Dean Foods Leverages Fleet Management

Web-based technology increasing equipment utilization and improving productivity tracking.

The Dairy Group of Dean Food Co., Minneapolis, is among the largest processors and distributors of fresh milk and other dairy products in the country, with products sold under more than 50 familiar local and regional brands and a wide array of private labels. It also operates what is believed to be the nation’s largest refrigerated direct store delivery (DSD) route system, with more than 6,500 distribution routes in operation serving as many as 150,000 customers.

To run that kind of a multiple-stop operation effectively, it became important for Dean Foods to track driver and vehicle usage.

To help it in that regard, the company installed the XATANET Web-based fleet management system from Minneapolis-based XATA at a number of locations. XATA's Learned Standards software delivers fleet intelligence in real time across all touch points by identifying, detecting and reporting location, time and event-based exceptions.

For Dean Foods, the XATA solution amounted to a single system capable of delivering the flexibility and functionality that it required in an affordable package. That single fleet management platform can be accessed and used by every driver, vehicle and fleet location regardless of geography or IT infrastructure.

With the system in place, the company is now beginning to understand the benefits of capturing and analyzing the detailed route and status information available through the use of onboard computer technologies, and is now starting to see immediate and significant productivity increases, fuel cost reductions and service level improvements.

“All fleets are facing the same issues when it comes to the cost-effective transportation and timely delivery of their products,” says John Burke, senior vice president of logistics/redistribution. “Rising fuel costs, increased regulatory and reporting requirements and mobile asset productivity are all impacting our ability to execute. An onboard computer system solves these problems in a single package that eliminates paperwork and increases efficiency.”

The XATA onboard computers are capable of dispatching a complete electronic trip plan to the vehicle and collecting comprehensive stop and leg information during the route. This allows fleet managers to compare planned and actual data and relieves the extensive paper work required for compliance data gathering and performance reporting as part of the driver’s daily routine.

Data normally recorded and transported by hand for driver logs, trip sheets and fuel purchases is electronically captured and maintained over time while fuel economy information can be continually displayed and updated for the driver.

XATANET also offers all the functionality required to address the recently updated Hours of Service rule changes as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It provides dynamic dispatching features that automatically download individual or bundled groups of routes and then stores those routes in the vehicle computer to minimize communication transmission costs and maximize driver productivity.

The system was quickly implemented and easily expands as business grows. It makes sophisticated applications available to fleets within the food industry via an ASP model where fleets can install, use and pay for the applications that benefit their organization today and expand their use over time, gaining immediate value at a lower cost of entry.

"XATA has a 20-year history of developing and deploying features that directly address the needs of companies in the food supply chain," says Craig Fawcett, XATA chairman and CEO. "We believe that our innovative technologies can help these companies gain a competitive advantage by tracking and improving equipment utilization across the vast distribution networks and route systems required in this market."