Case Studies

Vehicle Routing in the Soft Drink Industry

Golden, B. L. & Wasil, E. A. (1987). Computerized vehicle routing in the soft drink industry. Operations Research, 35(1), 6-17.

In general, the construction of delivery-vehicle routes is a complicated task due to such factors as size of the fleet, number of customers, difficult real-world constraints, and the fact that such routes often must be constructed in a very short period of time. Two examples of the use of computerized vehicle routing systems in the soft drink industry follow.

Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola. On an average day, the Baltimore Division of Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola routes more than 60 driver-seller distribution vehicles. In most instances, a vehicle makes a single trip serving 20-25 customers. Drivers are compensated largely by commission, and union regulations apply.

Since early 1985, The firm has used ROADNET, a computerized package, to route its vehicles. The use of this package has enabled management to:

  1. rapidly develop satisfactory routes,
  2. easily maintain current customer satisfaction, and
  3. provide on-going control of distribution.
Rapidly generating useable vehicle routes has at least two benefits. First, the computer-generated routes are often more cost efficient than manually generated routes. Second, the dispatcher has more time to fine-tune the routes or address other distribution-related issues.

The Pepsi-Cola Bottling Group. Recently, the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Group of Purchase, NY conducted a pilot study on the feasibility of using a computerized vehicle routing system to facilitate the scheduling and routing of truckload shipments of materials between production warehouses and distribution centers. The routing problem Pepsi-Cola wished to solve involved supplying 18 distribution centers in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and southern New England from 3 production warehouses in Philadelphia, Teterboro, NJ, and Cranston, RI. The amount of product going from each production facility to each distribution center was determined.

Normally, each vehicle makes several trips between facilities each day, with the trips split between two shifts. The company wanted to ship only full trailer-loads and to avoid having more than one delivery vehicle at a given distribution center at any one time. A computerized vehicle routing program (TRUCKSTOP) was implemented to help perform some of the routing and scheduling operations.

During the pilot study, it became apparent that Pepsi-Cola would need to modify the software package before it could truly be effective. After the necessary modifications were made, the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Group used the modified program for routing and scheduling these operations.

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