Faster grocery deliveries with Open Routing Platform
Vincent de WinterDirector Business Development
The project overview
It was the early 2000s and Witold Ferenc was sitting at home in Warsaw during a hot summer’s day. He needed some groceries but didn’t feel like going shopping. After a short search, he realized an online grocery delivery platform didn’t exist yet in Poland. Having no experience in e-commerce, but believing in the concept, he decided to start developing his idea from scratch. Witold: “Looking back, I don’t think I would’ve done it if I had the expertise I have now. That’s why sometimes it’s good to take a leap of faith and just start working on something you believe in without paying too much attention to the drawbacks.”
It took him a few years to get funding and finetune the concept, but in 2006 he launched Frisco.pl: Poland’s first online supermarket. It became the largest and fastest growing player on the market in the country and Witold sold the start-up to Eurocash SA (the largest FMCG distribution and retail group in Poland) in 2018. He was ready for a new challenge, but not done with the online grocery market. Having set up his own delivery system for Frisco, he knew how vital ‘last mile costs’ were: the delivery is the most expensive part of the whole process and therefore also the biggest opportunity for improvement. He knew what his next step was going to be: finding an innovative way to speed up grocery delivery and optimizing the routing process.
A complicated challenge
Seeing as routing problems are among the biggest challenges in the e-commerce industry, Witold knew he was going to need someone with a high level of expertise. His business partner, the French company Webellian, had worked with the founders of We Are North before in the Netherlands. Witold had a chat with We Are North Vincent and Guust and software architect Jochem. What convinced him to work with a Dutch party instead of opting for a software engineer closer to home? “After a brief discussion with Jochem, I realized he was the man for the job. He’s obviously a brilliant mind. There’s always a risk involved when you start a new project, but I knew that with We Are North, at least our starting point would be very strong.” Jochem took the leading role, working together with a team of software programmers in Warsaw, in developing a software platform that would make grocery delivery easier, faster and more efficient – both for the customer and the employees using the software.
Witold’s main goal was to speed up delivery times: “We believed things could be done more efficiently and realized it required more than just using more servers. We needed to adapt a completely new approach.” Together with We Are North, he implemented flexible delivery time slots: customers could now choose a slot as small as thirty minutes. Not only does this give the consumer more flexibility and freedom to plan their days, it also helps the company reduce CO2 emissions by 25% because the delivery can be planned more efficiently. Furthermore, the driver’s work has become easier thanks to a handheld device that helps him at every step in the process: telling him in what order to deliver the different packages, where a specific box is stored in the van, and what the ideal route to the destination is (while taking into account how busy traffic is, what type of weather is expected that day, and which side of the road is the best place to stop). In turn, managers can follow the process in real-time and use the information to assess their employees.
The first results showed that Open Routing increases delivery capacity by 20%, offering more reliability, punctuality and a more transparent process. Although Frisco was the first to use the platform, it’s already being implemented at other companies: the latest customer is Poland’s largest shipment operator. Witold: “The software can be applied in many different ways: the only things that change are the parameters.”
What was the key to this fruitful collaboration? Witold says he really appreciated We Are North's way of communicating. “Jochem is clear and to the point. That’s a very important value to me. When working on challenging projects, difficulties are going to arise at a certain point, so direct communication is key.” He points out that whenever there was a problem, Jochem would be available no matter what time of day or night it was. There was no finger-pointing, but complications were affronted quickly and as efficiently as possible. Witold: “With some business partners, you know your relationship is just business-based. With We Are North, I know they actually care. That’s what makes collaborations thrive and improves the quality at the end of the day.”