Case Studies

Sears Repair - Dispatching Problems

Weigel, D. & Cao, B. (1999), "Applying GIS and OR Techniques to Solve Sears Technician-Dispatching and Home-Delivery Problems." INTERFACES, 29:1, 112-130.

Sears, Roebuck and Company uses a vehicle-routing and scheduling system coupled with geographic information system (GIS) to run its delivery and home service fleets more efficiently. Operations research consultants providing transportation and logistics services constructed a series of algorithms for Sears: 1) an algorithm to build an origin-and-destination matrix, 2) an algorithm to assign resources, and 3) algorithms to perform sequencing and route improvement.

Sears "logistics services" manages a U. S. fleet of over 1,000 delivery vehicles to bring the products they sell to the customer's location. When a customer asks for a delivery, Sears determines the day and estimated time window based on customer preference and the delivery schedule in the area where the customer is located. One day before delivery, Sears creates the delivery routes based on types and quantities of merchandise, available vehicles, and customer time windows. The routing managers attempt to provide customers with accurate and convenient delivery time windows, minimize operational costs, and give drivers consistent routes.

Sears "product services" operates a U. S. fleet of 12,500 service vehicles. They are driven by service technicians, who repair and install appliances, as well as provide home improvements and other homeowner services. When a customer calls a Sears service center, the customer representative assigns a service date and time window based on the customer's preference and the work schedule in the customer's area. One day before the service date, the regional office builds service routes based on customer requests, the availability of technicians, their skills, and their work schedules. However, these routes may be revised to accommodate emergencies or changes in a technician's work schedules. Sears service centers attempt to plan routes that maximize the completion of service calls on the first visit, minimize operational costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

The purpose of the new delivery and service systems that were developed was to enhance Sears existing delivery and product services by consolidating operations, improving services, and reducing costs. The implementation of the new system has resulted in customer satisfaction rates of above 80% for both delivery and service, as well as annual savings of $42 million.

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