April 2002 | Case Studies | I.T. Toolkit

Rand McNally Keeps Going the Distance

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Rand McNally barrels ahead with new mileage and route optimization tools.

An elder statesman among transportation IT providers, Rand McNally has been helping fleet managers use computers to calculate distances and route their trucks for more than 20 years. Since 1980, the company's MileMaker software has offered electronic access to its database of Household Goods (HHG) miles. That's the same industry-standard mileage guide Rand McNally has also published in print since 1936.

As deeply rooted as it stands in the past, Rand McNally has not forgotten to reach toward the future. Starting with IntelliRoute, the full-blown routing application it debuted in 1998, the company's Transportation Data Management (TDM) subsidiary has created new tools to meet market demands. They include a global positioning system (GPS) interface for IntelliRoute and a web-accessible version of the system—IntelliRoute Online.

Lately, the company has added a lower-end routing system—RouteTools—with versions for owner/operators and small fleets. Rand McNally is also working on a version of that system to run on portable digital assistants (PDAs).

Rand McNally TDM broadened its portfolio so it could serve an entire spectrum of users—from independent drivers to large commercial and private fleets.

In-house logistics operations have long relied on MileMaker for a variety of applications. Menasha Transport, the transportation division of Menasha Corp., Neenah, Wisc., has used a Unix-based version of MileMaker for more than a decade to feed HHG miles into its McLeod Software fleet management system. Menasha's 30 tractors and 350 trailers move paper and other products manufactured by Menasha Corp.'s various businesses, says Christine Howe, comptroller at the transportation subsidiary. The fleet also provides common carrier service.

HHG miles define the distance between two points according to a standard that satisfies both parties to a transaction. "We pay our drivers off that. We bill our customers based on Household Goods miles," Howe says.

Allegiance Healthcare, a Cardinal Health company based in McGaw Park, Ill., used to run MileMaker on a mainframe before migrating to a Unix server, says Todd Myers, the company's project leader for transportation systems information technology. Allegiance uses HHG miles to calculate the cost when its private fleet moves product from a warehouse to a customer.

"We use it to determine the mileage from Point A to Point B based on the origin and destination ZIP codes," Myers says. "Then we calculate the internal cost of moving that product, based on number of miles and the product's weight."

A proprietary system, interfaced with MileMaker, performs that calculation. MileMaker data also helps Allegiance rate the shipments it gives to commercial fleets.

Allegiance uses a second copy of MileMaker, running on a PC, to help consolidate some inbound shipments from suppliers, says Phil McWhorter, the company's transportation manager for operations.

"If it's a large shipment, and there's an opportunity to use truckload rather than less-than-truckload, we may review the miles for stopoffs. Sometimes it's more cost efficient to match up two or three stopoffs on the truckload than to ship LTL," he says.

Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse has used MileMaker since the 1980s to help manage its relationships with carriers. Running on an IBM RS/6000, the system feeds HHG mileage data into the Manugistics transportation management system to rate shipments. MileMaker also "serves as the basis for network studies and all the what-if studies we do within our system," says Steve Palmer, director of transportation at Lowe's in Wilkesboro, N.C.

While MileMaker meets the needs of many customers, Rand McNally developed IntelliRoute to offer a fuller and more robust routing solution, says Amy Krouse, director of marketing at Rand McNally TDM, Skokie, Ill. The system includes HHG miles, but it can also use other criteria to calculate the best way to drive from one point to another. The optimal route might be the one that covers the fewest miles, gets goods to their destination fastest, or costs the least in fuel, tolls, driver pay, and wear and tear on the truck.

Through a partnership with Integrated Decisions Systems Corp., Rand McNally also offers routing based on current fuel prices.

Along with HHG Miles, IntelliRoute offers a database of miles developed through use of a GPS tracking device. This "GPS-accurate" database "will literally hug the road and reflect every twist and turn," making its mileage calculations more accurate than HHG miles, Krouse says. "If tenth-of-a-point differences are important, IntelliRoute captures those."

For fleets hauling hazardous materials "we offer 10 different types of hazmat restrictions," she adds. This means the system can develop routes that include only those roads on which a truck with a certain hazardous load is allowed to travel. It can also route a truck to avoid construction, using data that Rand McNally updates every two weeks. The user's database obtains this fresh information via an Internet link. Another IntelliRoute module employs the system's mileage and routing data to produce fuel tax reports.

Companies that use automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems can take advantage of a Rand McNally product called TrueTrack, which provides an interface between the onboard system and IntelliRoute. The company can track and trace freight by comparing its current location, from the AVL system, with IntelliRoute data that shows where the truck is supposed to be.

"It's not just tracking—it's tracking along a prescribed route," says Shel Greenberg, general manger of Rand McNally TDM. The system allows the fleet manager to monitor a load’s progress against its expected time of arrival, and note any deviations from the schedule or route.

Because vehicle location systems include wireless communications, an interface to one of those systems allows IntelliRoute users to relay information from that system to drivers. This information might be driving instructions, for example, or warnings about traffic ahead.

Designed with a variety of modules and options, IntelliRoute adjusts to the needs of each company that uses it, Greenberg says. "You can start small, then grow into it by adding user capabilities, servers, and clients, as well as interfacing non-PC based platforms such as Unix and AS/400."

Catering to Small Companies

But businesses that want to start really small might turn instead to the RouteTools Small Fleet Edition. Designed for fleets with up to 25 trucks, RouteTools provides many of the functions found in IntelliRoute, such as routing by HHG least-cost or fastest miles; hazmat routing; and routing for trailers of different sizes.

"RouteTools products streamline and customize all the business tools that traditionally have only been available to larger fleets, so small companies can take advantage of the same calculations," Greenberg says.

The big difference between IntelliRoute and RouteTools is that the lower-end package can't perform batch processing and it runs only on a standalone PC, not on a mainframe or multi-user network. Also, unlike IntelliRoute, it cannot be integrated with other applications.

In the near future, Rand McNally plans to offer a version of RouteTools for PDAs that runs on Windows CE. "As soon as we ascertain the interest level and fine tune that product a little, we'll release it, probably within the next six months," Greenberg says. Rand McNally already offers consumer-oriented products, such as an electronic version of its Road Atlas, for use on the Palm PDA.

The company will also make a major push to promote its track-and-trace capabilities to medium-sized carriers and private fleets, Greenberg says. "We are focusing on a lot of enhancements to give more real-time information and provide more of an automated assist to the overall route management and route optimization process."

Rand McNally continues to move ahead with new tools that point its customers where they need to go.

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