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Eight ways to improve your productivity with delivery route planning software

8 ways to improve deliveries with delivery route planning softwareWhen a business starts with just one or two vehicles, delivery route planning software is often dismissed as being unnecessary and route planning for one or two vehicles is relatively easy; a few taps on Google maps and so long as you know the addresses for the deliveries a route is easy to obtain. However there is a problem with this method, while the routes between deliveries will be optimised for traffic and direction, the best order of the deliveries will be up to the driver or person inputting the details and their best guess for the ideal route.

As the business grows and more vehicles are added to the fleet to cope with the increase in deliveries, so the planning process will take longer and longer. With peoples’ time becomes more valuable, so the time available for planning delivery routes often becomes squeezed, resulting in poorly calculated routes and missed opportunities for deliveries.

What is required is an automated approach to planning deliveries and optimising the delivery routes for your vehicles. Here are just some of the ways Delivery Route Planning Software can improve your business and deliveries.

1.    Continuous optimisation of routes reduces costs.

Rather than collating all your orders on the night before deliveries are due and calculating your delivery routes for the next day, a continuous optimisation engine allows routes and resources to be planned as each single order is taken, often days in advance. This provides a continuous, earlier view on the utilisation of your vehicles and people. Then as each new order is taken routes and deliveries are recalculated, providing a clearer picture of available delivery capacity and preventing over utilisation of your vehicles and resources or compromises to drivers’ hours compliance. Managing customers’ delivery expectations avoids disappointing customers when their orders are either late or missed due to a lack of capacity in your fleet. Your costs can more easily be controlled and reduced as hire vehicles and agency staff are no longer, or less likely, to be required in order to cope with an unplanned over capacity, and if they are required, you’ll know a few days in advance to get it sorted.

Read more about the advantages of continuous optimisation.

2.    Reduce calls from customers

Having built a reliable plan for the routes of your deliveries, you can now inform your customers of their expected delivery time via an automated notification system and keep them updated as the day progresses. This will reduce their phone calls asking, “Where is my delivery?”.

When a customer is informed of their expected delivery time slot by automated text or email, they have no need to call asking where their delivery is and when its expected. Keeping your customers informed of ETA’s, even if there is an accident or an unexpected delay such as a breakdown keeps them happy and informed.

3.    Actual v. Plan

If the vehicles have a a GPS tracking system the exact location of vehicles is known and can be shown within the mapping system. This allows actual delivery times and routes to be compared to your planned routes and enables you to see how efficient your deliveries are.

If drivers are spending more or less time at stops than anticipated, then plans for the future can be adjusted to take this into consideration the next time. It also helps when diversions need to be made or changes to deliveries, knowing where your vehicles are in real-time helps you manage the situation.

Once you start analysing your planned routes against what actually happens and which KPI’s are being met or missed, so you can refine your processes. Always keep improving and monitoring your results.

More info on Actual v. Plan here

4.    Use a cloud-based SaaS solution for your routing

Using a routing software solution that is cloud based means that it can be accessed and used anywhere there is an internet access, it also means that if the main route planner is taken ill or is on holiday someone else can easily access the software and take on the responsibility of route planning, so long as they have the correct logins and passwords!

It also means that more than one person can have access, so if orders need to be altered and addresses updated, you are not reliant on one person in the office with access to the software to do this.

Read the advantages of SaaS

5.    Provide your drivers with the right tools

Providing your drivers with mobile apps, either on ruggedised handheld devices or their company smartphones, provides them, and you, with more information. 

  • Firstly they can see the details of deliveries on their device, routes can be suggested and a satellite navigation app with the step by step turns suggested by your mapping solution utilised. 
  • Secondly, delivery specific messages can easily be sent back and forth between depot and driver for particular deliveries. 
  • Thirdly, they can also ensure that they have all the correct packages for each days journey’s, scanning the package onto their vehicle in the depot before they leave on their journey ensures they have all of the correct packages. Then when they arrive at a delivery, they scan the parcels as they remove them from the vehicle, again ensuring they have the correct packages, and that none are left on the vehicle. 
  • Fourth, proof of delivery signatures or photographs can be taken and any damages recorded for later discussions. Read about our POD App
  • Fifth, and probably the most important, is the ability to show the location of a driver/vehicle in real-time on your mapping system. Identifying the location of your vehicle makes changing routes due to problems on the road much simpler, while also helping to solve the time old question for the next customer of “Where’s my delivery?”. (See improvement No. 2)

Providing your drivers with their delivery information and manifests electronically and allowing your customers to accept deliveries electronically, also eliminates the need for paper and ink on printed manifests, directions, and documents, speeds up the time from a customer’s delivery acceptance to invoice and also eliminates errors from manual imputing of data. With COVID-19 restrictions it is also a safer way to operate.

