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voestalpine Metsec select EPOD system from Manchester-based TouchStar Technologies


Voestalpine Metsec plc is the UK's largest specialist cold roll-forming company providing products for the construction and manufacturing industries. The company focus is on adding value through expert design, precision manufacturing and on-time in-full product delivery.

The company's origins can be traced back to 1854. In that period, Oldbury in the West Midlands became a major centre for the processing and fabrication of iron and steel components. This "feel for the metal" lead the company Johnson & Kinder to relocate their railway carriage company from Bromsgrove to Oldbury. From this location they built the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stour Valley railway line. In the decades that followed the company saw many different transformations, including an extensive period under the ownership of the Tube Investments (TI) group and the formation of Metal Sections Ltd in 1945. Fast forward to 1998 and the company was sold to an Austrian steel company, voestalpine. This lead to some restructuring and the sale of some non-core businesses but also enabled significant inward investment over the following decades to keep Metsec in a market-leading position.  

As a key organisation within the €10 billion voestalpine group, Metsec has continued to flourish and its range of purlin and framing systems have been utilised within many of today's landmark UK construction projects including The Shard, Queensferry Crossing, Canary Wharf Crossrail Station, the Wimbledon Centre Court roof as well as substantial international projects such as Nakilat Damen ship yards (Qatar).

The Project

With its publicly declared focus on 'on-time delivery' the company maintains a policy of continuous improvement regarding delivery performance and is constantly refining, and investing in, new systems and processes. This search for a 'best of breed' delivery and tracking system led the Metsec management team to adopt the PODStar system from Manchester-based TouchStar Technologies.

Metsec do not run their own delivery vehicles but rather delivery work is carried out by 3rd party hauliers. These hauliers equip their drivers with a variety of different mobile devices and smart phones. With this in mind, one of the key system requirements was to have a front-end application that ran equally well on both android and iOS operating systems. The PODStar system is browser-based which means that it is entirely 'OS neutral'.

The Cloud-based PODStar system offers a 'Planning and Optimisation' tool that automates existing manual processes. Using real time job information, clients are able to drag and drop jobs onto the relevant vehicles. The PODStar system has been fully integrated with Metsec's existing sales order processing systems, via XML file transfer. Once a manifest has been created it is then automatically sent out to the drivers remotely in the field. To further enhance the efficiency, via a click of a button, jobs are automatically allocated vehicles in the most efficient order and display the route on a map saving Metsec fuel and time on the road. Once downloaded the driver can receive their jobs and complete in real time. Metsec delivery drivers are equipped with smart phones with the handheld device used for both proof of delivery / signature capture and tracking of the driver and vehicle location. Back at the Metsec headquarters, management can view a real-time update on a map showing the fleet position as well as additional data and the job status and driver performance.

Touchstar are constantly enhancing the PODStar software functionality and Metsec make heavy use of the system's latest 'waiting time' feature. This field is contained within the system's job status web page and enables management to specify an anticipated waiting time for a job and to determine, in real-time, when this has been exceeded. This information can be useful to resolve dispute scenarios where a driver has met his allocated delivery slot but is made to wait unnecessarily by the client.

With regard to their vehicle fleet, Metsec take their responsibilities in the area of employee and public safety very seriously. Drivers are using their smartphones to carry out their daily vehicle checks. In the event of a discrepancy being recorded the driver is forced by PODstar to take a photo of the defect and record notes. All defected items are immediately emailed to the depot transport manager and fleet engineer ensuring that remedial work is scheduled without delay.

The Outcome

Ian Hemsley (Metsec Production Director) comments: " We have the PODStar system installed in four of our divisions. In TouchStar we're happy that we've found an organisation whose professionalism extends beyond the product itself, right through to the installation and support aspects of the project. Our drivers appreciate the simplicity and user-friendliness of the system and it has also ensured that we're legally compliant. Overall we're delighted with the system and, as we continue to expand, we look forward to a long-term relationship with TouchStar."  

To discover more about voestalpine Metsec please visit http://www.metsec.com/.

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