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Unilever’s short delivery windows puts high pressure on the carriers

Unilever has offices and companies all over the world with over 400 well-known brands such as Lipton, Dove, Ben & Jerrys and Knorr. In Helsingborg in southern Sweden we find Tord Tillman, Process Specialist, at the logistics office next to the big cold warehouse. This is where margarines, cheese-spreads and vanilla custards are kept, ready to be transported to the stores. Before Unilever took over, the factory was called Margarinfabriken (Margarine Factory) and still some of Sweden’s biggest margarine brands are made here at the factory, a couple hundred meters from the warehouse.

The warehouse holds over 10 000 pallets and every day about 800 pallets are sent from here. Unilever Sweden has agreements with several different carriers and they book different carriers for different routes, depending on the agreement.

Unilever’s greatest challenge when it comes to transports from this particular factory, has for a long time been to keep the short delivery windows set up by the customers. Big retailers, like ICA and COOP get so many deliveries each day that everything must be delivered on time to run smoothly.

 ”We often have half an hour to deliver our goods. If we miss that time slot we simply have to turn around and go back to the warehouse again.” says Tord Tillman

Before Unilever Sweden started using Unifaun about 7 years ago, all transports were booked through fax or e-mail directly with the carrier. Tord and his colleagues were quite satisfied with that way of working until Unilever Europe demanded measurement of delivery time compliance (delivered within time slot). Within that context, a co-operation with Unifaun started.

SAP and Unifaun TMS, interacting systems

Every night Unilever receives a file from Unifaun with last day’s deliveries and the times they were delivered. This information originates from the carriers that continuously during the transport have reported status to Unifaun about when they load, when they are on their way, when they unload, all the way to the status delivered. Unilever’s own system then finds all statuses named “delivered” and collects them in an xml file that is later sent to Unilever’s SAP. In this file they can see all dates and exact times of delivery, and match it with given time slots.

”The information from Unifaun makes it possible for us to constantly measure and improve our deliveries.”

Unilever has agreements with all their customers regulating exact delivery time slots. With the additional information from Unifaun, Unilever can now measure customer agreement compliance with regards taken even to time slots. In the event that they have missed their promised time of delivery, and sometimes even repeatedly, they start to look at what they can change to improve. Maybe the problem can be solved by just changing the time slot with the customer?

Easier and cheaper

There are many positive side effects to the implementation of Unifaun’s Transport Management System. It has become both easier and cheaper for Unilever to book transports. When they previously booked their transports directly with the carrier, every booking was handled manually and it was costly. Moreover, they don’t need to enter all delivery numbers manually anymore, which saves a lot of time and makes the process much smoother. Unilever is overall very happy with Unifaun TMS, a lot thanks to the fact that they rarely experience disturbances.

”It is very important to us that our transports goes exactly according to schedule. That places a high demand on our systems to always be stable, which Unifaun’s always have been. That is something we truly appreciate.” says Tord Tillman