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Delivery Route Planner Best Practices

Delivery services can make or break an online retailer's business. Why? Because the delivery experience has a direct link to customer satisfaction.

Keep in mind that in many industries there’s more competition than ever these days, which means more choices for customers. Customers who experience an incorrect or slow delivery will abandon ship and look for another retailer, seller, or service provider.

Delivery route planner best practices

How can businesses address this challenge? One key approach is route optimization. Efficient routing of fleets is key to providing consumers with a great delivery experience. But traditional methods with human route planners can no longer keep up with customer demands and increasing order volumes.

Thus, any business that deals with last mile delivery in the 21st century really needs a delivery route planner.

How a Delivery Route Planner Solves Routing Problems

The traditional route planning method involves human planners who take hours to find the shortest routes. Unfortunately, human planners don’t have the same computing power as advanced technologies. They can't account for all of the factors that impact route efficiency and ETAs (traffic and weather, driver skill level, vehicle and load types, etc.) when trying to find the optimal route.

Given the laborious task of manual planning using pen, paper, and spreadsheets, the traditional routing method can be quite costly. The conventional way of route planning also makes it difficult for businesses to scale their delivery operations. Simply put, it requires too much manual intervention.

On the other hand, advanced routing software doesn’t have these limitations. It can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze historical data in predicting traffic and other disruptions. This enables you to seek out the shortest routes from an exponentially-increasing number of options. In finding the best routes, the software also considers constraints like real-time weather conditions, location, and more.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Delivery Route Planner

Indeed, a delivery routing solution can help companies offer a great delivery experience. But not all delivery route planning apps or technology deployments are created equal. Here are some steps companies can take to make the most out of their solutions:

1. Include Service Time as a Constraint

Delivery route planning solutions, as mentioned, account for the different variables affecting delivery times. They also allow you to establish and include the constraints that should be included when finding the best routes.

Some businesses always consider travel time but fail to remember that drivers' stops also consume time, and thus affect delivery times. This might include the time it takes to carry a couch into someone’s living room or install a dishwasher.

Delivery drivers might also need to fill out paperwork when entering buildings. There's also time spent capturing proof delivery and noting any damages or access issues. All of this will vary from one order to another—and perhaps even from one driver or service technician to another. The result is a level of complexity that can be difficult to grapple with. 

Here, it’s also helpful to ensure that you’re collecting the right information from the customers. The number of floors, the building type, and other factors, can all impact service times. By capturing this data, you can help the truck router provide accurate expected time of arrival (ETAs.)

2. Consider How to Optimize

Smart delivery route planning solutions should also allow users to configure their routing parameters based on their needs. Advanced multi-stop route planners can find optimal routes for your deliveries. But users still need to think carefully about what “optimal” looks like.

For instance, one business might be in the market to simply decrease drive time and shorten routes as much as possible. Another might be more focused on meeting delivery windows consistently. Your routing optimization software should give you the ability to create routes that actually meet your business's definition of optimal.  

3. Ensure Flexibility 

One of the biggest issues that delivery organizations run into with legacy route optimization software is a lack of flexibility. When your routing process takes hours of manual effort, it becomes impossible to adjust your plans in an agile way.

That means that if a customer has a last minute request, you might not be able to accommodate them. Likewise, if an unexpected road closure makes a given route unworkable, you’ll wind up scrambling to find a workaround. 

That’s why your delivery route optimization software needs to be fast and flexible. It should give you the ability to route thousands of stops in seconds and adjust routes as needed. This means looking for a solution that has the technical capabilities to create efficient routes quickly. You also want something with an interface that’s designed to make life easier for routers.

This way, you can ensure that your technology is saving time for your staff and increasing your stops per route.

4. Choose Strategic Location of Distribution Centers

Distribution centers are the heart of every route, which is why it's necessary for businesses to think carefully about their locations. Likewise, companies need to consider how these hubs and points will be used most. For example, companies must consider that having transshipment points or hubs located beside an expressway is impractical. Ideally, your technology would give some amount of strategic planning or network planning abilities to help you make informed choices here. 

5. Choose the Right Delivery Options 

Companies can offer various delivery options, including same-day, next-day, or two-day shipping. But just because you can offer all these options, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. 

You need to choose which delivery options to offer to the customer based on your own needs. Offering more delivery options isn’t always better, especially when cost optimization is a top priority. Here, the key is to build in enough flexibility and agility that you can route new orders quickly and maximize capacity.

If you’re able to dynamically route to changing conditions, you can still give your customers a great delivery experience. This is true even when they’re not getting much freedom in the actual scheduling. On the flip side, if customer-not-at-homes are a serious issue, you might try giving your customers more freedom. You might even try letting them schedule their own delivery time windows based on your parameters and see if that helps. 

6. Collect and Analyze Data

Businesses must collect as much data on the routes as possible. Advanced delivery route planners are often powered by artificial intelligence, so it's crucial to leverage as much data as possible. Gathering as much data as possible will enable the solution to find the most reliable routes in one go.

Likewise, delivery businesses can also learn from the collected data. For example, when caused a delayed start on a specific route, and what are the circumstances of the delay? Asking these questions and more will help companies plan their routes more efficiently.

To make all this possible, it’s helpful to have a fully-integrated solution. In other words, one that easily communicates with (or includes) customer communication and a driver mobile app. 

A delivery route planning system can be extremely useful for helping companies offer customers a great delivery experience. If you’re able to implement these best practices, you can get even more value out of your technology.


route optimization guide

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