Most route drivers welcome tools and techniques that improve their productivity. Higher productivity enables drivers to make the same amount of money in less time or, if they are paid on commission, more money in the same amount of time. Fortunately, techniques exist that enable drivers to do this, with and without new technology.
A central component of improving route productivity is to reduce the amount of inventory on the truck. There are two basic ways to accomplish this without running out of products: 1) Carry fewer individual products (known as SKUs), and 2) Load the truck with less of each SKU.
Another technique is to make only one trip from the truck to the machine. This can be done by eliminating the "counting" or "correction" trip. We will consider these and other time savings options in this article.
If you are like most drivers, you either load your own truck, or order what needs to be loaded by filling out a sheet a few days in advance, or "calling in the order." The challenge is to keep track of what accounts you are visiting the next day and order the appropriate products. The safest thing to do is often to load extra product so you won't run out.
The problem many drivers have is they leave the warehouse every morning with two to three times the amount of product they will need that day. In addition to making the job more tedious because of fumbling around in the back of the truck, the excess product guarantees that they will end up with more damaged and spoiled product at the end of the day. And finally, if the company keeps a running truck inventory, the entire inventory process takes longer when more products are involved.
Consider ways to reduce truck inventory
How can you reduce the amount of truck inventory? There are several ways.
If your company uses some sort of planogram, stick to it. Obviously, some accounts are going to require special products, but generally, drivers can reduce the number of different SKUs being loaded on the truck without compromising customer needs by sticking to the company planogram.
The next step is to figure out how much of each product to load on the truck. Without technology, the easiest way to "forecast" the amount of products is to keep a route book (or log) that has a past history of product sold (or filled) in each machine.
The route logs enable the driver to estimate how much product will be needed the next day. Some drivers keep a route log for the entire route and do not break it down for each machine. While not as accurate, this is easier to do and often requires less time.
The terms "prepacking" or "prekitting" in vending refer to a process whereby drivers service machines with pre-packed, stackable bins that have been prepared for them in the warehouse. There are several benefits of prepacking:
- You only make one trip to each machine.
- There is no "truck inventory" to deal with, just pre-packed bins for each machine. As a result, you spend no time gathering up product once you stop the truck.
- Trucks generally leave full and return empty, minimizing any inventory issues.
For companies that prepack, the trick is to figure out what each machine needs before it is serviced. Drivers who are not using handhelds and software usually do this by filling out a "pack sheet" for the next service visit while they are servicing the machine. This way, they can analyze usage patterns and know what products are selling in the machine while they are at the machine.
When utilizing a prepacking system, the driver will not necessarily fill every column completely.
Prepacking saves time
Even when a company is not pre-packing in the warehouse, smart drivers essentially prepack off the back of their trucks in an effort to only make one trip to each machine or bank. Being familiar with what is selling at your machines, using standard planograms, and minimizing SKUs makes this process a lot easier.