Many businesses visit the same set of customers on a regular basis. Examples of this are cleaning, document shredding, and pest control service providers, and businesses that deliver water, snacks and beverages.

The simplest case is where each customer is visited at the same time on the same day every week. Each day has a different schedule, but every week is the same as the previous week, except for adding or removing customers, or performing a one-time service.

Another case is where some customers are visited every week, and others are visited every other week. Here the schedules need to be balanced so that the customers visited every other week are split evenly between the weeks. But the schedule is simple to understand because the two-week period is the same over and over again.

In some businesses, there are other cases where customers may be visited every third week, every fourth week, or on a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly basis.

When planning master schedules with an eye to reducing transportation costs, reducing the number of weeks in the schedule is a key factor.

Or looking it at it a different way: if the trip planner cannot easily view the entire plan and know how much work is planned for any week in the future, planning becomes more difficult, and it is harder to save when future operating costs are not known.

By visiting a customer every week, every other week, or every fourth week, the entire schedule will repeat every four weeks. Each day of the schedule can be optimized independently of the other days. Note that a full schedule every day may not be required for an efficient operation. In some cases, it may be desirable to not fill each day completely to allow for meeting new customers or handling unscheduled, but important, visits.

Finally, a schedule with four weeks is also large enough to handle most business needs, but small enough to the easy to manage.

If a customer must be visited on a longer frequency, like once every eight or 12 weeks, these visits may be scheduled on a four-week basis, and then cancelled if not needed. It is much easier to remove a stop from the schedule than to add work that is only performed infrequently.

Let’s look at what happens with frequencies other than every one, two or four weeks.

If some customers are visited every three weeks and some are visited every four weeks, the repeating master schedule must be 12 weeks in duration. A schedule this long is hard to use, especially when more than just a few workers are being scheduled. Simply put, the shorter the schedule, the easier it is to maintain.

If a customer is visited once a month, the schedule must be adapted to handle months with both four and five weeks. While this could lead to a 13-week schedule, frequencies of every other week or every fourth week would not fit well. The real solution would be a 52-week schedule, but a schedule that long is not really a maintainable master schedule.

Changing business practice is never easy, but aligning work visits every week, every other week or every fourth week has many advantages:

  • Customers visited every three weeks or every month still receive the necessary service with visits a little more frequent or a little less frequent than before.
  • With a repeating schedule, customers will usually be visited at approximately the same time of day for each visit.
  • The workers delivering the services can expect to drive the same route on a regular basis. As routes become more familiar, the drive times can be reduced.

One, two and four week schedules also allow for the efficient assignment of new work. An automated tool can search the schedule and recommend the best day and the best worker for the assignment.

If you provide a service where you visit your customers on a regular basis, but have a many frequencies on which the visits are made, please consider a switch to a simpler scheduling model and using a tool like Strategic Movements to help you.

With Strategic Movements, a new work plan is pulled from the master schedule each day. One-time work may be added, or a stop may be cancelled, without disrupting the original master schedule.

Efficient schedules are easy to produce and maintain, reducing the time needed for trip planning, and giving the trip planner more time to deal with real business issues.

Do you want to see how an effective route planning tool reduces your costs?

We offer a free consultation to help you determine if a master schedule or route optimization process is the way to achieve significant savings in both planning and actual transportation costs.

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