Newspaper Distribution Management System: Case Study

The Irish Times work with SmartRoutes to change the way their paper gets to people and respond to changing consumer habits. Check out our case study to see how we have done it for them.

Newspapers ready for dispatch at a depot

The Irish Times & SmartRoutes

The Irish Times is one of Ireland's most widely-read newspapers with a daily combined circulation of almost 90,000 copies. It is also a trusted member of the third estate as paper of record in Ireland and with numerous international awards for journalism each year.

Although much of the media we consume has moved online in recent years, there has been a resurgence in the demand for print media, with newspapers in particular seeing an increase in popularity. An increase in untrustworthy news, online news sources and the increasing difficulty of verifying information online, coupled with the adoption of subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have helped to drive growth for the newspaper industry over the last year. Similarly, newspapers have also played a role in providing those cocooning with a link to the outside world, and the continuity of a daily routine that might otherwise have been disrupted.

When The Irish Times approached delivery management software SmartRoutes in early 2020, they were seeing unprecedented demand for their print newspaper subscription. In fact, the demand for their service had seen the volume of newspapers being delivered double.

While the success of the service was to be celebrated, managing it at such a scale was becoming increasingly difficult. And it was not the only one struggling with the challenge of implementing a newspaper route app.

The challenge with newspaper deliveries

At the outset of offering newspaper home delivery, The Irish Times had been creating routes for drivers using a combination of paper-based and digital systems. However, every new subscription meant less capacity for a vehicle and an extra stop on the route for a driver.

The nature of newspaper delivery also meant that routes were constantly changing with customers going on holidays and updating subscriptions. In fact, each new route that was added to the service was taking up to 2 weeks to organize and create manually. And because subscriptions were updated daily, it became a full-time job trying to re-route drivers and vans to maximize the efficiency of their fleet.

Even after working to create the routes, they knew that they were not optimized. Getting these routes optimized was critical to the viability of the subscription service.

The service itself was also becoming more difficult to manage with more customer support queries to match the increase in subscriptions. As drivers were returning directly to their homes after their night shifts, customer support staff were arriving on-site to begin answering queries from customers. As drivers were the ones with the information on drops and routes, communicating this to the depot after a long night shift simply wasn’t feasible.

The scale and intricacies of the task at hand would require a newspaper distribution management system that solved the unique challenges of a home delivery service.

Irish Times goals with home delivery

  • Find a way to dynamically create optimized routes for drivers on la daily basis with no manual input
  • Eliminate all paper-based route planning and management
  • Ensure delivery rounds were completed by 07:30 every morning
  • Provide full visibility and communication between drivers, planners and support staff.

How newspaper delivery was achieved for The Irish Times

After sitting down with the team at The Irish Times, we immediately set about creating a bespoke newspaper distribution management system that would cater to their specific requirements.

We first studied their current workflows and looked at how we could tailor SmartRoutes to meet their demands. Once we had identified what was required, we implemented the following solutions:

Custom API for dynamically routed orders

As we outlined, one of the biggest challenges they face was creating routes for drivers based on constantly changing subscriptions.‌‌

Using a custom API, we were able to map their order management system directly to their SmartRoutes account. This meant that the orders were constantly being updated in real-time, and that routes created were based on up-to-the-minute data from their subscribed customers.

Zoning

Drivers had previously divided routes amongst themselves and tried their best to cover specific areas that they had knowledge of.

With SmartRoutes zoning functionality, The Irish Times were able to create these routes on a map, and have the system create routes within these specific geographical areas for drivers.

More importantly however, these zones could be re-drawn at a moment's notice. This meant that if a specific area saw a significant increase or decrease in subscriptions in a particular area, the zones could be altered to ensure routes were manageable for every driver.

As subscriptions for weekday and weekend titles were also different, having 2 separate Zone groups meant halving the work that those responsible for route planning.

Centralized Knowledge Base

With high-density drop volumes, drivers were beginning to build a massive repository of information on addresses and routes. But there was no way of recording this information, and this was a problem, particularly for multi-drop route planners.

With the SmartRoutes Mobile Diver App, however, they could now record photo proof of delivery, and notes on drop locations and routes. The benefit of this was that it helped to onboard new drivers, with all the information about their routes recorded and sent directly to their own SmartRoute mobile app. Not alone was this important for onboarding new drivers, but it also helped drivers to cover shifts for each other with minimal fuss.

Live Tracking & Reporting

Bringing oversight of operations to everyone involved in operations was a key goal for The Irish Times from the outset.

With SmartRoutes GPS Live Vehicle Tracking on drivers apps, the management team were able to get instant updates on all vehicle locations, their remaining drops and accurate ETAs.

In addition, as drivers captured data on routes out on the road, it was instantly fed back to Desktop Planner, where support staff could instantly access it. By giving the Support staff instant access to data on routes, they were able to help customers who may not have received a delivery for any reason.

When it came to reporting on first and on-time delivery rates, route efficiency and driver metrics, this resource became extremely useful for the management team as well.

Results

After working directly with The Irish Times, we helped them to establish a newspaper distribution software solution that brought an increased level of organization and efficiency to their service, while also reducing the manual labor involved by several hours over a given week.

Each of the goals outlined above was achieved, and in some instances exceeded. Not alone did it make the service more efficient, but it made the management of the service easier for everyone involved.‌‌

What they said about working with SmartRoutes

“Delivering over 90,000 newspapers every week requires our entire operations and logistic divisions to be on the same page. SmartRoutes gave us full visibility of every touch point from print production right up to end customer queries. Without their combination of software and service, this simply wouldn't be possible.”

- Fran Walsh -

Newspaper delivery software - How to implement for your organization

  1. Import your list of all stops/customers into a software system like SmartRoutes
  2. Map each of the stops automatically using a geocoding function to see visually where stops are and make decisions as to how to divide these stops into specific routes
  3. Assemble your list of stops for each route and create skeleton or base routes for each delivery person
  4. Review each route with delivery people to get feedback or tailor the route to specific requirements such as accessibility, vehicle size, left or right hand turn preference, time windows, etc.
  5. Finalize routes and begin testing to ensure routes are optimal and improving efficiency for the organization and the delivery people
  6. Get delivery staff to download the mobile app
  7. Sync relevant routes to each delivery person and have them populate on the mobile app
  8. Create dispatch notes for stops/customers that also populate on the mobile app so the delivery people are fully informed of all the relevant information
  9. See how closely a delivery person matches the estimated delivery route time
  10. See that all delivery staff have a fair distribution of workload and that they are all finishing their routes at the same time and on schedule
  11. Set up your customer notifications by SMS or email so customers know exactly when to expect their newspaper
  12. Set up the delivery experience tracking portal so customers can click a link in their notification SMS and see exactly where their newspaper is on a live-map
  13. Allow delivery staff to gather proof of delivery by getting an esignature from customers when dropping off the newspaper/s or else allowing them to take a photo of the delivery location
  14. Track all your delivery staff in the field on your live map
  15. Adjust routes and reoptimize them in real-time when necessary, for example, because of traffic issues or road diversions
  16. Manage all of your delivery operations from one software dashboard
  17. Learn from operations and iterate to improve your delivery operations and improve efficiency and cut costs.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of newspaper delivery software we would be happy to run you through a tailored demo to show you how it can work for you and save you time and money while transforming your delivery process for the better. Just fill out the form on our homepage and we will get in touch.

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