Archive for December, 2009

Just In Time (JIT) Delivery

Another day another surprise.

JIT has been revolutionizing logistics, manufacturing, retail and the planet in general for awhile now. The basic idea is that each level in the supply chain gets just as much as it needs at the right time to do the task at hand. So if you sell 42 widgets in your store each week you only keep 42 on hand and once a week a truck shows up with 42 more. The manufacturer only gets enough parts to make as many as they ship each week and the parts supplier, etc. Of course this means we drivers have to pick up at point A and deliver at point B in a fairly precise manner or it all falls apart. I understand this process and accept it as part of life.

Yesterday we learned about a different type of JIT. After we finished at K-Mart we were sent to a facility in Irving to pick up a trailer to deliver in Harrisburg, PA. We picked up around noon and were told to deliver at 2:00 AM on the 31st. Sounds like a classic JIT load because of the delivery time. However we are delivering to another trucking company. In fact we are picking up from a trucking company. There are mo producers or consumers in this chain, just middlemen. There are several messages about this being a JIT load at to be sure and keep everyone informed if we are going to be late. Given the time we had there should be no issue. At 5:00 AM we get a message asking if we are rolling. I reply that we are on time for delivery. Around 8:00 AM we get a message telling us our delivery time is 8:30 PM, five and a half hours earlier than we had based our trip planning on. After much gnashing if teeth, rending of hair, and talking to someone in the JIT group it becomes clear. The preplan should have told us this was a timed JIT load and once we were loaded we should have received a message with our new delivery time, 31 hours after pickup. What ever time we picked up it had to be delivered just in time 31 hours later. Can anyone explain why?

Fortunately since the information we were given was wrong we were not responsible for it being “late.” We got there at 9:30 PM and of course the consignee could not have cared less. It will be tomorrow before they unload the trailer anyway. Oh yes, we had also been told this was a driver assisted unload. The consignee NEVER does live unloads. How can a company be so out of touch with its customers?


A Diversion

I had hoped to be writing these posts using a regular keyboard attached to a real computer, a Mac Mini that is. I built a stand to hold the small flat panel TV/DVD player we have and tested all the bits and pieces at home and things were OK. The screen is a little small but the zoom feature helps overcome that. It won’t be at an optimal angle but we are in a truck for Pete’s sake. I had done the math on the power consumption and that looked good too. I bought a small UPS to put between the power and the hardware to protect it and prevent everything from shutting down when the engine starts.

Problem number one is that the UPS draws a ton of power even when fully charged and it tripped the circuit breaker in the inverter. Oh well that was just a nicety anyway. Got the computer and the TV set up. Note to Apple: Add some positive locks to the power and mini-DVI connections. They come out way to easily, especially the mini-DVI. I turned everything on and presto chango trip the circuit breaker again. I try powering them up one at a time. Each comes up fine on their own but each seems to have a peak power that when combined with the other idling exceeds the 150 watts of the inverter.

Of course all additional inverters were left at home so I can’t split this across multiple 12 volt sockets. I have been reading up on putting a Mac mini in a car and there are some solutions but the involve cutting the power cord in half plus buying $150 in power supplies and parts. Not out of the question but not in the budget at the moment.

For now hoping we will get a run that includes Texas 71 and if that fails I’ll have the youngest son ship one of the inverters to oldest sons house for when we go there at the end of January. Shipping costs are cheaper than buying another inverter.

On The Road Again

We did not spend the last 10 days in Salt Lake City but we were there five. The rest of that saga involved “new” trucks. First we were given a Volvo 780 which is a spacious truck that actually has a table that converts to a bed like in an RV. Above that is a bunk with a nice mattress and the restraint netting you need in place to sleep while the truck is rolling. However after we spent hours moving in we were told it was the wrong truck as it had too many miles on it and we had to move to a Volvo 680. This is a much smaller truck and the upper bunk is lovingly referred to as the hammock as it has no real mattress and after a year or so of use hangs down like a hammock when you get in. We complained to several people, asked if we could keep the 780 until after the holidays so we could get rolling and were rebuffed in each case. This tied us up from Thursday through late Friday.

