Using mapping software as a foundation to manage business geography and logistics can provide significant cost-control improvements, according to Sears Canada Inc. and Canadian

Tire Inc.

Sears Canada sought a solution to address problems faced by its delivery truck fleet – one of the largest in-house home delivery operations in North America. With more than $960,000-worth of large home appliances delivered in 2001 alone, Sears Canada’s Vaughn, Ont.-based facility sees an average of 30 to 55 trucks depart daily.

“”Within our environment, we had problems with trucking routes,”” said Ron Clark, project leader for Sears Canada, at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Canada Regional Users Conference in Mississauga, Ont. recently. “”So, we broke it up and dealt with it as if it was several different delivery sites, which gave us more control over things.””

Sears partnered with ESRI Canada Inc. in 1994 to help define the routing for its enhanced home delivery system (EHDS), Clark said. The company modified ESRI’s ArcGIS (Geographic Information Systems) software as a means of determining its own route schedules and service delivery times. Clark said drivers had a tendency to choose routes that look compact and isolated on a map, even though it’s not necessarily the most efficient path.

“”We’re developing a strategy for street calibration and we’re still working on it,”” he said. “”We had a major Toronto carrier cancel our contract and leave us as they felt they should be responsible for determining the routes . . . but it wasn’t being done in sequence.””

Alex Miller, president of ESRI Canada in Toronto, said his company’s software is used primarily by government agencies, the forestry and agriculture industries, and increasingly by municipalities. He said Sears Canada’s application of ESRI’s ArcInfo – software that provides a means of describing abstract geographic features whose attributes are kept in relational tables – and ArcView GIS desktop GIS and mapping software feature a more complex tie in to customer information systems.

“”Sears is a leader in this area and part of it is they vertically integrated the software and they own their own trucks,”” Miller said. “”What Sears is doing is using its inherent knowledge of the road network to optimize its routing.””

Kelly Hall is ESRI Canada’s project manager, responsible for the Sears Canada account. She said Sears Canada wants to expand its GIS integration in 2003.

“”They’re open to all suggestions, but what they’re looking at right now is a means of tracking their shipments electronically via a delivery SKU number,”” Hall said. “”Now that they have their own routing and scheduling capabilities, they’re thinking of a mobile GIS.””

ESRI Canada’s ArcGIS system is an integrated architecture for GIS products, which provides a scalable solution for building and serving GIS applications of all types within mainstream computer architectures. A computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing events, GIS software integrates common database operations such as query, reporting and statistical analysis with the unique visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps.

“”With Canadian Tire, they wanted to pinpoint their marketing campaigns to their store locations,”” Miller says. “”Our software is the mapping foundation for that.””

Sebastian Kowalcyk, GIS database analyst for Canadian Tire, described ESRI’s GIS software as a “”special type of software that allows for visualization and manipulation of data.””

Kowalcyk said Canadian Tire looked to ESRI’s solutions to help sort out where its stores in the Greater Toronto Area were located in relation to its customer base and its competition.

“”There’s a favourite adage in retail: location is everything,”” he said. “”That embodies the essence of our business, so it’s no surprise that GIS is being adopted by major retail chains.””

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