A simulation study of cane transport system improvements in the Sezela Mill area.
The South African sugar industry is of significant local and international importance and covers an area in excess of 450 000 hectares. This area yields approximately 21 million tons of sugarcane per annum which is transported almost exclusively by road, from farms to the sugar mills. The industry is under increasing economic pressures to improve its productivity and competitiveness and sugarcane transport in the sugarcane supply chain has been identified as one area where large improvements and associated cost reductions can be made. This is mainly due to the excess in number of vehicles in the inbound transport system, the high relative cost of transport compared to other production costs in producing sugarcane, and the high fixed costs associated with truck fleet operations. A simulation case study of the transport system was completed in 2005 in the Sezela Mill area in which approximately 2.2 million tons of sugarcane is transported per annum over an average distance of 29 km by approximately 120 independently managed vehicles owned by a wide range of hauliers and individual growers. This amounts to an estimated cost of R58 million per annum. This study investigated the potential savings that could occur as a result of a central fleet control system with integrated vehicle scheduling. A scheduling software package named ASICAM, which resulted in significant savings in the timber industry (Weintraub et al, 1996), was applied within the Sezela region. Results suggested that the number of trucks in the fleet could theoretically be reduced by at least 50%, providing that a central office controls vehicle movements and that all hauliers serve all growers in an equitable fashion. In addition, investigations towards decreasing loading times, decreasing offloading times, changing vehicle speeds and increasing payloads by reducing trailer tare mass showed further reductions in the number of trucks required.