Waterline enhances operational efficiency and customer service with Descartes’ route planning and optimisation solution. | Descartes Routing UK

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Waterline enhances operational efficiency and customer service with Descartes’ route planning and optimisation solution.

Waterline was established in 1985 and became part of the Crown Imperial group of companies in 2011. It is the UK’s largest supplier to the independent kitchen specialist sector.  

With its distribution head office in Newport Pagnell and depots in Bolton and Bristol, the company is ideally located to satisfy customers' requirements nationally. Waterline’s product portfolio comprises leading brands in kitchen furniture, appliances, sinks, taps and ancillary kitchen products. As part of its sales and distribution strategy, Waterline runs successful e-commerce, logistics and customer service operations to meet customers’ needs. To continue supporting its growth, and to carry on delivering its renowned, exceptional customer service, it explored what systems it could invest in. This resulted in evaluating route planning and delivery optimisation technology, with related customer communications technology


“Descartes has reduced our delivery route planning from a few hours per day to a matter of minutes"

- Matt Elborough, Head of Logistics at Waterline


Waterline's challenge 

Keeping customers happy forms a fundamental part of Waterline’s business. Customers include builders' merchants, independent and high street kitchen designers and show rooms, as well as larger household names. When these organisations design and/or build kitchens for their customers (consumers or businesses), they purchase all the parts and appliances required for a project from Waterline, who then expedites the delivery process to a store or directly to site to be installed or fitted.  

Often work is planned around timely access to products and materials, taking the delivery directly from Waterline when goods are required for fitting. This is so that they don’t need to be stored on site or transported from the designer’s store or warehouse to site.  

If deliveries do not show up for installation on time, it can have a negative knock-on impact on the timeliness of work. This can affect the kitchen designer, the rest of construction, and the wider customer experience. This makes it crucial for firms like Waterline to plan and run efficient ecommerce and supply chain logistics operations – for its own reputation and its customers’.  

What sets Waterline’s customer service apart is that it operates its own fleet of vehicles, using its own drivers. However, running this fleet operation and arranging deliveries requires effective planning and organisation. In the past Waterline used their own in-house system, the efficacy of which was dependent on a deep understanding of the business, a legacy of learned experience, and time and resources to succeed. For example, it would take 3 or 4 planners many hours to plan deliveries for around 200-400 orders per day. 

As part of its customer service strategy - and general continuous improvements - Waterline investigated how to refine its customer service; with a view to improving operational efficiencies that would support long-term growth. Could it streamline the planning and execution of deliveries and drive cost savings – what processes could it replace or enhance?  


Implementing the solution 

Waterline executed a thorough due diligence process before selecting Descartes. It reviewed the technology capabilities of its incumbent technology provider and considered eight other technology vendors available on the market before settling on Descartes. The key technologies purchased included: cloud-based route planning and optimisation; pre-delivery customer email notifications; and electronic proof-of delivery (ePOD) solutions – all on a single, integrated platform. 

As part of its last mile delivery solution, Descartes’ route planning and delivery optimisation solution reduces costs with more agile and efficient routing. It helps organisations create a more sustainable fleet operation by generating additional delivery capacity, reducing the CO2 footprint, and eliminating the use of paper for manual processes across the delivery operation. With strategic route modelling capabilities, fleet operators can understand and optimise their delivery and customer service strategies before executing them.  

Descartes’ mobile applications help drivers deliver on their daily routes, keep fleet operations managers aware of their progress and provide an accurate estimated-time-of-arrival (ETA) to notify customers of their deliveries. The ePOD capabilities support customer service excellence and order accuracy through real-time mobile communication, speeding up the process of delivery confirmation, reducing human errors, and eliminating paper & ink POD (proof of delivery). 


The results: Improved fleet efficiency and CX

Customer service at Waterline remains at the top. Off the back of investing in these technologies to enhance operational efficiency, these key results have been achieved: 


Route planning time reduced to a matter of minutes 

Traditionally planners would take hours to plan and execute around 200 – 400 orders for just one of Waterline’s depots. Using Descartes’ system, and automating the delivery route planning, has changed the time it takes to plan and share routes from a few hours to a matter of minutes. This has also enabled overnight runs to schedule deliveries, which other systems cannot do – and it has allowed Waterline to focus on other areas of its business, such as compliance management and driver training. 


Reduction in fleet mileage has been attained 

More effective route planning and fleet management have resulted in a reduction in fleet mileage. With the high price of diesel, this equates to a significant saving on fuel and lower vehicle operational costs.  


Customer communication is enhanced – 50% fewer calls to the contact center 

Since deploying Descartes’ pre-delivery customer email notifications (with delivery ETAs) and ePOD, communication with customers has improved, resulting in approximately 50% fewer calls to Waterline’s contact centre. Having route planning and ePOD all on one platform is a real advantage— deliveries and routes are planned, executed and tracked all on one system. 


A system ready to integrate with and support future operational requirements 

As part of Waterline’s business, customer communication and invoicing strategy it was also important to identify and work with a vendor that has the capability to integrate its technology into Waterline’s ERP and CRM systems. This is so that as the business continues to grow and improve, Waterline wanted the confidence that the technology it selected was able to scale and grow as it does. For example, it has plans to align the ePOD system with ERP and CRM systems, this will enable resource management and invoicing to be automated when goods are delivered.  


A final comment from Waterline 

Matt Elborough, Head of Logistics at Waterline says: “Waterline runs successful ecommerce, logistics and customer service operations. However, in order to support our growth and to continue to deliver exceptional customer service, we explored what systems we could invest in to become more efficient. More effective route planning, pre-delivery customer email notifications, and ePOD all formed part of the answer. Today, not only are we creating more efficient routes and delivering goods more accurately, we’re building better customer relationships too.”  


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