On Saturday morning we finally rolled out of SLC up to Ogden to get a load of left over disposable diaper stuffings to take to Richland Hills, TX where they will be made in to cheap carpet padding or something similar. This Kimberley-Clark facility had no scale of its own so we had to find the loaded trailer, which was not where they said it would be, then go to a truckstop to weigh the load and then come back for updated paperwork. It was a lovely run south to Provo and then on through some amazing scenery as we worked our way to I-40. Unfortunately the sun set before we got to Arches National Park. That night we made it to just east of Gallup, NM. The next day we headed for Texas. We arrived in Ft. Worth in the evening and once again had to scale because the consignee doesn’t trust the shippers and also has no scale. We scale before going, they empty the trailer and then we scale again and go back. Keep in mind it is $9.00 each time we scale and the driver pays and then gets reimbursed in the next paycheck. Not to mention another 16 unpaid miles and probably an hour of time. There are also very few truckstops in Ft. Worth and 10:30 at night is a bad time to try and park. Liz finally suggested we simply go to the consignee and hope there was some place to park. Fortunately there was right on the corner. There was already one truck there so I pulled in near him. In the morning there were four of us and we discovered later there had been two more that we didn’t see. Next time I will park a little more carefully to allow for the amount of traffic in this lot. I was so glad Liz had to drive in the morning because to get in this dock you had to back around the corner, twice. She did a good job and didn’t hit anything.

This was on Monday the 21st and we were supposed to be home on the 23rd. What trip do we get given? Only one going to New Jersey. One that you would have had to average 90 miles an hour to get it there on time. Even without the stupid schedule there is no way we would have been back in Texas by Christmas. We decided to just bite the bullet and take extra days off. We called our long suffering son and told him to come get us since we would have to leave the truck in Lancaster. Of course part of us was hoping they would give the truck to someone else but we didn’t really expect that.

We went home and had a wonderful week off but we managed to misplace some gifts we had purchased which was a bummer. We also looked in to changing terminals but have been told that could be denied as we are company drivers. This morning we loaded up and went back to Lancaster where our thoughtful DM had managed to hang on to our truck for us. This actually turned out to be a good thing as we found the missing presents.

Right now we are in a K-Mart parking lot in Killeen where we have a delivery in the morning. Still hoping we get to switch terminals and maybe get a better truck but mostly hoping we can just keep the truck rolling for awhile so we can start generating some income.

Weather & Breakdowns

We were feeling good when we finally got rolling from Marysville and we made the T-call (relay) in Gary. Although when we went to New Boston, MI to fuel the fuel pumps were only putting fuel out at one gallon every five seconds. We had to put nearly 200 gallons in and it was freezing outside. We then got the load headed for Lodi, CA. Lots of miles, enough time to get it done and it would be part of last weeks paycheck. We realized the boxes were made in Indiana by the same company we had picked up boxes from in California. Why don’t they make these cereal boxes in California? At first everything was fine and we got as far as Wyoming without incident. The wind was picking up and I was having problems maintaining speed on the flat let alone on the hills. Passing a chemical plant that had a smoke stack where they burn the smoke I noticed that the wind was so strong the flames were bent over parallel to the ground. I figured that was the problem I was having as I had a very heavy load so I pulled in to the truckstop that was right there. The next morning Liz headed out but quickly had the same problem and the wind was not very strong. We pulled off at another truckstop in Wamsutter, WY and notified OnRoad again. They deemed that our fuel filter needed replacement and we needed to go to the other side of the highway and get it taken care of. The place was closed but they had a 24 hour service. The parking lot was unplowed so Liz didn’t want to pull in and we waited across the street. We notified OnRoad that is where we would be but they never passed the word along. Finally the repair shop found us and we got in. They agreed about the filter and we were back on the road pretty quickly.

