ASSOCIATED TO ADD ROUTING SYSTEM TO STREAMLINING EFFORTS

SALT LAKE CITY -- Associated Food Stores here plans to have its new outbound routing system fully operational by the end of the month.The outbound routing system is just one component of Associated's broad-ranging efforts to streamline warehouse and fleet management. Initiatives to improve warehouse and receiving dock operations, including yard management and driver payroll, are currently in various

SALT LAKE CITY -- Associated Food Stores here plans to have its new outbound routing system fully operational by the end of the month.

The outbound routing system is just one component of Associated's broad-ranging efforts to streamline warehouse and fleet management. Initiatives to improve warehouse and receiving dock operations, including yard management and driver payroll, are currently in various stages of implementation.

The automated-yard-management system installed last month has already proven effective and recently increased productivity 30% during a three-week period, according to Craig McPhee, director of outbound logistics at Associated.

The outbound routing system is currently used only on Saturdays and Sundays while manual methods continue to be used during the week, he said.

"The reason we're currently handling the system this way is because we're working out transmission times of various departments that don't match up," McPhee said.

He explained that Associated has been able to synchronize orders on the weekend because the orders are usually already available and can be used to develop the best route. "We've got more consistent lead times from customers on the weekend than we do during the week," he said.

Prior to implementing this system, each of the operational departments at Associated, including grocery, deli/meat and frozen and produce, had their own cutoff times for orders. There was no central coordination of orders.

"Right now we do not have all of the routing transmission times synchronized," McPhee said. "But we've put a time line on and we're hoping we will be fully operational on the system" by the end of March.

Once the routing system is fully operational, Associated will move on other phases of its streamlining efforts, which include driver payroll systems, he said.

McPhee said the routing system will tell Associated the stops the driver has on his loads. Onboard computers will validate this information and update any changes. The driver payroll system, which is linked with the routing system, will then take the comparative analysis and determine the driver's pay.

Currently each driver submits written information to a clerk who verifies the work and enters it into the payroll system.

Other systems are further along in the implementation process. A yard-management system to track equipment in the yard was implemented the first part of January.

Using the system, Associated's yard workers receive a call via two-way radio with instructions to search the yard for a particular vehicle. The dispatcher enters a request into the system, which finds a trailer to best meet the request. A yard worker is then provided with the trailer number, the location of the trailer in the yard and the destination for it.

Associated's outbound routing and yard-management software packages are from Dallas Systems, Dallas, and the onboard computers were provided by Cadec Systems, a subsidiary of Cummins, Columbus, Ind.