6.    Maximise your vehicle capacity

It is important to maximise your vehicle capacity to keep your running costs down, running a delivery vehicle as legally loaded as possible and performing as many deliveries in a working day is going to be more efficient than having a vehicle return empty half way through the day.

Using a route optimisation solution that can take into consideration all your current resources and required deliveries then select the best possible option for each delivery and on which vehicle is vitally important. If this can be done for your deliveries over a longer period of time and a number of days, rather than just a single day’s deliveries as might be done with batch route planning, then your route planning will become more efficient.

Empty delivery slots can be filled by bringing forward deliveries to fill the gaps, this can result in happier customers when their order is delivered earlier, but it can also be used in the reverse if you have a delivery that is not time critical it can be delayed by a day to better fit with another delivery in the same area. Using the Descartes system of continuous optimisation (link to infographic on this) the process of gap filling is continuously being considered against each delivery’s constraints. Delivery route scheduling is being calculated based on your entire fleet and current orders, this is the best way to operate as efficiently as possible.

Continuous optimisation based on your entire fleet and orders has an instant impact on your efficiency, reducing mileage, improving fuel consumption, increasing delivery density and best of all reducing your time spent planning. Read about the advantages of continuous optimisation.

An increased delivery capacity of 35% with reductions in transport costs of 10% per ton delivered are achievable without an increase in fleet numbers or additional drivers, while an improvement in the number of on-time deliveries of up to 30% can also be achieved.


7.    Use the latest and best mapping data

Using the latest and most detailed map data seems like an obvious suggestion, but if you own the software and store it on your own servers then it will only be updated when you do so, maybe only annually. Having software that is SaaS (Software as a Solution) i.e. available over the internet means that it can be updated by the supplier on a regular basis.

This is important as traffic patterns change from season to season and with the latest Corona Virus pandemic traffic flows have altered widely. You may have found that during the lockdown, when very few cars were on the roads, your deliveries were happening faster, and that some vehicles may have been returning to the depot earlier than expected? Could extra deliveries have been added to their load?

Your route planning solution should consider, not just the roads that are available and suitable for your vehicles, along with the average speed they can travel on those roads, but it should also consider in which direction they will be travelling and at what time of day they will be using them. Not all routing systems do this, but the Descartes Route optimisation engine does. This enables users of the Descartes routing solutions to commit to tighter delivery windows and a lower chance of drivers needing to work overtime to fulfil all their day’s deliveries. 

8.    Make sure your system is scalable 

Many software solutions have a licence restricting the number of users or actions that can take place, in the case of a routing solution it may be the number of vehicles for which routes can be calculated. Should your fleet increase or you bring in extra vehicles and staff for a peak period such as Christmas, can your routing software easily be increased to work with the extra vehicles? Having a SaaS solution means that the supplier can easily add extra vehicles to your licence with a few keystrokes and instantly allow the increase to be implemented. If the software is stored on your premises that can take longer and may require a visit from your supplier.

Conclusion

Simply put, using a dynamic delivery route planning software will improve productivity, lower your transport costs and your associated costs. The gains in efficiency will be seen in many areas and while possibly only small, such as a 10% reduction in fuel costs, they can, over just a few miles and vehicles, add up to a large saving. Adding on the unseen costs, such as the elimination of paper and ink from manifests and proof of delivery documents, or the time spent answering customer’s call asking where their delivery is can soon add up to make investment in a delivery route planning software seem like the obvious thing to do.

If you’d like to investigate how a delivery route planning software solution could help your business improve productivity and customer service levels, then get in touch now to talk to a routing consultant.

Click the get in touch button below to contact us and start improving your deliveries.

Further reading:

5 reasons why now is the time to invest in strategic route planning

5 reasons to invest in strategic route planning 

How strategic route planning and dynamic route planning can lead to a big improvement in productivity

dynamic and strategic route planning