The history of mankind is full of cases where a tool is discovered or invented, and that tool is used to make some task easier or more efficient, or both.

From tools as simple as picks and shovels, to looms and sewing machines, to automobiles and airplanes, ways have been found to complete a task in less time than had been required before.

Swiss Army knifeSo why are so many things still done in an inefficient manner?

Sometimes a tool is used infrequently and the complexity of using tools outweighs the value. Two screwdrivers, a Phillips and a flat blade, in a drawer, can be used with a lot less complexity than a power screwdriver that does not fit in the drawer and requires recharging, as well. It all depends on how often you will use the tool and what types of tasks are being done.

Sometimes it can take longer to use a tool. Mixing up a recipe in a bowl with a spoon is sometimes faster and easier than taking out the fancy electric mixer, mixing for a few minutes, and then putting everything away.

And sometimes, it just seems too complicated to learn how to use a tool effectively. How any people really know how to use all the features available on their microwave, or from their television or cable remote controls.

But if you need to do something that takes more than a trivial amount of time each day, it is worth the effort to find and use tools effectively. Just as a carpenter sees the value of a power saw, a route planner should see the value of computer-based tools that take less time and make the job easier.

There are three basic cases for routing that benefit from these tools.

The simplest case is manual routing where each task is assigned to someone who performs the task.

While this might appear to be simple and easy, just printing out tickets and putting each one into the pile for each worker, there can be complications. It is not always obvious how the assignment should be made. In many cases, work is assigned by town name or ZIP code, but there are cases where some work is near the town line and route planner has to look up the address to see who should get the work. It may just be a minute here and a minute there, but it does add up.

Wouldn’t it be easier to download the delivery tickets into a file and load them into an application that shows all the work on a map? And then use a drag-and-drop interface to make the assignments?

Another case is static routes that are kept in a master schedule.

If the work for a customer is repeated on some regular interval, maybe every week or every few weeks, the schedules could be kept in a spreadsheet which is updated whenever customers need to be added or dropped.

What could be easier? How about keeping the schedule in an application that makes it easier to assign new customers to an existing route by finding the least expensive way to do so? And then have a way to balance routes when needed?

The final case is fully dynamic routing. Here all the work to be done can be assigned to the workers with little human intervention. Route planning time is reduced and the results usually offer a significant savings in transportation costs as well.

A very common objection raised to doing fully automated work assignment is that there are special rules which are not maintained in the business application, and that a human route planner is needed to ensure a high level of customer service and satisfaction.

This is true and brings us back to the case of manual routing.

If an efficient automated solution is presented, the route planner can use the drag-and-drop tools to make the desired changes, and, as an additional benefit, can see the changes to the total drive time and distance driven to ensure that the work to be done can be completed in the time allotted.

So, Strategic Movements offers tools that can be used by almost every route planner, whether the route assignments are made manually, from a master schedule, dynamically using an AI assignment process, or some combination of these ways.

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

Like the blog? Sign up and be the first to hear what we have to say.