That evening the weather went to hell again and we saw a sign saying chains were required ahead. I decided that since I have never put chains on the truck I was not going to do it in the dark and we pulled in to a “truckstop.” I use the quotes because it was really an RV park and convenience store with a little bit of room for trucks. I pulled in next to another truck but it was already slippery and a little tricky. It seemed that they plowed with a front end loader which packed the snow down and then it froze so basically we were parked on a sheet of ice. In the morning the roads were clear and we were going to get started again. We were able to borrow a little bit of cat litter to get some traction and got out. I had tried to get the chains to use but the pad lock was frozen so I couldn’t get them out.

As we approached Salt Lake City we had the engine protect problem again, twice. We were able to get to the terminal where they told us it would be Wednesday before they could look at it. This was Monday. We also needed a preventive maintenance service so we said do that as well.

We slept in the truck Monday night and then rented a car on Tuesday to get out and see a little of the area. We went to Park City to do some Christmas shopping and then we went to Temple Square. Very interesting and we met a woman whose grandfather and great-grandfather had actually helped build the temple. Tuesday night we were sleeping and the engine protect problem kicked in at 3:30 in the morning when it was in the teens outside. Obviously the rest of the night was not pleasant. At 7:00 they knocked on the door saying they were ready to check the truck. We got our laundry and left. When I checked back several hours later they said it was almost done but they needed to get a new coolant sensor. I pointed out it had been replaced less than a week before but he was sure that was the problem. They got the part and installed it and the problem happened again within five minutes. They then decided they needed to dig deeper. We checked on being able to stay in a hotel since we would not be able to stay in the truck. Our ever helpful DM gave us some directions that the local people didn’t understand but they simply took care of it here. We agreed that if the truck wasn’t ready by five we could go to the hotel.

In the meantime we are also trying to get Liz upgraded to a solo driver but the person who does driving tests is not available. At the very end of the day there was another person who needed to upgrade as well. So I gave him his driving test and his mentor gave Liz hers and we got that done. Not bad, been driving solo for 10 weeks and I am certifying other drivers.

We went to the hotel after that was completed. Fortunately normal hotel, Days Inn, had been converted to a safe house so we got to go to a Microtel instead. It is miles better than any Days Inn I have ever stayed in. Staying in a real bed and using a real shower and bathroom was wonderful.

This morning our truck is still not ready and it will be at least noon, that was told to me around 8:00. I contacted the DM and pointed out we had been down for three days and needed a new truck. She said “I’ll see what I can do.”

The adventure continues.

Done With Needing an Empty

The load from Marysville was a go. The only problem is we only had to take it as far as Gary, IN as the consignee is closed on the weekends. It us nice that they didn’t tie us up for the weekend.

We got yet another preplan. This one to take 40,000 lbs of empty cereal boxes to California. Wait haven’t we carried empty boxes out of CA? Wouldn’t it make sense to find a box maker in CA for this? Oh well we now get to drive like crazy as these have to be in Lodi by 9:30 AM on the 14th.

More Finding an Empty

We got to the location in Detroit and were told the empty had been taken an hour before we got there. We then sat there for several hours. We lost the trip to Cheyenne but we got a new preplan. Obviously we still needed an empty. That caused another flurry of messages. Finally we were told to just bobtail to the facility in Marysville, MI. As we got close we got a message asking us to call in. We find out that this load gets cancelled regularly but there is another at 11:30 PM and we will be assigned to that if this one doesn’t go.

Let’s see what happens next.

Finding an Empty

Here we sit in Monroe, MI at a Home Depot transit facility where we were supposed to pick up an empty trailer. This is a little game all the companies play. Since we lost our trailer because of the truck problems we need s new one before we go to the next shipper. Last night they told us to go to a UPS facility very close to where we were to get our next load. Then over night they changed that to a Costco. They would not give up the empty trailers they had and so then we got sent here. Every trailer that might be empty is full of pallets. So now we sit. We were supposed to be at the shipper for a live load over an hour ago.

Ah the efficiency of the logistics business.

We just got directions to go to Detroit for an empty. Keep your fingers crossed.

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