things like hours of service,” said Haber. “Drivers don’t have to deal with paper logs, and we find the data is much more accurate than when it was self-reported. E-logs are saving drivers about 30 minutes each, per day, and have also helped reduce the back-office burden, because instead of inspecting all logs we now just review exceptions. That helped us eliminate one full-time administrative position.”
Mobius TTS has had a major impact on Cheney Brothers’ delivery procedures. First, it enables the firm’s dispatch team to know the precise location of every tractor in real-time, so that dispatchers can provide accurate delivery time information to customers.
“Dispatch can tell every time a driver moves, and can track on-time deliveries; we get alerts on exceptions. So if they skip a stop, we know. And if a customer calls and asks where driver is, we can give them accurate information on when their delivery will arrive,” said Haber.
Second, Cadec helped eliminate the three-ply paper forms drivers had used for many years. Because all pertinent delivery information is now captured on the OBC, the company was able to go to shorter one-ply forms that would be signed by the customer at delivery. That reduced paper use and paper cost by two-thirds.
Today, Cheney Brothers is working on eliminating that very last paper form by implementing Cadec’s DeliveryTracker module – an add-on to Mobius TTS that runs on handhelds, and provides drivers with:
- Bar-code scanning
- Full-detail invoice/manifest
- Payment/credit handling
- Electronic signature capture
- In-cab printing
Captured data is conveyed as an XML file from the handheld to the Cadec OBC, and then relayed via wi-fi or cellular network back to the fleet’s central office, where it can be easily integrated with enterprise applications such as Supply Chain Management (SCM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
Cheney Brothers began implementing DeliveryTracker in 2009. “Cadec’s DeliveryTracker will really transform our delivery process,” said Haber. “Drivers won’t have to double-check orders or invoices—everything just gets scanned, and the handheld will tell them when they’re done. For the first time, we will have complete accountability for every pallet on every tractor. It will also save a ton of time, which will help us with on-time deliveries and will enable us to add more stops to some routes.”
If drivers need to take an item off an order, they will do it using their handheld, and the information will go right into Cheney Brothers’ main inventory system, said Haber. It currently takes two to three weeks for a customer to get a credit. With DeliveryTracker, it will happen on the spot.
“DeliveryTracker will enable drivers to generate an accurate invoice at the time of delivery. And invoicing at point of delivery will mean that customers can pay us more quickly,” he said.
Importantly, DeliveryTracker will enable Cheney Brothers to eliminate that last paper form, which means its fleet will be entirely paperless.
“Cadec is helping us fulfill our vision of removing all paper from the transportation and delivery process,” said Haber. “That in turn will streamline delivery and improve customer service. Cadec has already helped us make tremendous strides in safety and efficiency.”
Haber is quick to point out the hard financial savings as well. “When you consider all the savings enabled by our Cadec system—paper, fuel, labor, and insurance—we estimate that we’ve reduced our operating costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars per year,” he said. “That’s had a significant impact on Cheney Brothers’ bottom line.”
“We’ve worked with a lot of technology vendors over the years,” said Haber. “Cadec is the best in the industry. It’s been a great partnership for Cheney Brothers.”