Cost reduction is the main reason that any organization would consider a better way to plan their routes. Whether it is called load planning, trip planning or route planning, the task is to get the right person to the right place at the right time at the lowest possible cost.
Many larger organizations have adopted some type of route optimization software in the past. Many have had successful implementations and are happy with their vendor today. On the other hand, there have also been many cases where the results were not what was expected. And, in many of these cases, a considerable amount of time and money was spent before abandoning the implementation.
So, lets take a look at realistic and unrealistic expectations for route optimization software.
This Is Not How We Did It Before
When routes are optimized, assignments are made for purely economic reasons. Unless specific rules are put in place, drivers may be assigned to drive in an unfamiliar geographic area or be given unfamiliar tasks.
In working with a national service provider’s New York City dispatch office, we found that there was an unwritten rule that the more senior techs would not be assigned to calls to fifth story walkup apartments. But the real problem was that this rule was not captured anywhere in the service call data. And no one other than the dispatcher knew who these senior techs were.
The automated result was a really efficient set of assignments that violated a subjective rule and was obviously not the way it was done before.
We Don’t Like The Routes
If you ask a route planner to picture “good” routes, the answer is usually something about loops that never cross. Maybe like petals on a flower.
And when a set of routes appear on the map on a computer screen and there are route crossovers, the planner can immediately identify these as “bad”.
Loops make a good visual, but loops are not the most efficient way to plan routes. Traffic must stick to roads, and the route between any two points is usually not a straight line. Also, the time to drive a route may be more important than the actual distance driven. This is especially true when the driver is being paid overtime.
The most efficient routes are those that cost the least amount of money to execute, regardless of how they look on a map.
The Drivers Don’t Like Or Won’t Drive The Routes
There are times that efficiencies conflict with human nature. And who wins may depend on the culture of the organization.
I asked a transportation manager for a very large company about this and he told me that making the drivers happy was very important. It was a non-union shop with little in the way of benefits. He pointed out that each of the drivers had a CDL and could get another driving job down the street for more money and the other companies were always ready to negotiate vacation and other benefits.
What does it take for a successful route optimization implementation?
- There will be change. Unless everyone from the CEO down to the drivers are ready to accept a change that will help the organization, implementation could be difficult or even impossible.
- Preconceived notions of how work is assigned need to be abandoned. Automated routing will produce results that the load planner would never have found.
- Unwritten rules need to be written down. If a customer does not have a dock and requires a truck with a side door or lift gate, this must be captured somewhere and must be maintained, as well.
- The vendor must take the time to truly learn the customer’s business to understand the real logistics issues. And the vendor should never assume that management understands what is really happening in the route planning offices.
If you have ever been part of an unsuccessful route optimization implementation, the fault usually lies in the vendor and customer not really understanding what needed to be done. If either side has an unrealistic expectation, failure is definite possibility.
The Strategic Movements team has been implementing route optimization solutions since 1989. And, although we have not seen everything, we have seen a lot.
Once a customer has decided that we might offer a solution to their business problem, we start with a free consultation to ensure that our solution will work. We also have to ask the hard questions that lead to the issues described above. If there is resistance to change, or there are many unwritten rules, these may be issues that need to be resolved before attempting to automate a work assignment process.
Do you want to see how route optimization reduces your costs?
We offer a free consultation to help you determine if a route optimization process is the way to achieve significant savings in both planning and actual transportation costs.
Whether you are just curious, thinking about a solution, or are ready to implement a process that will reduce transportation costs every day, sign up for the Strategic Movements News on our website and see what we can do for do.
We also have a new guide, “Reduce Your Transportation Costs With Route Optimization” available.
Click here to request your copy today.