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If you've spent any time at all on the road, you've seen the Trailmobile brand. Unobtrusive yet ubiquitous, the red-and-white logo is found on thousands upon thousands of semitrailers the Lake Forest, Ill.-based manufacturer has turned out for the trucking industry. Unless you own or operate one of those dry vans, it's highly unlikely that you will ever see the sister company responsible for the service parts that go into them. Even less visible, of course, is the software that's brought the forecasting, planning and inventory management functions at Trailmobile Parts & Service Corp. into the modern age.
Like all too many companies, Trailmobile Parts & Service relied on a system developed in-house until it became more of a hindrance than a help. "We just did not have any of the statistical sophistication that we needed," says Tom Nault, director of operations at the service parts company.
The task that any system faces at Trailmobile Parts & Service, however, is not simple. The division has to contend with the needs of approximately 250 dealers, any one of whom may request one or more of the manufacturer's 6,000-plus SKUs. Contending with intermittent demand, which characterizes the vast majority of the parts company's business, is the main challenge.
Following a bid process that considered five competitors, Trailmobile ultimately chose to work with Smart Software, Belmont, Mass.
"We have items that turn weekly and some that sell maybe once a year," says Nault. "Only 20 percent of our SKUs really fit into a statistical demand category. The other 80 percent is really all in the intermittent demand category. That is the problem: the scattering of this demand. You just don't know from day to day, from week to week, from month to month when you're going to sell the next one.
We are a replacement parts facility, and we're just very much at the mercy of what folks need."
Trailmobile was looking for something that would be relatively simple for the staff to work with, and the IT department insisted on a system that could easily interface with the company's Oracle database. It apparently didn't hurt that the SmartForecasts Enterprise demand forecasting and planning solution was more competitively priced than the competition's products.
Implementation was quick and painless, says Nault. But what's the end result? Given that intermittent demand is the pain point for Trailmobile, what relief has Smart Software been able to offer?
"We have severe space constraints and any excess inventory means no room for what is actually moving," Nault says. "Smart has helped us to rationalize our approach to inventory control."
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