Scheduling Water Delivery Routes

Ron Dombrowski February 5, 2020

Everyone likes to get water from the cooler. Many a cartoon or joke starts with co-workers hanging around the cooler getting a drink.

But let’s look at the other side of this thirst quenching and sometimes social device.

Water being delivered

Water is provided in five gallon bottles, each weighing 40 pounds, and each of which has to be moved by the company delivering the water. In addition, other supplies (like coffee, tea and cocoa) which depend on the bottled water are delivered at the same time.

Most of the deliveries are made from a driver and truck on a preplanned route. Each day of the week brings a different route with a different set of stops. In addition to the water delivery, service technicians need to be sent out to install or remove equipment, or to fix or replace out of service equipment.

So, there is scheduled delivery work (the final mile of the water supply chain) and unscheduled technician work to be done each day and there needs to be a plan to do this efficiently.

Let’s start with the scheduled deliveries.

Since the routes for each day are pretty much the same from week to week, with few, if any, changes, these are planned in advance with two factors in mind: fill the truck close to capacity, leaving a little room for a customer that may need extra water, and drive the route in the most economical manner; that is, reducing the drive time and distance. And consider that the customers, like most everyone else, are creatures of habit, and like to see the delivery on the same day at the same time every week.

This typically leads to routes being reorganized on an infrequent basis, maybe twice each year.

When the routes are planned, customers that are close together should be placed on the same route to reduce costs, but the customers chosen must also not need more water than fits on the truck.

Artificial intelligence comes into play here. An effective AI based route planning product should be able to view all the routes for the week and place customers on those routes in a manner that has the lowest operating costs that meet the customers needs.

Once planned, the routes can be executed each week.

Between the times that routes are reorganized, route planners should be able to easily add or remove customers from any route.

The other side is the unscheduled service work. A new customer can usually be told that the new equipment will be delivered in a few days, but existing customers want almost immediate service for a leaking cooler or an out of service coffee pot.

Since some of the service work is known at least a day in advance, technician routes can be planned late in the day for the next day’s work. By leaving some slack time in the route, emergency calls can be given to the technician as they come in.

Doing this by hand is a time consuming process and the routes produced can be less than efficient. Choosing a solution that can find efficient routes for both the scheduled and unscheduled work is key to operational efficiency.

When considering a vendor's solution, you may want to ask these questions:

  • Can this solution provide plans for both scheduled routes and daily technician work?
  • Does it work with other operational tools, like handheld terminals and GPS tracking?
  • How easy is it to upload both recurring delivery work and daily technician work into the solution?
  • Does the vendor provide a cost effective business solution considering that there is daily planning every day, but the scheduled routes are only reorganized infrequently?

Interested in cost effective routes built in a short amount of time using modern AI technology? Visit us at Strategic Movements and and see what we can do for you.

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