Although there are large savings to be achieved by implementing a dynamic routing application, there must also be the awareness that changing from a loosely implemented manual process to something more rigorous will require business process changes.

One thing to consider is that, in a manual process, there can be a lot of tribal knowledge in the dispatch office, or individual head knowledge, of important parts of the process that are either not written down or only exist in some unorganized documents.

Rural farm in the winter

Many dynamic routing implementations fail when a business may want the benefits of a new process, but is unwilling or unable to organize the data needed to allow dynamic routing to work as designed.

I have seen many of these impediments over the last 30 years, so today I will share two of them.

You Can’t Deliver at Lunch Time

I had the opportunity to ride along with a driver delivering cooking oil to fast food restaurants. After an out-of-route trip to a customer that was missed the previous day, the driver started working his planned stops, but running a bit late.

After a few stops, I looked at the list and read off the next stop. The driver told me that we had to skip it and then come back later. When I asked why, he told me that the cooking oil port was on the building next to the drive through lane, and that the manager did not want cars driving over the oil hose during the lunch time rush.

When I got back to the office, I did some research and found that the upstream business system did not even have a place to keep customer time windows. So, when using a dynamic routing application, there was no way to ensure that stops would be scheduled at a time when the customer was able to be serviced.

By giving the drivers a list of stops and telling them to do the best job possible, the dispatcher was able to get the stops done in some reasonable, but not necessarily most efficient, order. And, as many of these stories go, the corporate people involved in the sale had no idea that this kind of problem even existed.

Where Was That Driveway?

Many of the best delivery stories come from dispatchers. They have seen things that I would find it hard to imagine.

One dispatcher working for a regional propane delivery company related the story of a time when the regular driver was not available and a substitute driver was sent out to make the delivery at a farm. In the winter. In the Dakotas. After a snowfall.

The driver saw a clear flat place next to the house and parked his truck there. The problem is that the clear flat spot was not the driveway. It was the farmer’s leach field for his septic system. A wrecker was sent to pull the truck out of the leach field and the propane company ended up replacing the farmer’s septic system, as well.

Why all this trouble? The business system for the propane company either did not have a way to store customer delivery notes, or there was very little policy in place to keep this type of information up to date.

Dynamic routing depends on being able to send any driver to any customer. Driver head knowledge, like the position of the farmer’s driveway, needs to be shared and that means it need to be recorded so it is available for everyone who needs to know.

Conclusion

Dynamic routing can look like magic. Press a button and a list of unorganized stops is transformed into highly efficient routes.

But, like all magic, there is a trick involved, and that trick is that there is enough information available to the artificial intelligence assignment process to produce those routes.

Some of this work, recording customer location data like time windows and where to park the delivery truck requires one-time manual input during an implementation. But other data, like planned delivery times can be computed using machine learning processes that yield better and better data over time.

Strategic Movements offers multiple ways to build routes. At the start of an implementation, routes may be built manually with a drag and drop interface. Meanwhile, the customer data can be updated as it is collected. And, when enough data is present to allow the assignment process to produce truly efficient routes, it is easy to switch to full dynamic routing with the assurance that the routes produced can be run without the problems noted above.

Please visit our website at www.strategicmovements.com to see how we can improve the efficiency of your last mile delivery work assignment.

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