International Cement Review: Making the right moves

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The first moves in a chess opening lay the foundation for every chess game. Likewise, the assignment of cement transport orders to contract hauliers plays a crucial role in the daily race for competiveness. Algorithms can help planners and dispatchers to avoid checkmate form their first move.

‟When you see a good move, look for a better one.” 27-times world chess champion, mathematician, and philosopher Emanuel Lasker gave this advice almost one hundred years ago. At that time he had to rely solely on the analytical skills of his brain, as computers did not exist. Each look for a better move meant investing time. Today, computers have revolutionized the way chess is played. Since the mid-90s there have been massive improvements in evaluating positions and searching for good moves. In fact, chess programs are so powerful that even the best human players in the world do not stand a chance of winning a match.

Similar to chess, assigning trucks to cement transport orders is a continually changing matrix with many variables. To add further complexity to the game, many cement producers operate a mixed fleet of their own trucks and hired hauliers and/or use auctioning portals to integrate a larger number of hauliers into the pool of external contractors. Intensified price competition is good, but managing freight rates and assigning the most cost-efficient haulier to each shipment can be a daunting task with the risk of compromising service levels and customer satisfaction. Fortunately, computer hardware and algorithms have also revolutionized the performance of logistics planning tools...

This article was published in the October issue of International Cement Review in 2017.

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