Optimum Dental Extracts Transportation Cost Savings
Optimum Dental sinks its teeth into a route optimization and planning system, and leaves dentists and their patients smiling.
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Optimum Dental Studio, a full-service dental laboratory in Plano, Texas, serves about 250 local dentist offices in the greater Dallas and Fort Worth region and nationwide. Part of the Orchid Dental Studio Group, Optimum Dental Studio supports dentists who offer high-quality, artistic, all-ceramic dental prostheses, which are, by their nature, high-priority shipments.
The dental offices submit molds for restorative dental work, such as crowns and bridges, to Optimum Dental. They create a mold of the prosthetic using an easy to work with—but fragile—substance, and then place a pick-up request via an online system or by phone.
Optimum Dental’s drivers collect the mold and return it to the lab, which fabricates the permanent dental prosthetic. When the lab work is completed, usually several days later, the driver delivers the prosthetic to the dentist’s office, ready for the patient. Over its 10 years in business, Optimum Dental has personalized such services, and delivered them on time.
The inbound supply chain is unpredictable, because the dentists simply do not know how much work a prosthetic will require until they get a good look while the patient is in the chair, according to Tina Whatley, head technician and co-owner of Optimum Dental Studio. The outbound supply chain is time sensitive, because the crowns, bridges, veneers, or other restorative prosthetics must be ready to put in when patients arrive for their appointments.
“Dynamic routing is a big deal for us,” says Whatley. “It’s critical that we are able to compensate for changes that occur throughout the day.”
Optimum Dental drivers must be able to adapt to new pick-up and drop-off schedules throughout the day in response to dental office orders. The company needed a low-cost scheduling, mapping, and route optimization solution that is easy to use and scalable to meet changing transportation demands.
Finding the right solution was tough. Some providers would not work with companies that operate fewer than five trucks, like Optimum Dental does.
For several years, Optimum Dental used a system that required a proprietary mobile device, but it did not provide turn-by-turn GPS mapping or route planning. Then the company switched to a TomTom-based solution, which was great for navigation and traffic, but didn’t help with scheduling deliveries and optimizing routes. Other potential new systems didn’t provide the flexibility Optimum Dental required to update a driver’s route many times throughout the day.
The Root of the Problem
Whatley and the logistics managers needed more contact with their drivers. They didn’t know who was—or was not —sticking to the daily schedule. They also had no way to know where drivers were, or when they would arrive at a destination, without calling them while they were driving.
“Drivers were flying by the seat of their pants, and we didn’t know if they were going where they were supposed to,” Whatley says.
A high-priority pickup early in the day could throw the whole collection and delivery plan out of sync. When a prosthetic did not arrive for an appointment later in the day, for example, dentists were forced to reschedule patients.
During an online search for a new solution, Whatley came across Maxoptra, a dynamic fleet scheduling and route optimization software platform from London-based Magenta Technology, which operates U.S. offices in San Diego. Maxoptra is designed to enable fast and efficient decision-making, in real time, within changing operational environments, particularly service management, supply chain, distribution, and home delivery.
Maxoptra is available as a subscription-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, scalable for companies such as Optimum Dental with only a few vehicles all the way up to operations running hundreds of trucks. Magenta Technology also markets the solution as an enterprise-level system, residing behind a company’s firewall for large organizations with the IT infrastructure in place to manage the system.
Most small companies opt for the SaaS model, which is licensed per mobile Android-based application. There are no extra fees per seat on the PC usage side, according to Lee Moore, senior vice president of North American operations for Magenta Technology.
While investigating logistics solutions, Whatley first connected with Hillsboro Beach, Fla.-based OnPoint AVL and Navigation, a Maxoptra reseller, and eventually spoke directly with Moore.
Whatley asked several questions, participated in a product demo, and decided to get on board with Maxoptra. She liked the instant route management feature, which could serve the constantly changing needs of Optimum Dental’s clients, and the ease of use to create and update a daily plan. It’s also a TomTom-compatible solution that works with the company’s existing GPS units.
Now that the system has been implemented, if a dentist calls the office requesting a pickup of an emergency crown, the driver receives that update on an Android phone provided by Magenta.
Bridging the Information Gap
Whatley can see the entire day’s route, insert pickups where they make the most sense, and gauge the ripple effect of each pickup on the entire schedule.
“Maxoptra allows us to view the complete picture in an instant,” Whatley says. “We can see deliveries and collections, and get advance notice of possible headaches. The system gives us the intelligence to react and respond, so we can maintain our high levels of customer service while reducing costs.”
Whatley likes the fact that the system updates the routes, and drivers may be none the wiser about a change in the plan for later in the day. The goal is to ensure each driver has the optimal route to follow without having to make decisions.
“We want to tell our drivers where to go for their next pickup or delivery; we don’t want them to have to think about where they need to go next,” Whatley says. “If drivers try to make decisions on the road, the schedule can quickly become chaos.”
When a call for a pickup comes in from a dental office, Whatley updates the driver’s route with the location, and the system automatically pushes that change to the driver’s phone. To account for the new pickup, the system also adjusts the estimated arrival time at each stop, based on distance, traffic conditions, and the actual location of the vehicle provided via GPS.
With this information, Whatley knows whether the driver will be able to finish the route by the close of business. If not, Whatley can dispatch another driver or even hit the road herself.
Enabled by the TomTom GPS integration, Maxoptra pushes location data upstream so managers know exactly where the drivers are, when they arrived and departed each stop, and even if they opt out of using the system’s manual arrive and departure notification.
The system also can geotag a location so that other drivers will know exactly where an office is sited, which is not always obvious from GPS directions.
“A replacement driver, for example, will know what side of the street an office is on, or if it’s located behind another building,” Whatley says.
Maxoptra allows users to build lists of customers, locations, service tech capabilities, and other attributes that managers can build into the plan, as well as customized loading based on customer priorities.
“The goal is to optimize operations in a way that addresses many different variables,” says Moore. “And those variables are as numerous as the end user wants them to be.”
A Brush With Success
Optimum Dental has benefitted from the planning and routing application’s disciplined flexibility. In fact, the company has reduced the expense of using third-party couriers during peak demand times by up to 40 percent, according to Whatley. And, with drivers more efficient on their daily routes, Optimum Dental is able to handle increased business without adding staff.
“Without Maxoptra, I’d probably have to add drivers, but now we can simply adjust a driver’s day,” Whatley says. “As our systems become tighter, we actually gain ground. To me, this is more than a Band-Aid; it’s a solution.”
Optimum Dental’s strategic growth plan calls for installing new $40,000 systems in 10 dental offices that will allow for same-day or next-day crowns. The system will significantly reduce manufacturing time and help develop deeper customer relationships due to the improved service.
“With this growth plan, our logistics system will be even more critical,” Whatley says. “Having Maxoptra in place is beautiful. It helps us cut costs, improve customer service, and gain productivity.”