Your modern route planning software does a lot more than just spit out efficient arrangements of stops for drivers to follow. Advanced route planning solutions these days (see our post answering what is route planning) offer fleet managers a way to improve fleet management, handle multiple stops, increase drivers' productivity and improve customer satisfaction scores, and much more. As you can imagine, the potential value-add here is significant.
Of course, like with any modern software solution, choosing which route planning app to actually adopt is a big decision. It typically requires a big investment, and not all routing solutions are created equal. That’s why we’ve devoted a whole article to offering guidance on how to choose the right solution for optimized route planning.
Understanding the Benefits of Optimized Route Planning
Manual route planning was never easy. Nor was it efficient. Even if handled by the most senior human route planners, the conventional way of route planning remains slow and sub-optimal, resulting in decreased revenues, high operating costs, and unhappy customers.
On the other hand, an advanced delivery route planner app can help you find the most efficient routes in minutes and empower you to scale your business. How do they manage that? We’re glad you asked…
Efficient Routing, Increased Productivity
The right route planning software can transform fleet operations. It’s the key to preventing delays by providing drivers with the fastest routes and helping them to avoid traffic and poor driving conditions. By analyzing untold numbers of potential routing options in a matter of seconds, smart route planners shorten the drive times for each drop-off point, thus increasing drivers' productivity. Compare this to manual route planning workflows that become less and less accurate as you introduce more factors to be considered.
Reduced Operating Costs
Having drivers travel the best routes means cost savings for the company. Optimized route planning will cut down fuel costs, vehicle maintenance expenses, and the acquisition cost of new delivery vehicles. Drivers' shifts are also optimized as they can deliver more packages during their shifts. The result is increased cost efficiency up and down the delivery chain.
It's hard to expand your company's delivery services without the right tools. The right delivery route planner helps you scale operations by improving efficiency, not just in terms of miles driven per stop, but in terms of the manual effort required to power each delivery run. Businesses are better equipped to handle higher delivery volumes or cover more geographic areas with a planning app that can find the best routes in just a few minutes regardless of volumes or area coverage.
What to Look for in Route Planning Software
There are many route planning tools on the market promising great features and high returns on investment. The question is: how can you figure out which solutions will actually deliver on their promises?
Here's what businesses should look for when choosing a route optimization app:
There are many variables affecting delivery times. Some are expected while others are not. As such, a routing planner should consider real-time data when finding the best routes.
Keep in mind that traffic congestion causes financial losses for many industries including shippers. Thus, factoring in real-time traffic conditions and other variables will help businesses ensure on-time deliveries and reduce logistics costs.
You need to choose a planner app that calculates the expected time of arrivals (ETAs) accurately, which means finding one that dynamically leverages real-time information about driver status, traffic, and more.
Dynamic Route Planning
There was a time when consumers and business clients were happy with a three to five-day shipping timeframe. Those days are gone—customers want more options, including same-day shipping, even for some big and bulky items.
However, it is quite difficult to handle both scheduled orders and on-demand ones if your route planner app does not offer dynamic rerouting on-the-go. Fleet managers and dispatchers need to be able to create new routes or change present ones on the fly in case new orders come in or if the customer requests changes—which means that your software solution needs to be adjust routes without extensive waiting times.
It's never easy to roll out changes in any workforce. Most often, the management will experience resistance from the ground operations team as they prefer to stick to the old ways of doing things.
To smooth out the transition process, businesses should choose a solution that can take the preferences of the on-ground team. This allows the team to adapt more easily to the rollout of a new solution and changes in workflows. Here, ease-of-use is one of the most valuable features you can look for.
We’ve mentioned the importance of route optimization for scalability. But what does a route planning app need to offer in order to truly pave the way for your business to scale?
At a high level, your software needs to be able to handle increasing order volumes and increasing numbers of routes and trucks without breaking a sweat. Simply put, this is impossible for on-premise deployments. With a cloud-based SaaS truck router, on the other hand, you can ramp up your computing power as needed, such that you never find yourself with too many orders to route.
Historical Data Analysis
An effective truck route planner must analyze historical data on everything from customers and drivers to time of day and order type. A given drivers' recorded data will offer insights on experience and skill levels, which is important for both driver assignments and setting accurate ETAs.
Likewise, looking at a customer's data (e.g. previous orders, if applicable) will show any delivery instructions, preferred time slots, and availability restrictions. In a B2B context, you might also need insights on the opening and working hours of a specific building or prevailing traffic conditions of a certain area. Simply put, the route planning app should learn from the data it gathers over time, and use it to find the optimal routes and generate accurate ETAs.
KPI Generation and Reports
Last but not least, the route planner should also offer businesses a way to manage fleets more effectively by allowing fleet operators and managers to identify gaps and trends and monitor resources’ performance. The planner should offer reports on the planned routes vs actual routes, order completion reports, driver score cards, cost-per-delivery analysis, and much more. Ideally, the solution would offer a unified dashboard that lets fleet managers and dispatchers monitor operations in real-time.
In the end, the right software for optimized route planning should do more than just find the fastest routes from point A to B. A robust solution will ensure efficient resource allocation, consider real-time variables, use historical data to identify patterns, and generate reports for fleet managers. All these features are key to increasing productivity, reducing operational costs, and ensuring high customer satisfaction across the entire last mile.