Optimal newspaper distribution routing

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Client

Belgian association of French-language newspaper editors

Project

Optimal network design for the distribution of French-language Belgian newspapers, including bulk and last mile distribution

Context

Competing French-language newspaper editors use a common distribution channel and have come to N-SIDE to investigate possible cheaper alternatives to the existing distribution network.

The main objective was to evaluate the logistic cost of multiple scenarios for locating regional distribution centers in Brussels and Wallonia. For each scenario the bulk distribution flows (from the printers to the regional distribution centers) as well as the last mile distribution routes (from the regional centers to the selling points) had to be optimized in order to assess the minimal logistic cost.

The distribution area included more than 3000 POS (Points of Sale) unevenly spread over the territory covered (see figure below representing the number of POS per postal code). Distribution covered the big six newspaper titles, printed at six different locations and representing more than 300.000 copies per day.

 

Solution

For each scenario of distribution centers location, the territory was first divided into relevant sectors, grouping POS based on the travelling time to the nearest center. Within each sector the optimal number and shape of the circuits for last mile distribution were computed.

To address this problem, N-SIDE has developed a tailor-made TSP (Travelling Salesman Problem) routing algorithm capable of first finding the optimal number of circuits (number of vans/drivers) and then computing the optimal route for each circuit, given the location of the POS, the driving distance and speed between them, the time constraints for the pick-up at regional centers and the delivery at the POS (opening hour), the stop time for drop-off and the capacity of the vans. The figure below illustrates a solution where three different circuits were required to cover all POS of the sector.

The bulk distribution optimal routes were also computed using a similar approach and taking into account time constraints related to the production (printers) and to the regional centers.

Benefits

For the association of French-language newspapers, this analysis provided a clear view of possible alternatives to their distribution network and the related cost. This helped the association in making the right decision, based on objective elements, and put them into a stronger negotiating position with respect to possible distribution partners.

 

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