What’s the difference between good and great route optimization? A good routing solution might help your drivers deliver to more stops each day, it might boost efficiency, and it might even save time in the planning stages of deliveries. But a great routing solution has the power to transform your delivery operations from the moment an order is placed to the five-star review from a happy customer.
Of course, the need for some kind of routing technology is becoming increasingly obvious. Drivers delivering parcels might make a couple of dozen drop-offs per day, while drivers who are tasked with big and bulky deliveries might be limited to half that. And for all those deliveries, there are millions of sequences possible, not even taking into consideration factors like truck and inventory requirements, requested delivery times, driver and technician skill levels, etc.
As more consumers turn to online shopping, delivery management is poised to become even more costly and complex. Industry-wide, last mile costs are eating up more than half of total supply chain costs. Thus, inefficiencies must be eliminated as quickly as possible to avoid hampering growth and driving operating costs up.
Luckily, a modern multi stop route planner can help address these complexities and inefficiencies. It can empower retailers and carriers to boost customer satisfaction and profit margins, allowing them to achieve business growth.
What Is a Multi Stop Route Planner?
A route planning app digitizes itineraries and automates route planning. Its objective is to find the fastest way to get from point to point when you’re looking at multiple stops per route.
Google Maps is a classic example of a basic route planner. Drivers who either are touring a new area, running errands, or avoiding construction zones can use Google maps to find the quickest way of getting to their destination. Users have the option of using turn-by-turn directions to minimize their driving times.
Basic route planning apps like Google Maps offer convenience for everyday drivers, but not necessarily for delivery and commercial drivers. Multi stop route planners, on the other hand, offer power benefits to commercial fleets—from lowering fuel consumption to meeting customers’ expectations for timely deliveries and increasing capacity utilization.
An enterprise-scale route planner will ingest orders from elsewhere in your IT stack (e.g. an ERP or POS system), and then automatically sort the stops into efficient routes and sequences based on your specified parameters. Different solutions will require different levels of manual effort to produce workable routes—a smart, highly automated sequence will require a few minutes of manual effort at most—and they’ll offer different degrees of flexibility. The ideal route optimization solution offers you the freedom to specify your routing needs on a granular level, sit back and let the algorithm work its magic, and then easily make adjustments as needed.
Why Businesses Invest in Route Planning Solutions
The emergence of new e-commerce sites changed today's delivery ecosystems. It's not only the variety and volume of online orders that have increased: shoppers have also increased their demand for great delivery services.
Previously, shoppers didn't mind waiting for seven to 10 business days to receive their packages. Nowadays, many consumers demand next-day delivery. Plus, the majority want free shipping and will abandon their shopping carts if they are being charged delivery fees.
Consumers also have little patience for any delivery delays or issues. At the same time, nearly all consumers say that they are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers them a great delivery experience.
In other words, businesses invest in route planning partially to increase efficiency—but one of the most important motivating factors is actually customer experience. Not only does the right routing solution help you delight your customers by speeding up delivery turnarounds, it also ensures that deliveries arrive right on time. When it comes to customer satisfaction, there’s really no substitute for on-time delivery.
Must-Have Features for Multi Stop Route Planners
A multi-stop route planner should factor in a wide range of logistical challenges and business constraints. These can include pickup time windows, service time windows, inventory details, distance, time spent on-site, cost structure, vehicle capabilities, driver skill set, special handling requirements, and resource availability.
The larger the delivery operations, the greater the complications in delivery route optimization. Firms that are making hundreds of deliveries per day usually manage multiple pickup destinations and work with multiple fleets. Luckily, ensuring that the right driver is assigned for the right jobs using the right vehicle is possible with the right truck routing software.
That said, businesses must be careful in choosing one. You have to ensure that you're getting a planner that can support your needs and goals.
To that end, here are the must-have features shippers and retailers must look for in the route planning applications:
An ideal software must be able to simplify the workflow instead of complicating them. As such, an ideal planning solution is one that can easily be integrated into workflows and offers hassle-free onboarding for both contractor partners and current drivers.
Aside from ensuring a seamless transition, software that can easily be integrated promotes business growth. Companies must choose a routing planner that has an easy-to-use interface and is capable of accommodating fast expansion such as the addition of new area coverage, fleets, and premium service.
Flexible route management
A powerful route planner should offer managers complete control over their fleets. It should optimize routes automatically to empower seamless routing, dispatching, delivery management, and analysis.
This feature lets you manage both internal and external fleets while taking into consideration factors such as driver availability, regulations and compliance, capacity, and costs. Your delivery route software needs to be able to help you in identifying the optimal sequences, shipping methods, equipment, and vehicles for each load according to factors like item weight and bulk, cold chain requirements, and unloading considerations.
AI and machine learning
A route planning solution that uses machine learning and AI to analyze historical data will more easily provide optimal route plans that can accommodate your firm's needs and goals. Machine learning helps you more effectively estimate how factors like traffic, driver skill, load type, etc. will impact drive and service time—meaning that in addition to having an optimized sequence of stops, you can also have delivery ETAs that are actually accurate. This can have a huge impact on customer delivery experience—after all, no one appreciates waiting around all day for a late delivery.
Robust data analytics
Today's technologies allow for the collection of more valuable data than ever before. And route planning software should be no exception. Planners should be able to gather data on drivers and deliveries across the entire last mile, with an eye towards measuring cost per delivery, on-time percentages, variations between regions, etc.
Of course, effective last mile technology often covers more than just finding the optimal path between stops. Fleet and delivery management, after all, have many moving parts. That’s why the right solution should have real-time tracking capabilities to enable all stakeholders, including dispatchers, fleet managers, and delivery teams, to track the last mile as it unfolds. .
Real-time visibility capabilities offer accurate and up-to-date information regarding drivers and assets, so fleet managers can ensure that drivers are following route plans. This, in turn, allows fleet managers and dispatchers to make route changes on the fly when new conditions emerge—all while continuing to provide customers with the accurate ETAs.
In the end, last mile delivery operations will continue to play a crucial role in the e-commerce market going forward. Having a reliable, speedy, scalable multi stop route planner is essential in improving operational efficiency, cutting down costs, and offering great delivery experiences that create strong brand loyalty.