In the past, customers didn’t expect much from the average retailer in terms of final mile delivery service. They may not have been thrilled with long lead times and uncertainty on the day of delivery—but it was more or less par for the course, and folks generally accepted it unless something went seriously wrong. These days, customer expectations are such that the old ways of doing things simply don’t cut it. Luckily, modern delivery planning software is changing the way businesses manage their fleets and work to meet new consumer demands.
Of course, some of the credit for this shift goes to the rise of e-commerce, which has altered consumers' expectations forever. Modern businesses need to find efficient routes with reliable ETAs to meet this consumer demand. The traditional ways of planning routes are far from ideal on this front, as they cannot account for all of the manifold factors affecting delivery times.
Scheduling and route planning are complex processes. To achieve efficient routes and schedules, you need to factor in driver capacity, weather, customer availability, traffic, load and truck types, and much more to maximize resources—all of which is perilously difficult by hand. Delivery planning software, on the other hand, allows businesses to keep track of all the variables affecting deliveries and empowers fleet managers to make data-driven decisions to ensure timely deliveries and cost-effective operations.
The Basics of Delivery Route Planning
At the simplest level, route planning is the process of finding the most efficient and cost-effective routes in order to maximize the number of stops while minimizing the time it takes to deliver each order. These days, most businesses use some kind of delivery route planning app to determine the optimal routes.
Businesses have to consider driver availability, customer delivery requirements, and vehicle-related factors—to say nothing of successfully communicating real-time route information to customers—to achieve high customer satisfaction and low operating costs. This is a tall order—but ensuring that drivers have efficient routes can help improve fleet safety, cut down fuel and labor costs, and lower overall operating costs for businesses.
Delivery Routing Challenges with Traditional Planning
Traditional routing methods make it increasingly difficult for modern businesses to remain competitive in the marketplace. After all, modern enterprises have to cope with fast-changing customer demands, increasing operational costs, and faster delivery turnaround expectations. Manual route planning strategies simply cannot keep up with these new business needs. Route planning by hand that involves long hours and spreadsheets simply won't enable you to provide drivers with efficient routes and customers with accurate expected time of arrivals (ETAs).
Below are the challenges that tend to hamper traditional route planning.
Real-time visibility allows businesses to keep tabs on their drivers so fleet managers and dispatchers can proactively act to prevent problems—but traditional route optimization doesn’t afford you any opportunities to gain real-time visibility into delivery operations. Lack of visibility results in missed and mishandled deliveries, failure to meet customer expectations, and increasing operating costs.
Lack of automation
Routing, scheduling, and managing deliveries by hand is incredibly time-consuming. The absence of automation here tends to hinder fleet managers and executives when they need to stay flexible and agile while mapping out cost-effective strategies.
Higher fuel costs
Traditional route planning often fails to provide the most efficient routes. The result is that businesses aren’t able to cut down on fuel costs.
Lack of efficiency
The lack of visibility, optimization of resources, and cost-effective route planning ultimately tends to result in low fleet productivity. Conventional route planning methods are unable to keep up with businesses' needs for cost-effective deliveries, accurate ETAs, and optimal customer experiences.
Delays and missed deliveries
Lack of real-time information on fleets and real-time conditions affecting delivery times—to say nothing of a lack of accurate ETAs—inevitably leads to missed or late deliveries.
Low customer satisfaction
Shoppers now demand real-time information regarding their packages for delivery. Conventional route planning fails to offer customers real-time data on drivers' location and accurate ETA.s The lack of reliable information means customers won't be informed of any delays, which ultimately lead to low customer satisfaction, and an increased likelihood that the customer isn’t at home to receive the delivery at all.
How Delivery Planning Software Helps
Delivery route planning software helps businesses find the most cost-effective routes given their identified constraints. By using both real-time and historical data when finding optimal schedules and routes, the right tool can go a long way towards helping businesses save time, reduce costs, and ensure higher productivity.
Here's how the right delivery planning solution can help:
Automated route planning
The right software can find the most cost-effective routes by factoring in various constraints with just a few clicks. Just set your constraints, parameters, service time estimates, etc. and let a powerful AI-powered platform do the work for you. Sure, you may wind up making minute adjustments to the plan, but it will be radically less time-consuming than doing the entire process by hand. Best of all, the system will be able to estimate ETAs much more accurately than a human planner could possibly hope to do.
Fleet managers that can easily track drivers' locations and activities in real-time have better control of fleet operations. Real-time monitoring and visibility enable fleet managers and dispatchers to see disruptions and exceptions cropping in real time and take steps to address the situations proactively.
Delivery planning software allows internal teams to communicate more seamlessly and effectively—especially when the software package includes an easy-to-use driver mobile app. Drivers can get their job assignments for the day, route plans and sequence, and additional instructions or updates from dispatchers or fleet managers via the mobile app, while dispatchers can automatically communicate with customers regarding delivery schedules.
Electronic proof of delivery
The right delivery software should also enable delivery teams to capture electronic proof of delivery via time stamped signatures, images, videos, and notes.
Advanced delivery route planning apps use machine learning algorithms that can learn about delivery operations by analyzing past data, e.g. in order to improve delivery time estimates, thereby improving overall efficiency and customer experience.
At the end of the day, the right delivery planning software can help improve delivery efficiency and fleet productivity, lower operating costs, and meet increasing customer demands.